Coffee and meditation … OK, these two words may not seem to go together, but I have recently discovered a new and very effective technique for working mindfulness into a busy day.
First, what is mindfulness? Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Basically, mindfulness is keen awareness of the present moment — being really HERE now, not thinking or worrying about the past or future. We are rarely truly in the moment, yet the more time we spend in the moment, the happier we tend to be. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to influence the structure and function of the brain. People who practice mindfulness techniques have scored higher on tests than non-meditators, and have reported lowered levels of anxiety, depression, stress, and illness, along with a plethora of other benefits.
Formal seated meditation works for some people. It’s wonderful if you can take a few minutes or longer every day at about the same time to sit in a comfortable position with the spine long and straight while focusing on your breath or just being aware of your sensations, thoughts passing through, or the sounds of your environment. There are many techniques. However, some of us feel so busy that we cannot seem to make a habit out of this. Here’s an easy way to work mindfulness into your busy day: walk from your kitchen to your car holding a hot cup of coffee (or other uncovered beverage of your choice).
I try to work mindfulness into my day in various ways, and after years of practice, I feel that I do spend a good amount of time truly present! I’ve read various blogs and articles recommending bringing mindfulness to your walk from your car into your office (or wherever), and I decided to try it the other morning. I focused on my feet touching each stair as I descended the couple of flights down from my apartment to the lobby. I focused on my feet then hitting the pavement with each step, the feeling of the air on my skin, and the people walking by (all very hurriedly!). I did notice thoughts creeping in even as I tried to remain present. What did I have to do at work that day? What would I do afterwards? Planning, thinking, organizing… I had partially succeeded and was at least aware of my mind wandering, as minds tend to do.
The following day, I made coffee at home before heading out to work. I walked carefully down the stairs so as not to spill the coffee. Once I got outside, though, I automatically started walking a little faster. People were rushing by as they often do on city streets and I couldn’t help but feed into that energy. Immediately, I spilled my coffee. Not all of it, just a little — it was dripping down the side of the cup onto my hand.
I realized I had to walk slowly — very slowly — in order to keep the coffee from spilling over. And I decided to make a mindfulness exercise out of it. I noticed each footstep as I carefully held the cup of hot liquid. A couple of times I slipped up and walked a little faster, spilling more of the coffee and making a mess of my hand. It isn’t a long walk from the front steps of my building to my car but it seemed pretty long when I was walking so deliberately. It wouldn’t have happened without the coffee. Even if I was trying to be mindful, I would have been walking faster and not necessarily have achieved the same level of calm awareness.
I thought I’d share this technique, since I’ve begun using it and have found it very helpful in truly bringing myself into the current moment. It may be most effective in a situation similar to what I’ve described — on a city street vs. a country one, for example, or a walk down a driveway in the suburbs — but I’d love to hear any feedback of your experiences!