I took a short break from this blog after having a medical procedure. All is now well with my body, but recovery was slow and sometimes challenging. I was, thankfully, well-supported by my family, but not feeling 100% with two young children at home meant that I felt busier than normal in November and December. Between household responsibilities, children, and work, I barely had time to ensure I was taking care of my own needs – some as basic as sitting down to eat a meal or showering daily. The inability to practice mindfulness to combat high levels of stress was sometimes painful. This got me to thinking: is mindfulness a privilege of time?
Certainly we are all mentally capable of learning about and practicing mindfulness. But we are not all given the time in which to do so. In my current life situation, I find making the time for mindfulness to be a challenge on most days. Then I wonder about people who have to work more than one job, have other responsibilities, have more people to care for. How challenging finding time to practice mindfulness could be!
I don’t believe there is a solution to magically create more time, other than the somewhat problematic options of either doing less (not usually possible) or outsourcing work. (Per Jordan Kisner’s piece in the New York Times, “[Women’s empowerment is measured by] by their presence and influence in the workplace, which is attained by outsourcing housework and child care to less economically advantaged women for a low wage.”) Assuming we cannot find more time in our day to give our minds and hearts a break by enrobing them in the peace of mindfulness, I have found a few ways to incorporate mindfulness into a busy day:
- When driving, turn off the radio. Drive with silence as your companion, and allow your thoughts to flow organically. This may only provide a few minutes of silence, but in my experience this small break can still be meaningful. This approach is also possible on public transport. When riding the bus I can even take the time to close my eyes for the duration of the ride, something clearly not possible when I’m in the driver’s seat.
- Practice mindful eating. This practice often incorporates meditating on gratitude for all of the people and animals that contributed to the meal you are enjoying, but in times of stress it can be challenging to channel this feeling of gratitude or to get your mind off of your day. In that case, I recommend eating alone, without a phone or book for distraction, and simply focusing on chewing each bite of your food slowly and thoroughly. If possible, think about how thankful you are for your food, and for your body capable of turning that food into energy. This small ritual brings me peace when I am able to practice it.
- Practice mindfulness in a body care ritual that you already do during the day. I find the most benefit when I make time for this in the morning, but if that isn’t possible, any time will work. Sometimes this is as simple as washing my face, using a hand soap I enjoy the scent of, and turning on a broad-spectrum light while getting ready. Whatever your ritual, if you are able to feel gratitude for your body and anchor the everyday task in that gratitude, I hope that it brings you joy the way it does for me.
Please let me know how you incorporate mindfulness into your life. I’m always interested in tips that I might be able to use myself. I hope your day is peaceful and that you are delighted by something beautiful. I’m sending warmth and joy your way.