Mindfulness without Meditation

Is it possible to practice mindfulness without sitting in meditation? As a busy mom of a young toddler, one of the struggles is finding time for meditation — a practice that I have been doing on and off for many years. Nowadays, there are always dishes to be done, hampers full of laundry, and a running to-do list in my head of grocery items to buy, meals to prep, dentist appointments to make, as well as work deadlines, coaching sessions and play dates. And, if I’m not too exhausted, a dinner with my other mom friends or a date with my husband.

The power of meditation

I learned Transcendental Meditation nearly a decade ago — known as “TM” for short. It’s a form of silent and mantra-based meditation created by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India in the mid-1950s. I visited the David Lynch Foundation in midtown Manhattan and received training over the course of a weekend. TM is favored by many for its non-religious style and practical method for relaxation and accessing a deep meditative state. The suggestion is to practice for twenty minutes a day, twice a day to reap the full benefits. The more I meditated, the more attuned I became to my Self, my thoughts and surroundings. I felt powerfully present and more mindful. 

If it seems like a lot of time, it is. After practicing TM consistently for about a year I discovered how powerful it is. I had more energy throughout the day, and my sleep improved. It became easier and just another essential part of my day, like eating breakfast or taking a shower. It’s clear to me that the benefits of two twenty-minute meditation sessions a day is profound. Right now all I can seem to manage is a brief session in the morning, if any meditation at all. 

You can’t get mindfulness ‘wrong’

Since giving birth, it became harder to practice any meditation. Life grew increasingly busy with a newborn, and time to myself was limited and somewhat unpredictable. When it came to meditation, it seemed to me that if I could not engage in the full 20 minute sessions, that I would be doing it ‘wrong’ and therefore not do it at all. What was the point? Surely it would not be as effective. However, what I’ve realized now is that any time you can spend in stillness is beneficial. But what about the hours of the day where you are not sitting or observing your thoughts in stillness? Can you still practice mindfulness without meditation? 

Being mindful is simply staying present. Present to your thoughts, emotions and state of being. And there are practices that allow you to re-engage and find peace amidst the chaos of a busy day or week. 

How to practice mindfulness everywhere

Think of some of the activities you do where time passes and you are in the flow. You had probably entered into a meditative state without fully realizing it. How do we get into this state? By doing one thing at a time, giving it your full attention, removing distractions and reconnecting to your self and to your breath. Let’s break it down. 

Stop multitasking

Our society champions multitasking like it’s a highly sought-after skill. In fact multitasking is doing a series of things in succession; and often not actually doing everything well as a result. Pick one task, see it through before continuing to the next. Go deep into that task and complete it mindfully. Whether it’s washing dishes or folding laundry, or doing the weekly shopping, roll up your sleeves and get INTO it. 

Limit distractions

We all know by now how annoying and disruptive digital notifications are. Interruptions are normal but often unnecessary. Turn off your notifications. While you’re at it, unsubscribe from newsletters you don’t read and e-marketing you ignore anyway. Getting constant alerts is hijacking your attention. 

Get in touch with your senses 

A simple way of practicing mindfulness is to simply reconnect with your senses. Close your eyes for 30 seconds and then open them again. Find a quiet place. Go for a sauna or steam if you have access. Take a walk without your phone. Try to notice the sounds, smells and what you see along the way. 

Pause between activities

Pausing between activities and taking a moment to acknowledge where you’re at. Even a brief one minute pause can lower cortisol levels and bring you back to yourself. Notice your breath. Check how you’re breathing. Notice what you’re noticing. Bring your awareness back to your physical and emotional body. 

With practice, you can bring mindfulness with you everywhere and anywhere — not just during a dedicated meditation session. Most of us are busy with children, activities, work and plans. Incorporating some simple practices throughout your day allows you to become more present and attuned to your needs, and achieve some of the benefits of mindfulness. 

What greater clarity, connection and creativity can you bring to your day with these practices? How can you turn a chore or a task into a meditative practice? Where can you slow down and reconnect with your senses?

Images from Unsplash by Matthew Henry and Ahmad Qime