There are a variety of ways to practice mindfulness. Here are some possibilities to explore alone, in a group, or with loved ones of varying ages:
Mindful Walking - inside or outside
I-Spy – yep, that’s right! The childhood classic is an excellent way to practice mindfulness in groups. Notice colors, textures, shapes. Increase awareness of your environment.
5-4-3-2-1 Sensory Mindfulness: Consider this “I-Spy” for grown-ups and using the five senses.
Name five things you can see, four things you are touching in this moment, three sounds, two smells, and one taste (it’s ok to taste the residue from your morning coffee or toothpaste, perhaps you taste nothing). *
Some ways to change it up:
For toddlers: Look around your space and identify 5 objects you can see.
Everyone else - "seeing" variances:
- Look around your space and identify 5 objects that are a specific color (e.g. blue)
- Look around your space and identify 5 objects that are round or 5 objects that are square (pick one shape and discover).
*Note: With mindfulness, not noticing something is still being aware. You might notice “there is not a taste present” or “I am having a hard time finding a smell.” When one of my mentors, Tony King, PhD, leads the body scan he always prefaces, “If you can’t feel your toes, that’s ok. Simply note that.” Noting if you can or cannot observe a particular sensory experience is being present in the moment.
Belly Breathing with an object:
Option 1: if you have a large group (or family), have everyone lie on the floor in a circle but placing heads on one another’s bellies. Notice what it’s like to stay here for 3-5 minutes just breathing and noticing heads rising up and sinking down.
Option 2 (good for children and teens): Lie down and place an object like a book, a stuffed animal, a pillow on the belly. Notice what it’s like to be here for 3-5 minutes just breathing and noticing object rising up and sinking down.
Option 3 (good for everyone, especially adults): Sit up or lie down and place your hand on your belly. Notice what it’s like to be here for 3-5 minutes just breathing and noticing your hand moving with the breath.
Mindful Eating: There are a variety of ways to go about this practice.
In the western world of mindfulness instruction, there is a classic practice known as “The Raisin Exercise.”
Get an (edible) object in front of you (e.g. a raisin, an almond, a Hershey's kiss).
Pretend you are brand-new in your body. We will use the senses to explore and examine this object.
Hold it in your hand. Feel the weight and size.
Notice the size, color, and texture.
Place it between two fingers and feel the texture.
Hold it by your right ear and move it (or roll it) between the index and thumb – do you hear a sound? What if you hold it next to your left ear? Is it the same sound or is the noise – the pitch, the volume – different?
Place it under each nostril. Notice smell.
Hold it against the lips – feel with the lips the texture.Place it on the tongue. Don’t eat it yet. Don’t bite down. Simply allow it to rest on the tongue. Notice the mouth. Notice the taste.
Place it with your tongue between two teeth. Feel the size with the mouth, feel the texture between the teeth.
Bite only once.
Observe the mouth. Observe the texture. The taste.
Don’t swallow yet.
Observe texture. Observe taste.
Observe the mouth. Observe the body.
Discuss amongst participants or journal.
You can try this with any type of food.
You can do this with any object – just don’t put it in your mouth. I once did this with an adult patient using a crayon because that was what was available in the space. She held it, noticed it, played with it between her fingers, smelled it.
You can also sit and eat an entire meal mindfully – no music, no talking, just being with the food.
Loving Kindness Meditation:
In the Buddhist world this practice is known as Metta Meditation. It’s sending well-wishes or positive thoughts to those around us, ultimately to all living beings.
Tara Brach and Thich Nhat Hanh have lovely guidance for this practice on youtube or Insight Timer.
1. Select 3+ well wishes (some examples include):
o May you be whole.
o May you be healthy.
o May you be safe.
o May you live with ease.
o May you be loving.
o May you be peaceful.
o May you be gentle with yourself.
o May you know that you are enough.
2. Close your eyes and think of a loved one – a family member or friend.
o May [this loved one, e.g. John] be whole.
o May [this loved one] be healthy.
o May [this loved one] be loving.
o May [this loved one] be safe.
3. Now think of an acquaintance – perhaps the postal worker or cashier at your grocery store.
o May [the janitor] be whole.
o May [the janitor] be healthy.
o May [the janitor] be loving.
o May [the janitor] be safe.
4. Now think of someone with whom you have a challenging relationship or someone you resent:
o May [this politician] be whole.
o May [this politician] be healthy.
o May [this politician] be loving.
o May [this politician] be safe.
5. Now think of yourself:
o May I be whole.
o May I be healthy.
o May I be loving.
o May I be safe.
6. Now send well-wishes towards all living beings:
o May all living beings be whole.
o May all living beings be healthy.
o May all living beings be loving.
o May all living beings be safe.
7. Try this out for 21 days. Experience the magic. Relationships transform. Moods boost.
Color Mandalas – Never underestimate your creative power and the gift of art!
You can color in Big Bird or you can fill out a complicated geometric pattern.
Set a timer – 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 or 30 minutes.
Go deeper challenge: experiment with how music influences your actions. I call this the “B mindful practice.” Play each artist for 3 minutes while coloring:
Black Sabbath (or another heavy metal band)
Notice how different music impacted the experience of coloring – pace, colors chosen, mood.
“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
There are two ways that I have learned how to do mindful walking.
Mindful Walking Option 1 (indoor friendly): Walk super slowly across the span of less than 6 feet (inside you could use a towel or yoga mat to help younger kids have a size reference). Notice the weight shift from heel to toe. Lift the leg slowly as you change feet.
For younger kids: pretend they are walking in slow-motion through Jello or pudding.
Mindful Walking Option 2: Mindful walk or hike
Set a timer on your cell phone for 5 minutes.
For 5 minutes, walk along the path focusing on one sensory experience at a time.
Seeing for 5 minutes.
Hearing for 5 minutes.
Feeling for 5 minutes.
After 15 minutes, you could
end the practice
repeat the cycle as you walk onward
pause walking/hiking and sit still.
If you’ve selected option 3 (this is choose your own meditation adventure, after all) you could:
Meditate for 5 minutes
Repeat the sensory cycle in stillness:
Sit for 5 minutes just seeing
Sit for 5 minutes just hearing
Sit for 5 minutes just feeling.
*Alternatively, you could also incorporate the sense of smell.