Thinking about thinking.
Sure, that sounds like something Yoda might say, but here’s the deal: you don’t have to meditate to be mindful.
You just need to pay attention, close attention, to what is going on around you. Follow your thoughts. Think about thinking. Here are five ways to be mindful without meditating:
1) Take a walk. Be aware of the present moment. Feel the movement of your feet, the ground beneath them, the wind in the air, and the sun in the sky. Listen to cars pass, and birds sing without judgment. Neither is good or bad. Neither is enjoyable or unpleasant. When your mind wanders, and you get lost in thought, bring your mind back to the present moment, and pay attention.
2) Eat mindfully. We talked about mindfully eating a raisin, but try to eat an entire meal with full attention. Maybe you are eating a sandwich or a cup of soup. Pay attention to things you don’t usually notice: the texture of the mayo on the bread, the feel of the lunch meat, the smell of sliced pickle, or the texture of a potato chip. See if you can sit through an entire meal with full focus.
3) Listen to music. Cue your jam. Pop in your earbuds. Shut your eyes. Give a listen. Let the song play. Focus on a single note or an instrument that you may not have noticed before. Repeat the lyrics back to yourself. Sense the sounds as they play. If your mind drifts, bring it back to the tunes.
4) Select a single color—any one color in all its shades. Look around and see how many times you can find it in a given space. List things as you scan them moving your head slowly back and forth, taking it all in. When you finish with blue, move on to yellow.
5) Progressive Muscle Relaxation. This is a good one right before bed. It involves focusing on muscles or groups of muscles throughout your body. Start at your toes and work your way up or vice versa. When you list a muscle group, tense up just that area with everything you’ve got, hold it tightly. Wait a few seconds. Relax. Move on to the next group. So, curl your toes and squeeze. Let go. Exhale. Move on to the calves and so on. Do this throughout your body, feeling relaxed and present.
Try any one or all of them as an alternative to meditation as a tool for mindfulness.