Mindfulness: becoming aware

One way to achieve greater resilience to life’s challenges and to live more fully is to be mindful: bringing greater awareness to what you think, feel and do.

 “Mindfulness is sometimes seen as a form of ‘meta awareness’, which means awareness of awareness,” Kristin Neff. 

It can be a powerful antidote to stress, anxiety, unhappiness and exhaustion, but it is not a quick fix and needs to be practised daily over several weeks before the benefit can be felt. Ultimately, it is a lifetime’s work.

In this post I will focus on becoming aware of daily activities that we tend to do automatically without giving them much attention, such as eating, drinking, showering, dressing, driving – you get the picture. The habit of concentrating on doing the mundane things in life well and deriving pleasure from those activities can set us up for success in bigger, more important things if we apply the same care and attention. In the same way that a musician practices by playing scales or an athlete trains with drills to enhance overall performance.

The chocolate meditation is a good introduction to this idea. It also works well with a raisin if you prefer that, or it could be adapted for use with any other food that you enjoy.

The chocolate meditation:

  • Put a small piece of the chocolate on a plate and really look at it: the colour, any pattern, its shape, the textures or anything else that you notice about it.

  • Then smell the chocolate and take in all the aromas.

  • Now put it in your mouth and let it just sit on your tongue, don’t chew or swallow it.

  • Notice all the different tastes from that one piece of chocolate.

  • Notice how it feels sitting on your tongue.

  • Notice the automatic actions that you may be having to suppress to keep it there.

  • You will no doubt be salivating and will need to swallow, but keep the chocolate in your mouth for as long as possible, noticing how the tastes and sensations change.

  • Really listen as you swallow.

  • Once the chocolate has dissolved away, reflect on how that experience differed from how you usually eat chocolate.

  • Try it again with another piece…

How much richer would your life be if you approached more of it with that amount of attention? And how many unhelpful habits have you developed without realising it? Becoming aware of our thinking and doing can be liberating.

It can be helpful to choose a different activity to pay attention to each day or week, whether that is drinking your tea or coffee, cleaning your teeth, getting dressed, walking or whatever you like. 

If you would like to explore mindfulness further, I can highly recommend Mindfulness: a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. Also, the Art of Mindful Living page of the Plum Village website provides plenty of mindfulness practices.