Some of you have asked for some other mindfulness exercises. One we have done in our sessions is the “Leaf on the stream” exercise, a very good and basic one for beginners, as it goes quite literally through the following steps:
- Having an anchor, something you bring your attention back to each time your mind wanders – here it is the stream
- Learning to catch your mind out wandering into different directions
- Noticing the very thought it was entertaining and putting this thought on a leaf. The latter also serves the purpose to “look at your thoughts” rather than “from your thoughts”, and thus builds the observer self we spoke about
- Then going back to your anchor, the main ‘activity’, – watching the stream
This is a great exercise that literally builds your brain tissue for abilities that would serve you well in your sport. As we said, it sort of metaphorically mirrors what you should be doing in your sport:
Focus on what you are doing – mind wanders – catch it out – bring it back
Now, an exercise like this could take you anytime from 1 to 10 min, or more, and you can do it before you brush your teeth, or in the bus on your way to work, – i.e. it should be quite easy to integrate it into your daily routine as it is.
Some of you though have commented on how busy your lives are and that anything can easily become one thing too many. Understood.
How about then learning to practise something like mindfulness while doing things you do anyway?
This means there is no extra time required. There is however some extra effort required initially, when you set out to build a new habit. Once the habit is established this becomes minimal.
Establishing a habit like this with one activity is only the beginning though. Ultimately, in our context here, you want to be fully mindful of your present experiences in your sport. Fully present. As in: Not distracted by mind chatter about things past and possible scenarios in the future. Because the more you are anywhere else but in the present moment, the more you might miss in the here and now. Remember, – there is only so much brain space to deal with everything at any one moment.
So let’s start with something simple.
Everyone of you eats, and I hope that sometimes you are not just eating on the run from A to B. So no time lost in eating mindfully.
Relating it to the processes we discussed regarding the leaf-exercise above, look at it this way:
First you set aside some time to be truly present. If you find it hard to begin with, commit to 1 or 2 minutes of your evening meal. Set your timer, and commit to be really mindful for these x minutes.
- This time all the sensations you experience when enjoying your meal are your anchor: The sight of it, the smell, the taste, the texture. Feel free to move from one sensation to the next, or experience several all at once. Your present moment experience of your senses is what you pay attention to. This is what you are doing now.
- Invariably your mind will have some other ideas for you. Observe them, notice them, file them for later if important or let them go.
- Then, gently bring your attention back to your experience of eating your food.
That’s it. Easy as that and you just had a gym session for your brain, while eating your meal. Well done.
With a tiny amount of phantasy you can easily see how you can do this for a variety of other activities: You can walk mindfully (listen, see, smell, feel), listen to music mindfully, swim, shower, ….
The key for most of you is probably not the amount of time it takes, but the willingness to make an initial effort big enough to establish one or two new habits. And if this proves difficult, let me know and I make a small post on creating new habits successfully!