Last Saturday I participated in an all day mindfulness retreat @ the Mindfulness Practice Center in Fairfax, VA. The morning started with a one hour mindful breathing meditation followed by another 30-45 minutes of mindful movements. Neither one of these, though enjoyable, fully inspired me. What was really eye-opening was the mindful walking and mindful eating.
What does mindful mean? Being 100% present with one thing. Really feeling my entire foot touch the earth as I step vs. just running through life and not even noticing the terrain. As we walked mindfully outside, and I did so barefoot, I caught myself noticing the terrain ahead was shifting from a smooth surface to gravel. Rather than enjoying the smooth bridge we were walking on surrounded by trees, my mind jumped ahead creating a worry that the gravel would hurt my feet. I returned to my breath and as my feet hit the gravel I was pleasantly surprised by the sensations I felt as I mindfully walked on this new surface.
Mindfulness also very much means being in the experience at that very moment rather than mentally jumping ahead to “I wonder what’s next”. For instance, chewing – really chewing until every last morsel has left my mouth to travel along the digestive path. Mindfulness eating takes at least 15-20 chews (for some it’s an unbelievably 30-50 bites). It’s also about chewing and only chewing – meaning put the fork down once the food enters the mouth and simply chew. I caught myself a few times starting the chewing process and then simultaneously scooping food on my fork as if I knew what I would want next. How do you truly know what you want next when you haven’t even finished what is currently being chewed? Again, rather than anticipating or assuming what I might want, I had to practice just being with the one thing going on in that very moment.
Mindfulness is truly a practice. It’s a practice that can be done every moment if we really want it. It’s about actively being in the experience & nowhere else. It’s about being alive and fully being with every sensation/feeling that life has to offer. It’s about living life one step at a time, one bite at a time and more importantly, one breath at a time.