Research validates the benefits of meditation and mindfulness techniques to reduce the stress and anxiety of modern living. In my latest book, Just Breathe: Meditation, Mindfulness, Movement and More, my intent is to share not only the basic practices of breathing, meditation, and mindfulness, but also honor how they can help you lead a more meaningful, fuller life.
Meditation and breathing exercises help you calm down in the moment, transitioning from a reactive response to stressful situations to a more reflective mode. Mindfulness techniques make you more aware of your body, thoughts and surroundings, leading to more intuitive responses, empathy, and smarter living.
I learned how to meditate when I was nine years old. At the time, my parents, Rita and Deepak Chopra, discovered meditation as a tool to help them in their busy, stressed lives, and they shared the practice with my brother and me. Meditation was transformative for my family’s life – the practice gave my parents silence, connection, emotional and physical healing. Meditation helped me, as a child, focus better, regulate my emotions, and deal with the uncertainties of growing up in a more measured manner. Meditation was the most important gift my parents gave me. As a parent, I have shared meditation and mindfulness techniques with my daughters and their friends (and now in my new book).
Here are three ways to live more mindfully.
Learn to just breathe.
A deep breath can be transformational. Right now, as you are reading these words, slow down and take a deep breath.
Breathe out.Try it again. Breathe in. Pause. And breathe out.
Your breath is an anchor that you can take with you anywhere. A conscious breath helps you slow down, and naturally calms a racing mind.
Try to take a few deep, conscious breaths throughout the day, particularly before you begin a new task or make a decision. A breath can help you feel in control, and focus on the moment.
Find one mindfulness practice that works for you.
There are many practices, across different wisdom traditions, that help you slow down, connect with your body and thoughts, and feel anchored to make better decisions.Here are some simple mindfulness practices you can try:
- Eat a meal mindfully – before just gobbling up lunch today, take a moment to look at your food, notice the colors, and chew slowly, noting the nuances of flavors and textures.
- Take a walk without your cell phone, no podcasts or music. Notice the temperature outside, the feel of the wind or sun on your skin, breathe in the air, and look around you.
- Sit quietly for 2 minutes and just observe your breath. You may find that closing your eyes helps you feel more relaxed. If you fall asleep, take note that you need more rest tonight.
- Think of one thing that you are grateful for before going to bed at night.
Here are 3 questions my father, Deepak Chopra, guided my brother and me to ask when we were growing up: Who am I? What do I want? How can I serve?
Who am I? is about exploring who you beyond the labels like mom, sister, author, entrepreneur. With meditation practices, you experience your essence – that quiet space inside where your thoughts settle down and you became familiar with your presence, your soul.
What do I want? is about exploring your deepest desires. What are the qualities you want in your life – love, connection, inspiration, a sense of purpose?
How can I serve? is about exploring how you can contribute to your community and the planet. Every one of us has the capacity to serve — as parents, co-workers, friends, leaders and members of our community.
In my TedX talk, I shared how Eckhart Tolle reminded me that living with intent means doing your part, authentically and joyfully, to raise the frequency of this planet in whatever way you can. This may be through volunteering, contributing to causes you believe in, building a company, participating in something you are passionate about, or taking care of loved ones.
These techniques can be transformative in the workplace, in schools, and in families. I encourage you to explore and have fun trying different techniques, sharing them with your kids, friends and co-workers. Asking questions together can create a bond that is powerful and also transformative for your community.
So little is required to begin living mindfully. Take this moment to stop right where you are and breathe. Be grateful. Ask yourself who you are. May these little moments build into a solid practice of calling your mind back to center when it starts to run away.
Article by Mallika Chopra