It is the simple truth that being fully aware of what is going on around us isn't easy - it is in fact impossible. Our brains are only able to focus on a small amount of the total information that is around us, something which magicians exploit to conduct magic tricks.
Attribution: Flickr - dee & tula monstah
Mindfulness is the art of focusing our attention on the most important actions and events that are happening around us. Here are some ways to techniques to increase mindfulness.
The taste test
Pop quiz: think of your favourite food, now clearly imagine what it tastes like. Difficult, isn't it. We often eat without really appreciating what we are eating.
We are busily distracted by TV, friends or just thinking about other things. Next time you eat, just eat, and do nothing else.
Why not try blindfolded eating or even go to one of those restaurants where you eat in total darkness. When you are not looking at what you eat, you really begin to focus on smells, textures and flavours of the food.
Note: I had the most delicious thought about cucumbers the other day. I normally chop them quite thick but I was slicing them thinly for a particular salad when the whole memory of thin cucumber slices melting on my tongue came to my mind.
There is more to meditation than sitting in the lotus position chanting. There are several meditation techniques that help you build mindfulness. They usually involve focusing on something. The most common approach is placing a crystal on your forehead while lying down and focusing your thoughts on it. Others involve focusing on your breath or each body part and relaxing it.
Attribution: Flickr - Moyan Brenn
There are other ways to achieve this same effect, such as walking barefoot on the grass or just sitting in a park focusing on the feeling of the breeze on your face or the sun on your skin.
Observation of anything helps achieve mindfulness. After all, we often rarely really look at anything. One way to enhance this experience is try to describe what you are seeing in detail to someone. Most people can't do this. It is easy to say that you saw a flower, but much hard to describe the variations in colour and curves in the petals.
Attribution: Flickr - NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Do it the hard way
One of the reasons we are not mindful about what we are doing is that we do it so often that we no longer need to think about it. To break out of this habit we need to challenge ourselves. A simple way to do this is to use your left (or non-dominant) hand to do a common task.
For example try writing or drawing a picture with your non-dominant hand. Something that you used to do without thinking now requires additional effort and while it is a fun activity it also brings your attention to the task.
The value of mindfulness
Being more mindful is not really that hard if we put down our electronic devices and avoid thinking about anything that is not in front of us.
The value of being mindful goes beyond just the obvious calming effect. When we are mindful our actions are done with greater care and attention. Being mindful of both yourself and others helps change your behaviour. After all, wouldn't you like your loved ones to be more mindful of you?