Updated: Feb 22
During a recent workshop someone asked me what my mindfulness practice looked like. I noticed I had a hard time answering. In part because the answer is long. In part because practice is woven into my life, and I don't always think of it as practice or mindfulness per se. And also because I feel some pressure to be doing it “right.” The latter is a little hilarious, because if someone said that to me I would reply that there is no “right.” Just shows I’m still very much on this journey too.
The challenge of this seemingly direct question stayed with me after the workshop, so I decided to process it more thoughtfully through writing. This is a snapshot in time, not an exhaustive– and certainly not a prescriptive– inventory.
I don’t have a set “mindfulness routine" I adhere to. It’s a mix of both formal and informal practices that I try to work into my daily life. Since the demands on my time and my levels of energy change, I try to be aware of and responsive to those, while still being intentional and deliberate about including practice.
My formal practices include meditation and mindful movement like yoga and stretching. Those are times I set aside or calendar in my week. I prefer guided classes, most often in an in-person setting, but also using online resources like Headspace and YouTube. And, of course, I'm lucky that guided meditation is part of my workday. I meditate alongside our workshop participants and studio visitors. I practice formally 3- 6 times a week. When I’m struggling emotionally, I make a point to focus on structured practice more often. When I feel more at ease, it might be a couple days a week.
During December and January I set aside a few hours to reflect on the year that is closing and set intentions for the next year. I dedicate one afternoon to gather with friends and create a vision board.
Every so often I undertake an effort to journal, usually gratitudes. That’s another formal practice I admire. But as much as I believe in the benefits, it usually isn’t sticky for me. I don’t beat myself up when it falls away. I resurrect it intermittently, with long lapses between efforts.
The lion’s share of my practice is informal– pauses and check-in’s during ordinary activities to develop attention and presence throughout the day. Probably my all-time refuge is the STOP practice– Stop, Take a breath, Observe, Proceed. I use this every day, multiple times a day– resisting the urge to reply immediately to an email, text, or less-than-delightful comment. When I put some space between stimulus and response, I find I’m often more constructive or thoughtful. Plus I have fewer back and forths, so it leaves more time in my day.
I’ll leave my phone at home when I walk my dogs and pay attention to the way they romp, their boundless curiosity (the latter is the way I reframe the fact that they stop to sniff and mark INCESSANTLY). I’ll make sure to look around and note what I see, and I’ll tune into the different sounds I hear. I’m not fully present the whole time. I also space out and let my mind wander. It’s both.
If I have to wait in a line or at a stoplight, I’ll resist the urge to check my phone. I’ll notice it can be annoying to be a little bored. This one is tough. I give into the temptation sometimes. That’s ok. I’m noticing.
I’m choiceful about how I allocate my time. For me this means getting outside, spending time with friends and family, hiking, playing tennis, cooking, doing puzzles, reading and listening to podcasts. I limit social media and news and don’t make many plans at night.
I lean on friends daily to help me reframe challenges and perspectives. I try to listen completely and allow spaces for silence.
What does your mindfulness practice look like?