Being present is the essence of a mindfulness meditation practice. When we think of meditation, we often think of sitting on the floor, eyes closed, legs crossed, chanting “om,” but you don’t have to begin here — nor do you have to chant om.
Actual “sitting” practice is what we call formal practice. Informal practice is bringing presence into our daily lives, when our eyes are wide open. We can enter our lives with more presence through our five senses.
Our senses are the way we interpret and experience the world. We gather information about our experiences through our senses. For many of us, these senses have become dull and numb, and we wonder why we aren’t experiencing a life of more quality and richer experience.
The practice is simply to be more present to our five senses in this moment: What am I hearing? seeing? feeling? tasting? smelling?
- Seeing clearly. Begin observing any stories your mind tells you when you look at a newer car, a magazine, a picture or people walking. Notice the mind engage in past memories, future thoughts, judging, assuming, and anywhere else your mind travels outside of what you are actually seeing. Just observe, just notice. This is enough.
- Hearing. Make sure you are hearing the other person, and not hearing what you want to hear. Am I listening to you? Or to the thoughts of the past or future? Is your mind busy planning and judging … I’m sorry, what did you say?Make sure you are not hearing things that were not said due to an anxious or angered mind. Just practice hearing in this moment, allowing thoughts to fade to the background. What do I hear? A telephone? Birds? A closing door? Stay here for a moment. Relax and just hear.
- Touch/Feel. Hugs go unfelt; emotions go unnoticed, leaving us feeling unsatisfied in our lives. Emotional feelings create many of our choices because we tend to be reactive. It behooves us to pay attention. Do I feel sad? Frustrated? Peaceful? Just begin to ask, “How do I feel in this moment?” We limit our lives with “good” and “bad.” What does that mean for you? And next time you give a hug, a kiss or a pat on the back, stop for a moment to actually experience it. Don’t let that moment slip by.
- Taste. Often we eat without truly tasting. Eat, drink, and be merry? Or eat, drink, and be unsatisfied? We deprive ourselves of this daily human experience, and then we are left without a taste for life. What are you tasting? Is it cold, sweet, bitter, crunchy? Begin connecting to your food as a way to connect to your life.
- Smell. Do you even remember you have a sense of smell? Inhale and smell. If you smell nothing, inhale again. Still nothing? Pull a leaf, spray perfume, smell your food — just smell. That’s all. Just smell and see if you don’t experience more of your life.
Keep your eyes open, pay attention, and watch your life become rich with experience.