How To Really Practice Practical Mindfulness

by Dani Katz
Ever since a movie star wrapped herself in a pitch-perfect lotus position topped off with a beatific smile for the cover of Time magazine, mindfulness is rocking some serious mainstream momentum. No longer relegated to cultural outcasts like stinky hippies and mountain top isolated monks who surrender their hair, sleeves and orgasms to the pursuit of enlightenment, the concept of mindfulness has transcended the fringes, thus beckoning the common man towards the cultivation of presence. 

Yay. 

Mindfulness is an especially useful tool in our otherwise hyper-accelerated, tech-driven culture. People who cultivate deeper and more expansive levels of presence, which – essentially – is what mindfulness is, report lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression, while experiencing increased creativity, productivity, immune response and overall wellbeing, in addition to being way more fun to hang out with, because wouldn’t we all rather share tea and raspberries with someone who willingly and effortlessly focuses their attention on us and only us; holding eye contact and actively listening while nodding when appropriate, raising an eyebrow every now and again, and asking probing questions that allow us to see ourselves from different angles? Would we all prefer that over caffeinated dirt water shared with some scattered, jittery type who seems perpetually distracted by something just over our shoulder, or his smart phone, or his cuticles, and who clearly isn’t tracking a word we’re saying because when we ask him for feedback, he merely grunts, “Huh? What was that?” 

Presence allows us an escape hatch from our otherwise neurotic or – at the very least – overactive minds, guiding us into the present moment by way of a deeper awareness of our surroundings, our senses and our Selves. When we are present, we are mindful, and when we are mindful, we make room for things like inspiration and synchronicity and A-HAs and invention, because those energies like to slip in through various side doors that we can’t unlock when we’re distracted and thinky-like. But, mindfulness takes practice, and meditating can be daunting. And even for those of us who do meditate, twenty minutes spent watching the rise and fall of our bellies as the sun rises doesn’t necessarily lead to full-fledged twenty-four/seven mindfulness without a little extra effort. And this is why we’ve taken to making up our own mindfulness clues – breadcrumbs of awareness that allow us to expand into the present moment at least several times a day, en route to all day, every day, which we’re pretty sure will make us enlightened. Like, any second now. Here are a few of our favorites:

3:33

Given the ubiquity of smart phones and tablets, digital time displays abound. We like to take advantage of those moments when the numbers are all the same: 11:11, 2:22, 5:55, as reminders to expand our awareness into the present moment, into our bodies, and into the spaces we are inhabiting, and to clear our minds and simply Be. You know, basic mindfulness stuff.
 
 

Your favorite band

You’re out running errands, and you catch a Radiohead lick streaming from the overhead speakers. Because Radiohead is not only your favorite band, it’s your mindfulness cue, you take pause, feeling the connection of your feet on the earth, the subtle balance between the balls and the heels, noting how you’re weight is balanced between. Now, you think to yourself as Thom Yorke laments the inconvenience of his fame. Now…now…
 

Before you eat

Just before you bring that first forkful of curried squash to your mouth is a most excellent time to connect with the present moment. Maybe it’s a mindful inhale, a positive intention, or a(n admittedly freaky-deaky) vegetable blessing. The specifics of the practice don’t much matter, it’s more the pause that carries the mojo. Plus, given that we do it three times a day (not counting snacks and tea), choosing a mealtime mindfulness practice ensures multiple moments of present moment awareness throughout the day. Multitasking rocks.
 

Black cat crossing

While ancient superstition would have us believe that seeing a black cat cross one’s path is bad luck, we’ve chosen to rebrand the occurrence as a Now Moment Signaling Opportunity (NMSO). For us, black cats are synonymous with the practice of rooting into the earth and scanning the body for sensations, while focusing on the rise and fall of our bellies. In this way, black cats are our mindfulness coaches, offering us opportunities to dive more fully into the present moment by simply slinking by our eye lines, rendering black cats lucky, if not downright auspicious.
 

When you’re stuck in traffic 

Whether you’re crawling through rush hour in your Volvo, or crammed into the Metro with half the city, the time we spend en route to work makes for excellent mindfulness cultivation practice. Maybe it’s three rounds of a Sanskrit mantra, or a personal intention we’ve set for ourselves. Maybe it’s simply three deep breaths, or the focusing of our awareness on our big toes.
 
Again, the method doesn’t matter so much as the consistency, because the more instances of mindful we gather, the more mindful we ultimately become, and the momentum of mindfulness is nothing short of absolute bliss, because as our enlightened friend Osho was fond of saying, You’re mind is not your friend, and because the present moment is where all the fun’s at.
 
What are some NMSOs you can think of to bring yourself into the present?
 
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