For the last few years ‘mindfulness’ has been something of a buzzword. From reducing stress to improving focus, enhancing our relationships and helping us feel more present, being more mindful is considered a ‘cure-all’ for the mind. Even if we’ve heard the word however, do many of us actually engage in life in a ‘mindful’ way? From the Buddhist tradition, mindfulness refers to the practice of noticing thoughts, feelings and sensations without any judgement, and is part of the Eightfold Noble Path, along with other practices leading to a state of enlightenment. Non-judgement is a central factor in practicing mindfulness; the meaning of the word itself translates from Sanskrit as Sati, from the root word sat meaning ‘truth’ or ‘reality’. When we practice manfulness therefore, we’re practicing experiencing the world as it truly is. We’re practicing experiencing our thoughts and feelings as they really are, and we’re connecting to sensations without pushing them away, allowing us to experience what it’s like to live life fully – welcoming the ‘good’, the ‘bad’ and everything between without judgement.
When we practice non-judgemental mindfulness in everyday life, it can help us become less judgemental of ourselves and others, more accepting of what we might consider as ‘imperfections’, and literally helps us become more human. With 99% of life seeming to happen online today, reconnecting to reality via mindfulness helps us create a healthier balance between how much time and energy we invest in offline life too. To start your own mindfulness journey, read on for 5 tips on practicing mindfulness through the 5 senses:
Smell: Our sense of smell has a direct link to the part of the brain responsible for processing and holding emotions and memories. It’s likely that certain scents such as perfume, a specific meal cooking on the stove, or an essential oil fragrance evoke memories for you. For some people the smell of freshly cut grass evokes a sense of upliftment, because this scent is so often related to Spring and Summer, whilst an ex-partner’s aftershave might be a scent to avoid! (No judgement here, remember…) Using essential oils like Tisserand’s Bergamot or Eucalyptus essential oils are a great way to practice mindfulness through scent therapy. Simply add a few drops to a massage oil, or pop a little into your Aroma Spa diffuser. As you inhale the scent, notice which thoughts, feelings or emotions come up for you without judgement. Simply be curious as to how each scent may be affecting you. The more you practice this type of meditation, the more you’ll be able to notice different scents as you go about your day, and the way they might make you feel.
Sight: Each of us has a particular sense we tend to gravitate towards most, and many of us are visually-orientated. Put simply, this means a lot of us place value upon the way things look. Think colours, facial features and shapes. Those who are more visually-orientated are more likely to think carefully about how to decorate a room, which clothes to wear, and to perhaps get caught in the trap of judging their own and others’ appearances. We can use visual objects to practice mindfulness with such as the Spirit Animal Wisdom cards or a poster of Chakras. Try focusing on the object for 5 – 10 minutes, observing any thoughts that enter your mind, and letting them go. Each time your mind wanders off, bring your awareness back to your point of focus. It may take a few weeks for those judgemental or repetitive thoughts to quieten down, but the more you make the conscious decision to focus your eyes, the more you’ll also be able to find focus in everyday life, and you may notice the mind becoming calmer too. Yogic practices such as using a yantra for meditation are especially useful for helping cultivate more visual mindfulness, as well as Tratak Kriya – focusing on a candle flame whilst breathing slowly.
Sound: If you’re not visually orientated, you may have more of an auditory orientation. Those who are more connected to the sense of sound might be more sensitive to words and the way words are spoken. They might be affected more by certain pieces of music, or find it difficult to focus on a task when there’s a lot of background noise. Sound is all around us – whether we can hear it or not! – and it’s having an impact upon us all the time. Pause for a moment and tune into the sounds around you: What can you hear? How does it make you feel? Do you notice any thoughts arising linked to these sounds? Try not to judge anything that comes up, simply observe, and you’ll be practicing mindfulness using sound. To start tuning into the sense of sound for your own mindfulness practice, use playlists, a guided yoga nidra CD, or the Yogamatters Om Tingsha. Mantra meditation is a wonderful way to use your own sound for mindfulness (without judgement!) too. Using a mala, let your thumb move the beads through your hand, repeating a word or sound at each new bead. A full practice using all 108 beads can take several minutes, and is a powerful way to cultivate a meditative state. The book Healing Mantras by Verda Harper is full of inspiring mantras to use.
Taste: Taste tend to have a big impact upon many of us. Favourite meals, condiments or treats also evoke memories and emotions, and when we try a new flavour, it takes a lot of chemical reactions and processes within the body to happen before we decide how we feel about it. To begin a mindfulness practice using taste, pour yourself a cup of Pukka Peace Time, Relax, or Feel New tea, and take a sip. Without judgement or attachment, notice the sensations and feelings that arise. Notice any thoughts or emotions that occur for you, then let them go. Each sip of tea, simply let each judgement or thought come and go, experiencing all the aspects of taste that are available when we simply let them be. To practice this with foods, try new recipes from One Pot, Pan, Planet by Anna Jones, or treat yourself to Forage Botanicals Aunt Flo’s Raw Drinking Chocolate, which is also specifically designed to support a healthy and calm menstrual cycle.
Touch: Textures can have a profound effect on the way we feel. Think of a soft and comfy blanket, a fresh set of bedsheets, or your favourite jumper; these types of objects usually have a soothing and ‘softening’ effect on us too. Now think of an itchy scarf or a slimy piece of seaweed; these tend to make us feel a little uncomfortable. When we practice connecting to different textures mindfully and without judgement however, we may start to realise that most of the time, nothing is inherently ‘bad’ or ‘good’, there are simply some textures we’ve developed an aversion or attachment to. A core Buddhist practice is the ability to be unattached, so we don’t waste energy desiring or fearing objects and experiences, and can maintain a sense of contentment and peace come what may. To practice mindfulness using the sense of touch, grab your Yogamatters Organic Cotton Yoga Blanket, and slide your hands along it, feeling any sensations, and noticing your feelings without judgement or attachment. Then, find something you don’t consider to be a ‘nice’ texture, and practice connecting to it without getting caught up in your thoughts and emotions.
The more we practice mindfulness with simple everyday objects and experiences, we’re able to live life with a little more contentment, peace, and presence. Give it a try!
Shop all of your wellness essentials on Yogamatters.com