Notice what images come to mind when you hear the words “inner balance.” If a Google Image search is any indication of where our minds are, chances are you may be thinking of stacked stones, a woman meditating on a beach, sunset yoga, white linen pants, and silence.
Although yoga, group meditation, and silent retreats are wonderful tools that have been used for thousands of years, they might not be the most realistic tools for a woman who has a full time job, a car full of children, and can barely find time for a shower let alone a meditation retreat in Bora Bora. The issue with this image is that we as women have set our sights on something that’s somewhat discordant with our surroundings. After all, it’s difficult to attain a total state of zen in the supermarket while your child is screaming, and it’s not always realistic (or cost effective) to schedule in daily time for a meditation or yoga class. This inability to fit into this very specific mold can lead some to feelings of frustration that they’re just not doing enough, and can lead others to dismiss these practices altogether and assert that meditation “just isn’t for me.”
However, let’s not throw the 4000 year old baby out with the bathwater. These meditative principles and the concept of mindfulness are immensely powerful tools that can be practiced by anyone at any point in their day regardless of what their daily life looks like.
The reality remains, when we find ourselves running at 100 miles per hour with no time to spare, we need something more practical to slow us down.
As it has gained increasing popularity as a major “buzz word” of 2014, mindfulness often has become associated with the imagery mentioned above. In reality, true mindfulness can be practiced by anyone, anywhere regardless of how much time they have or how “into it” they are. The core of mindfulness is not “religious”, it’s far from “New Age” and it’s truly an easy-to-use, practical way to attain more harmony amidst the demands of daily life.
The term mindfulness simply refers to being fully aware in the present moment, and allowing our inner and outer experiences to occur without judging or trying to alter them. It’s not about being happy or in a total state of peace, it’s about being present. Mindfulness allows us to pause, and to bring our awareness to what’s going on in our bodies and in our minds. Being mindful allows us to anchor ourselves in the present moment and takes us out of the constant autopilot mode we often find ourselves in. When we slow down, even for a few minutes, to bring awareness to the moment, we become calmer, more focused, and less at the mercy of our internal thoughts, patterns, and anxieties.
To see how easy and effective this can be, pause right now and ask yourself:
1) What thoughts are going through my mind?
Notice how your mind is narrating your experience right now, or wandering to the past or future. Are you thinking how much you’re loving reading this article, or that it’s totally not going to work for you? Worried that you’re taking too long a break, or thinking about what you’re making for dinner? Take a few moments to allow all the thoughts to come into your awareness without holding on to them or trying to change them. Let them simply enter and then leave your awareness.
2) What feelings and emotions am I having?
What is your internal emotional state… are you feeling stressed, exhausted, at ease, even ambivalent? Spend a few moments and try to tap into what’s happening for you internally.
3) What physical sensations are occurring in my body?
Mentally scan your body from the top of your head to the soles of your feet and notice any sensations you’re experiencing. Are you feeling any tenseness or tightness? Notice how your back feels on your chair, how your shoes feel on your feet, how the air conditioning feels on your face, and any other physical sensations you’re having. As you bring your full awareness to your body, allow any thoughts you have to enter into your awareness, notice them, and simply let them go.
By bringing full awareness to otherwise mundane moments throughout our days, we begin to be a more active participant in our lives. Accepting our experiences as they are in the moment eventually helps to free ourselves from our preconceived notion of how our life should be, and allows us to experience life as it is.
For the real, down-to-earth woman living in New Jersey in 2014, balance and harmony may not look quite like the image of an impossibly well-groomed blissful woman meditating on a beach in perfect silence. Instead, it may look like closing your eyes for a brief moment at your desk as you take the first few bites of your lunch. It may take place during your drive to work, as you turn off the radio and hear the sounds of the car and feel the steering wheel on your hands. It may also look like utilizing that “Do not disturb” function on your phone throughout the night, and allowing yourself to fully wake up and become fully oriented and aware before checking your emails.
We don’t need to step out of our busy lives to create more harmony, we simply need to bring more awareness into them. By practicing this, we can start to free ourselves from the stressors surrounding us, and find that harmony and balance in the everyday… all without getting a shoe full of sand.
Hear more from Enodia Center for Balance as panelists at tomorrow’s WEN (Women’s Empowerment Network) event! Join us on Wednesday, May 28th at 8:30 a.m and bring your questions for our panel discussion to follow Health Coach Rebecca Kittle‘s presentation, Balancing an Unbalanced Life. To register, please click here.
For more ways to bring mindfulness to your every-day life, check out Enodia’s blog: 10 Daily Ways to Cultivate Mindfulness and Self-Compassion