The benefits of meditation are widely known. It reduces blood pressure, chronic pain, anxiety and depression, and even slows the speed your cells age. Science has now confirmed that the practice of meditation triggers the production of neurochemicals that, simply put, make you feel good. And feeling good is a powerful tool for health and longevity. So why don't more people do it?
When I ask this question to my yoga students, the answers range from, “I don't know how,” and “My mind is too busy,” to “I can't sit still for that long,” or “It’s boring.” The perception that meditation is about sitting still for long periods of time without thinking is a large barrier for many people. But it doesn't have to be.
Meditation is about being present with your attention. The point is to cultivate mindfulness. It is simple but not easy. The mind thinks and wanders. Meditation is the practice of not only watching the mind think, but also watching and feeling everything that is happening in the present moment. It takes practice. But that practice can be done anywhere.
In the Shower
How often do we get in the shower only to think about anything other than the act of bathing? The shower is a perfect opportunity to meditate. As you adjust the water to the right temperature, feel the water. Acknowledge the temperature in your mind as too hot or too cold or just right. As you step into the shower, feel the water over your body. Move slowly, without rushing, to grab soap or shampoo. When you use them, be aware of the smells. Be mindful of the body parts you wash and the thoughts that come to mind. When you find your mind wandering, just bring it back to the shower.
Cooking and even preparing produce are wonderful opportunities to cultivate mindfulness. While you are preparing your food, be aware of every scent. Do the same when the cooking begins. And also when the cooking is over. Notice color. Notice texture. Notice every nuance of those scents. Notice your mind wander to memories associated with those smells. Notice your mind wander to the future, imagining the taste of the meal. The point is to notice everything that is happening now, including the thoughts in your mind. As you chop vegetables, let your breath sync with your actions. I like to send healing thoughts to my food as I prepare it. I’ve done this many times over simple salads for family dinners. They’re usually large salads and I spend a good deal of time cutting cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, onions and herbs, etc. As I touch each veggie, I silently bless them. The salads are always a huge hit, though nobody can ever pinpoint why. Try this and notice the difference in the taste of your food.
How often do we eat our food on the run? Standing? So often we eat without paying attention. We race through meals, barely even tasting our food. Eating is not only a wonderful opportunity for mindfulness, it is also a deliciously rewarding one. Before putting a bite in your mouth, take a moment to smell your food. Inhale the aromas long enough to trigger your salivary glands. Smell each individual ingredient as well as the overall scent of the combined food. When you place food in your mouth, don't chew it right away. Feel your taste buds explode with sensation. Move the food in your mouth, exploring texture and taste. Feel yourself chew. Don't rush to swallow. Be present with the experience of smell, taste and texture. Notice how amazing food is when we pay this much attention.
All the Time
Seated meditation or meditating through mindful actions are not the only ways to get the same benefits. We can thread the same mindful actions all throughout our daily lives, no matter what we’re doing. Not only will we receive the same health benefits, we will also notice our awareness of the present moment become more commonplace. And in this awareness we begin to see a rich world of scents, colors, sounds and experiences worth meditating on.