Mindfulness meditation is gaining popularity across the world, and for good reason. Studies have shown that mindfulness meditation exercises contribute to creativity, decrease anxiety and cultivate peace of mind. The basis for mindfulness is maintaining a regular sitting meditation practice. The awareness and simplicity experienced while sitting can carry over into your daily routine.
Off-the-cushion exercises are easy to assimilate and fit into today’s busy lifestyles. You might think of them as transitions between your regular meditation and daily life. When paired with a formal sitting practice, they show how you can bring mindfulness to everything you do.
6 simple mindfulness meditation exercises to add to your practice:
1. Experiencing Nature
One of the best ways to practice mindfulness meditation is by immersing yourself in nature. Take a walk in the woods and hear the birds chirping, the wind whooshing, the trees rustling and the leaves crackling beneath your feet. Fully enjoy the beauty of your environment in the here and now. Let the experience of nature be the object of your mindfulness meditation. You might focus on being aware of sound, or the feel of your feet as you mindfully walk along a path or across a meadow, or your place in the environment among all the other living things. Your thoughts may wander, but that’s only natural. Whenever you notice that your mind has veered off, nudge yourself, breathe, and come back to your focal point.
2. Candle Meditation
This mindfulness meditation technique requires only two things: a quiet, darkened room and a candle. Light the candle and let its flame become the focus of your meditation. Sit down in a comfortable position with your back straight, and watch the burning candle, all the while concentrating on its flame. The aim of this exercise is to gently bring your mindfulness to be centered on the candle visually and to simply rest in that perception. Focusing on a single sense perception without judgment is helpful in releasing concepts and stress and bringing your mind to the present moment. Candle meditation is a great way to practice mindfulness meditation when you need some peace and quiet.
3. Eating Meditation
You’re probably looking forward to your next meal or snack. Why not practice some mindfulness when the time comes? It isn’t complicated: before the first bite, take a minute to appreciate your food. Turn off the TV or radio, pull yourself from your phone or tablet, set aside your to-do list and look at, smell, then finally taste your meal. Feel the texture and notice the complexity of the flavors. You don’t have to maintain focus throughout the entire meal. Instead, practice it now and again. This is a simple mindfulness exercise that can transform meals into practice.
4. Take a Mindful Break
Many people check emails and solve puzzles during their break times. If you’re one of them, consider changing your habit and practicing a mindfulness meditation exercise instead. Turn your attention away from your smartphone or computer and simply take a few minutes to notice the sensations running through your body and mind. What sounds do you hear? Can you feel your heart pumping within your chest? Can you just be present in your body for a few moments? Try letting go of your usual preoccupations and taste being present in the here and now. Pay attention to this precise moment and breathe.
5. Take a Mindful Shower
Try this mindfulness meditation exercise as you take a shower after exercise or a long day’s work. Instead of simply washing the dust and dirt from your body, pay close attention to the whole process. Notice how warm (or cool) the water feels, the smell of the soap and shampoo, the sensation of lather, and your body’s reaction to the experience. This mindful attention can be applied to just about anything: brushing your teeth, tying your shoelaces, drinking your hot cup of coffee… Rather than going through the motions while your mind is engaged elsewhere, immerse yourself in the here and now and apply non-judgmental awareness to the entire process, if only for a few minutes.
6. Mindful Walking
Do you love taking walks? Not only are they good for your health, they’re also a great way to practice mindfulness meditation. See if you can take at least fifteen minutes a few times a week to walk in a quiet, peaceful environment. Try to move slowly and deliberately, maintaining awareness of your posture. Focus your attention on the present activity and try to notice when other thoughts distract you. Bring your mind gently back to walking: the contact of your feet with the ground, the sensation of moving forward in space, the rhythm of your breath.
These mindfulness meditation exercises are very easy to put into practice. They remind us that being mindful is not just about sitting still and watching the breath. If we’re willing to interrupt our habitual ways of functioning, we can choose mindful awareness over distraction almost anytime. For more information read Top 10 Best Tips on How to Meditate or try our Learn to Meditate program.
If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness and awareness practices, our Mindworks Meditation Courses will get you started with systematic, easy-to-follow introductory instructions. And if you’ve already got a practice you’re looking to enhance, we’ve got everything you need to keep it fresh, from guided meditations to Mind Talks to a Daily Cup Contemplation.