Lately, I’ve been trying to start my day with something a little different. I’m a morning person, so even on the occasions when it’s tough to actually peel my body out of bed, once I’m up, the wheels start turning pretty quickly. It’s a good time for me to get things done, so that’s usually what I try to do. This often means that I dive right into work of some kind pretty early, and the day picks up from there. As a result, my goal of squeezing in a little meditation at some point during the day gets bumped and pushed down the agenda until there’s barely enough time to exhale at all, let alone be still for its own sake.
So lately, I’ve been trying to find a few minutes for some quiet first thing in the morning, with mixed results. Then, I realized I might be missing an opportunity – or several.
Don’t get me wrong, intentional moments of stillness are super valuable. I highly recommend them, and the space they provide for slowing down, checking in, and also exploring your reflexive comfort zones – for example, my tendency to want to be moving and productive as soon as I’m awake. Being still, let alone conscious, before even absorbing any caffeine is tough for me, and I get that there’s a lesson in that. It’s one I’m still working on, fwiw.
But here’s the thing I remembered: opportunities for mindfulness are all around you. One of the mornings that I actually got myself to sit still first thing, it was pouring rain outside. As I sat and attempted to focus on my breath, my attention kept going back to the rain…the different sound of it hitting the windows versus the roof, the splashes of cars driving through puddles on the road, the wind blowing through the trees near the window. I realized that instead of pulling my attention back to my breath from the rain, the rain could actually be the focal point of my meditation. I noticed that not only could I hear the sounds with my ears, I could feel them as vibrations in the room. There was a lot to notice, once I started paying attention.
A really common excuse I hear for not keeping up a mindfulness practice is “I don’t have the time.” I am more than familiar with the sentiment, having had many a day fly by in a haze of meetings and calls and social media scrolling. What the rain that morning showed me is that you don’t always need the perfect moment to be mindful. Sometimes, all you need is the intention, your attention, and your breath – or at least your physical senses. Use the sound of whatever is happening around you, no matter what it is – nature, music, people, or even the hum of a busy city street. Focus on whatever object happens to be right in front of you for a few minutes, noting its colors, textures, and so on. Maybe you catch the scent of something delicious as you’re racing from A to B during the day. Take a second, and just notice.
That’s mindfulness. It’s nothing more than connecting to an awareness of exactly where you are, through whatever means helps you do that. Meditation is a way of strengthening our ability to deliberately “check in” to this kind of awareness, but it’s not the only way. No matter how busy you are, or how little time you think you have for “one more thing,” mindfulness doesn’t ask for much. The moment is already there, right where you are, in exactly what you’re already doing.
Look, listen, and take note of right now. There truly is nothing more worthy of – or available for – your attention.
Photo credit: Daniel Tong