Think of a typical routine for a busy, working mother. Every moment of the day is utilized, sometimes trying to do multiple things at once. She complains of forgetting things. She feels frazzled and distracted. She is sometimes short tempered, edgy or irritable and usually tired and overwhelmed. She’s trying to keep up with 1,000 things a day and often feels like she can’t finish anything, or even worse, that she’s failing at most things. Reaching her breaking point, she feels like “something’s gotta’ give!”
One of the key breakdown factors is never being in front of what you’re in front of. That’s a sure way to feel disconnected and like you’re spinning in circles.
What is mindfulness? I like Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition:
“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally. It’s about knowing what is on your mind.”
Seems simple enough right?
The practice of bringing your attention to the moment involves your senses too. When we bring our senses to the moment – we open up and awaken to a feeling of being alive! Suddenly instead of moving through our life in a numb, burned out, unconscious way – we are paying close attention to what we’re seeing, what we’re smelling, tasting, hearing and sensing or feeling.
What I love about Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition is that he includes the concept of practicing mindfulness non-judgementally. This is key! Especially when we bring our attention to moments of discomfort. We need to practice being the compassionate witness here. Noticing when we feel uncomfortable, upset or disconnected and staying present to those thoughts and feelings rather than trying to escape, run or hide from them.
If we can suspend judgement, we are able to use mindfulness as a tool to increase self-awareness and move through the discomfort with more ease than if we were to continue ignoring or reacting to it. Bringing awareness to our discomfort sounds like this: “Wow – I’m really noticing what’s present for me at the moment.” Instead of judging it, we invite ourselves to be curious. When we pause here, we can then assess “therefore, what is needed?” If we leap over the opportunity to tune in, we also miss the invitation to provide what’s needed to move through it and heal.
I believe in the healing power of practicing mindfulness so much that I’ve taken many groups of clients on week-long retreats in Costa Rica where the environment invites you, (forces you actually), to slow down and awaken your senses resulting in an incredible sense of being alive.
But, we don’t have to travel thousands of miles to replicate this effect. We can do it today, right now.
I invite you to try this simple exercise before the next meal you eat today:
- Pause and notice what you’ve created or ordered.
- What does it look like? What are the colors and textures on the plate?
- Take in the aroma – what does it smell like?
- Before taking the first bite – notice how grateful you feel for this moment before you. That this food came from somewhere. It was harvested and grown or raised by someone you’ve never met and may have traveled a distance to get to you. Bring a sense of gratitude and awareness to mind.
- Take 1 bite of food and open your sense of taste. What do you notice?
Be mindful of each bite of food, eating slowly and consciously – making the act of eating and digesting your focus – rather than eating while doing something else.
- This practice will also help you determine when you’re feeling full, rather than eating until the food is gone.
- When full, pause again and notice this sense of perfect satiation before you rush on to the next part of your day.
I know that busy working mothers rarely have time to practice an 8-step routine to eating mindfully when typically we are lucky to wolf down a boiled egg over the sink while holding a child or running out the door. But, I invite you to gently practice bringing your attention to what is in front of you throughout the day and notice what happens.
I have a feeling you’ll feel calmer, more focused, more connected, awake and alive.