It Only Takes a Moment … A Mindful Check-in

Guest Blogger: Patti Holland, Certified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Teacher, Center for Mindfulness, University of Massachusetts Medical School

“I don’t have time to just sit around and do nothing.” “I have to drop the kids off at school, get to work, come home and make dinner, get my son to football practice and then catch up on emails.” “I have way too much work on my plate right now.” “I don’t know when I’d fit this in. I’m taking care of my aging mother and working full time.” 

Any of this sound familiar? I hear these kinds of statements a lot in my work as a mindfulness-based stress reduction teacher. And, I too feel this way at times.

Practicing mindfulness doesn’t mean going off to some remote location or a dark corner of your house, closing your eyes, sitting in silence for hours on end, and stopping all thoughts. By the way, this last one, stopping thoughts … not possible.

As was mentioned in the previous blog post, My Superpower – The Power to Choose, mindfulness is present moment awareness. Paying attention to what is happening right now in this moment. While it’s true that many of the benefits of mindfulness demonstrated through research come about with regular formal practice, such as sitting or body scan meditations, we can begin to build or strengthen an existing practice by bringing moments of mindfulness into our day.

Let’s Try a  Mindful Check-in

Step one – Become aware of your experience right now. What sensations in the body do you feel? Scan your body starting at the tips of your toes to the top of your head. You may sense tightness or tension in areas of the body or notice your stomach rumbling because it’s close to lunchtime. You may become aware that you feel chilly or warm. Maybe you feel tired.

What thoughts are going through your mind? Try to acknowledge the nature or content of thoughts without getting caught up in them. For example, if you are thinking about an upcoming meeting or appointment, what feelings are present? You don’t need to do anything about them, just recognize that you feel worried, frustrated, etc.

Step two – Narrow your attention to the breath. Focus on the physical sensations of breathing. For example, feel the breath in the abdomen as it expands and releases. Follow the breath all the way in and out, using the breath to anchor yourself in the present moment.

Step three – Expand your awareness. Let your attention expand to become aware of the body as a whole, sitting/standing and breathing, from the crown of the head to the soles of the feet. Feel where the body meets the chair or floor. And then expand out even further to include the temperature of the room and the space around you. What sounds do you hear? What do you see?

So, Why Take a Moment For a Mindful Check-in?

One reason to consider is that we often live in and from our heads. We can easily become lost in thoughts – caught up in thinking about something in the past, thoughts about an upcoming meeting or appointment, imaginary conversations, memories. When we’re lost in thoughts, we aren’t present or aware of what is actually going on within us or around us. We then react from these thoughts instead of responding to what is really going on.

Practicing a mindful check-in from time to time throughout the day can help us to:

  • Step out of habitual or reactive modes of activity
  • See ourselves, others and information more clearly
  • Understand situations more fully
  • Choose effective and contextually relevant solutions
  • Engage with life in new and more satisfying ways

The attention moves from wide to narrow to wide, like an hourglass, and allows for changes in perception. This practice can bring us back into a direct experience of the present moment with all of the information, wisdom and resources available in that state of being.

Whether mindfulness is something that is new to you, or if you’d like to find ways to be mindful during the day, consider scheduling two to three moments during your day and do a mindful check-in. For example, try one before you leave your car and head to your office or into your house at the end of your day, between tasks or meetings, or waiting in line, or set the alarm on your watch for two times during the day.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss a moment of this life. It’s the only life I have.

Related: My Superpower – The Power to Choose

Join the conversation. Will you try practicing mindfulness? Share your thoughts and questions with us.

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