Ask the Experts: Tara Healey and Jonathan Roberts on daily mindfulness

Ask the Experts: Tara Healey and Jonathan Roberts on daily mindfulness

Tuesday, November 13, 2018
/ By:
Tara Healey and Jonathan Roberts

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I’m not able to spend time on yoga or meditation every day. What are other simple ways I can incorporate mindfulness into my daily routine?

Fortunately, there is no shortage of ways to informally incorporate mindfulness practice into your day-to-day routine—the simpler the better, in many circumstances. For example—when getting out of bed in the morning, you can choose to take a moment to notice the basic physical sensations present in the body. This awareness can be drawn through the various routines that may follow – brushing teeth, drinking coffee or tea, eating breakfast, preparing lunch and engaging with others (your spouse, your partner, your children or pets).

Whether you work in a home office, a mobile office, or a traditional brick-and-mortar structure, it is always possible to bring mindfulness to your commute. If you are driving down the highway, walking along the street or walking across the hall, notice the sights, sounds, textures and scents surrounding you, fully activating the senses as you do so. You can also note the difference between being lost in thought and being truly awake, aware and alert. When faced with challenges, both expected and unexpected, don’t merely rush through (and past!) them —instead, ask, “How am I perceiving this experience?” at several steps along the way; ask yourself the same question when taking stock afterwards. Mindfulness, you see, has the ability to increase the gap between impulse and action, and in doing so, supports us in aligning with our deepest values; by watching the relative size of this gap as we encounter various challenges, we tune into how every thought and action in which we take part is intertwined with how we are expressing a sense of purpose, both to ourselves, and to those around us. Therefore, when a colleague, family member, fellow driver—or anyone else—provokes or challenges you, notice what is happening in the body, as well as the mind. Inquire, “Can I receive this moment with an attitude of receptivity, interest and curiosity?” Just this attitude of awareness alone enables you to see the ever changing nature of thought, emotions and body sensations, and in doing so provides an important pause—that aforementioned “gap”—enabling a skillful and aligned response, when the alternative may be to react from a habit pattern resulting in feelings of regret.

There are many ways to position yourself for the mindset described above, as well as to preserve it throughout the day. An initial, helpful step is to consciously set the intention towards gentle, open-hearted awareness right away upon waking. It is also possible to keep the mind flexible and lively by moving the body, even just by taking short stretch or walking breaks. It can be furthermore helpful—not to mention relieving—to mandate “internet free” or “social media free” periods for yourself. Aside from giving you more spaciousness in general, these also present abundant opportunities to observe the desire to break your media fast, and how that desire feels in your body, as well as the thoughts that arise on account of it. Finally, if you are consistently finding it difficult to make time for the amount of formal meditation practice you think you should be doing, don’t be afraid to shorten that amount of time. Every little bit matters, and it’s better to reduce the amount of time overall, rather than skip it altogether.

 

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Tara is the Program Director for Mindfulness Based Learning at Harvard Pilgrim Health, and has created a comprehensive suite of mindfulness workshops and courses that have been conducted at over 200 organizations across the U.S., in a wide variety of industries.