Much of the reading that I do, related to mindfulness, is in relation to meditation, and its application during that practice. This is all and good if you are, indeed, practicing meditation (which I highly recommend you do on a daily basis).
Keep in mind, though, that mindfulness is something that can permeate every aspect of your life. Parenting, cooking, cleaning, napping, relaxation, exercising, reading, playing - the options are endless. How, you ask, can you practice mindfulness when your mind is otherwise occupied? Its not as difficult as some of you may think.
Mindfulness, and the many positive aspects that come with it, come easily and naturally, when you simply allow yourself to experience life as its happening, right now, without judging it. I like to call this process 'immersion'. Immersion into whatever you are doing. Remove, as best you can, the distractions of every day life, such as the TV, smartphone, and computer. Also, plan your events so that interruptions are unlikely, so you can take the time to really immerse yourself in doing just one thing.
For example, when cleaning, some people like to listen to music in order to break the boredom. Instead, embrace the cleaning, immerse yourself in it. Smell the lemony smell of the furniture polish, the warmth of the water you use to wash the dishes. Listen to the sounds of the house as you move about, the swishing of the mop over the floor.
When cooking, oh the smells! I love the feeling as the first scent of the meal I'm cooking hits my nostrils, announcing that the process has begun and my dinner is underway. I relish the sounds of bacon frying, of a mixing bowl being stirred or a blue flame crackling under an iron pan as it heats up.
When exercising, feel every effort in every muscle group. Acknowledge the heat rise as you exert yourself, the breath going in and out, coming a bit harder each moment as your exercise intensifies. The slight burning in your muscles as you run a little harder than before, lift a little more weight, walk a little further. Listen to the sounds of the gym around you, or of nature as you practice your healthy lifestyle outside.
So often in life we try to combine our events into one, such as listening to music on a run, or having the TV on in the background as we read email. This may be more efficient in some ways, but it robs us of depth of experience, and it is that depth that gives us that happiness, deep down inside of us, that feeling of contentment that we value.
So I ask each of you reading this, take time today to adjust one thing that you are planning to do, whether it be the car ride home from work, dinner for the family, a late night run or relaxing with a coffee on your porch. Turn off those distractions, and just experience what all five of your senses provide you in an experience.
The music, the TV, the email - they will all be there waiting when you are done, if needed. But if you are like me, you will find you need them less and less, because life has so much to offer on an ongoing basis. All it took was for me to stop and choose to let it in.