Stop. Breathe. Take a second to look around you, notice your surroundings, and pay attention to all five senses. Are you sitting in bed, on a bus, or walking to meet a friend? Take in everything.
Are you shivering, sweating, or just perfect? Is that smell coming from the kitchen making your stomach grumble in anticipation, tickling your nose with wafts of ajo y cebolla? And your hands, where are they? Perhaps they are running through your tight curls, molding moist clay, or leafing through last month’s Vogue.
While that may have seemed like an odd exercise, deep, unbiased awareness of your surroundings is essential to a meditative practice known as mindfulness. Mindfulness is a state of active awareness and openness to the present, without a conclusive judgment of the moment. Instead, in practicing mindfulness, one attempts to appreciate what is observed for the essence of what it is, rather than how subjectively “good” or “bad” it may be (Mayo Clinic).Practicing Mindfulness
To explain, consider a dark, rainy, and windy day. For many, this description will seem dreary and depressing. Now imagine walking into that rain — resist the urge to cringe. Feel the drops wet your skin, listen to the whistling wind and the rustling leaves, and smell the earthiness of rain. Stand still and just be. You have nowhere to go, no obligations to take you away from your commitment to enjoy yourself and nature in this moment. This practice of mindfulness transformed unpleasant weather into a profound moment of meditation and connection with yourself and nature.
“Mindfulness helps me connect to my body and the present. It helps reduce anxiety, creating a safe space in my mind. It makes my day brighter,” said Daniela Castillo, 22.
Now imagine doing the same activity on a bright, clear day, the sun warming your cheeks and the plush grass cushioning your tired feet. Or imagine sitting in your bed and letting every limb of your body sink into the worn quilt as you listen to the creaks of your sister’s footsteps and the rhythm of the kitchen. Mindfulness can be practiced any time and any place, as long as you are prepared to focus your mind to a state complete openness and non-judgment.
To Your Health!
This ability to focus and disengage from your cluttered mind is not only useful, but physically and emotionally healthy. Dedicating a few moments every day for mindfulness not only lowers and prevents future stress, it minimizes the risk of depression and other mental health issues. Mindfulness also increases compassion and emotional warmth, and helps one enjoy a better night’s sleep. This prepares the meditator for a more healthy, kind and productive day (Psychological Science).
Amelia Henriquez, 21, said, “sometimes I need to just relax and feel the world around me. I want to see the colors around me as art, the smells as crazy perfumes, the sounds as songs. It puts me in a different mindset. I feel chill, at peace with it all.”
The best part about mindfulness is that it is absolutely free, and absolutely portable. No matter where you are, no matter how empty your wallet, you can take a few moments out of life’s dramas and anxieties to appreciate yourself and your environment while improving your health and outlook. It is as simple as turning off the judgmental voice in your head and soaking in this precious moment of life.
So the next time you are waiting to be picked up at school, look up and notice the way the clouds graze the sky. Listen to friends around you speaking in Spanish and notice how our language sounds like a song even when you don’t pay attention to the words. And when your mami picks you up, notice the warmth of her cheek as you kiss hello. This, amigas, is mindfulness.