Simple mindfulness technique: just pay attention

While out for sushi with my friend last night, I learned the following simple but effective mindfulness technique:

Instead of multi-tasking, devote all of your attention to a single task. Then, as you are working on this task, say aloud anything and everything that you are thinking and/or seeing and/or feeling as you are plugging away. You’ll be amazed to find how little of your attention is actually focused on what you’re doing… and discover the richness of an experience that you consciously devote all of your Self to.

Following dinner, I made my way to a yin (yoga) class, and then decided to walk home in the crisp pitter pattern of the rain. As I was walked home, I thought about the conversation that my friend and I had over dinner, and decided to try the mindfulness technique out. And so away I went.

“Walking, walking, in the rain. I feel the pitter patter of the rain. Walking, walking in the rain, oh how I love the patter of the rain.” Ok, this exercise isn’t about singing (although singing in the rain is an awesome way of filling your heart with joy) and so I tried again.

“Alright. No more singing. Back to the matter at hand. What do I see?? I see the glistening of light that’s refracting off the puddles. I see trees and raindrops rolling off leaves and branches. I hear the splashing of water as the cars go by. I feel my toes curl as I lift the ball of my foot off the ground. I feel the wet against my knuckles. I feel dampness on my back…”

The more I concentrated, the more I noticed. But more importantly, the more I felt. All of a sudden, I noticed that my socks were kind of mucky from splashing through puddles in my canvas Converse. I could feel the wind against my body, the wet of the rain, and the coldness of my hands. To be perfectly frank, walking home in the rain became a little less fun and more… well, wet and cold. But that was beautiful. By devoting all of myself to the simple task of walking, I created the space necessary to be mindful of all of my senses, which brought a tremendous amount of richness to what I was doing. However, being mindful of what I was seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling and thinking was also a bit of a sensory overload. In fact, it all would have been too overwhelming if not for my breath. The breath is like the eye of the storm – the place of dead calm within the surrounding turmoil. Tuning into the breath and allowing it to reconcile all of the other sensations helped make the experience more manageable… and I’m sure that as time goes in, and I’m used to incorporating feedback from all my senses, this technique will become easier and easier. I think I’ve found another path through which to take in more of the world… and I hope that by reading this, you have too. So next time you go for a walk, try the technique out. Just play a little. You’ve got nothing to lose – except being lost in your head.

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