Mindfulness has caught the attention of many helping professions in recent years. It is an ancient practice that has shown to help in the healing process of the mind, body, and spirit. And while mindfulness may have this mysterious sense about it, the word simply defined is “being conscious or aware of something.”
We could practice mindfulness by becoming more aware of our emotions, thoughts, or bodily rhythms. Something I have found helpful in practice is to use mindfulness as a way to come back to the present moment. One way to embrace the present moment is to become aware of our senses. Maybe we are dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. Focusing on what we can see, taste, touch, hear and smell brings us back, even if for a moment, so we can take our next right step.
When you feel overwhelmed, overcome with emotion or stuck, it could be time to come back to these five sensations. They are not only a way to self soothe in times of distress but also something to root us back to what’s before us when we feel detached, out of place or lost in thought. Maybe this is a season where you feel as if you’re showing up with your body but you’re absent in mind. You’re surrounded by people who love you, but you feel disconnected and far away. If this is you, or someone you know, may the words to follow be an arrow to guide you along your journey.
In the Next Right Thing Podcast hosted by Emily P. Freeman, she mentions three activities to help bring us back to our senses.
1. Go for a walk. Notice the sound of the birds, the brisk autumn breeze against your cheeks, the smell of burning leaves and the pavement underneath your feet.
2. Take a shower. Have you ever wondered why we have our best ideas in the shower? It’s not because we have more time to think but because its often when we feel most relaxed. Perhaps it’s the warm water running over our skin, or the smell of shampoo being massaged through our scalp, but science has shown that relaxation allows our brain to turn inward and make insightful connections. So, if you’ve been overthinking the same problem, consider taking a shower and allow your body and mind to soak and rest.
3. Eat a meal. There are times we may go about our day to find out that its 3:00pm, we’re on our third cup of coffee and we haven’t eaten anything. When we haven’t eaten, we tend to become fatigued, irritable and lose concentration. If we’ve had nothing but caffeine, we’re more likely to be overactive, jittery, and anxious. So, consider taking a meal break. Treat your body like you would a friend. Nourish her and pay special attention to taste and smell.
Our emotions, thoughts and sensations serve us best when our body is well cared for. Our body, mind and spirit were never meant to be separated from one another, but sometimes we treat them as so. Maybe this simple practice of coming back to our senses can be one way to reconnect to our emotions and our bodies. They speak to us in different ways. To inform and protect us.
Sometimes we get carried away and forget that physical needs may matter just as much as the problems that we become entangled in. Hygiene, nutrition, and exercise keep us connected. They help us out of our head and into our body which was so uniquely designed by a loving God.
To close, I’m reminded of a story in Scripture. After a triumphant victory, the prophet Elijah fled to the mountains after being threatened by a queen with great earthly power. Elijah, exhausted and desperate, cries out to God with the belief that he is the only faithful one left. And before God gives Elijah any reassurance or any guidance, God lays him down to sleep. And when Elijah wakes there is food beside him to eat.
Sometimes, before we can think rationally or make any decisions, we have to take care of our basic human needs. We come back to our physical senses, and in doing so, we come back to a mind that is often less frazzled and scattered than if we had continued in our hurried state.
It’s part of our design to be slow to embrace what is going on around us and be mindful. We don’t have to be so aware and conscious of everything, but if we’re constantly in our heads, we run the risk of missing the most important things life has to offer while we’re busy thinking somewhere else.
So may you be present. May you be kind to yourself. And may you come back to your senses and be mindful of the beauty before you. May you see others as they are, listen to your body speak, hold the hands of those you love, taste the goodness of food shared around the table and smell new life as the seasons change.