Calm Your Mind by Connecting with Your Senses
One of the simplest ways to practice mindfulness and calm your mind is to connect with one of your senses. Have a go at the following exercise:
Breathe in slowly through your nose and allow your belly to fill with the breath.
Hold your breath for a few moments and slowly breathe out through your mouth, as if you’re blowing through a straw. Repeat a few times.
Notice five objects you can see around you.
By all means label each item, but also remember to view them in detail as they really are. Spend a few moments looking curiously at each object, as if seeing it for the first time. See if you can notice whether your mind judges each object, and if it does, let that judgment go. Feel a breath if doing so helps.
Repeat Step 2 but this time with five sounds.
Notice each sound and label it in your mind as you do so. For example, your thoughts may go ‘music, road traffic, breathing, rustling bag, people talking’. Listen to each sound for a few moments, with a sense of freshness and interest and without judging it.
Do the same process again but with five different scents.
You may not have many scents around, so just notice what you can; or make a point of noting the smell of your next meal in a café, restaurant or your own kitchen.
Try the process this time with five different tastes.
This aspect works particularly well while you’re having a meal or a drink.
Repeat finally for touch.
Notice how your body feels: for example, the sensation of your body touching the chair, a tightness in your shoulders, warmth on your arm, cool wind against your ankles or a belt slightly tight around your waist.
Write down what you notice for each sense when you first try this exercise. Writing down what you observed helps you to consolidate your experience and makes you more curious and focused as you go about your daily activities. This effectively makes you more mindful.
|Sense||What I Notice|
If you’re wondering how connecting with your senses can calm your mind, here’s how:
Your conscious attention can be on only one thing at a time. If you’re focusing on one of your senses, your attention isn’t feeding your circling worries and concerns. As a result, they begin to lose a bit of their strength. Without your attention on your worries, they effectively don’t exist.
You’re training your mind to be more focused on the present moment. With time, you find that living in the now is easier and you become less lost in thoughts unnecessarily.
All mindfulness practices lead to a gradual calming of your mind, but the key word is gradual. If you aim directly to calm your mind, you end up frustrated and probably give up. Instead, accept that your mind is going to wander, and just keep bringing your attention back when it does so, perhaps with a little smile on your face to remind you not to be self-critical.
Mindfulness is about awareness: by noticing how your mind wanders, what it focuses on and how to manage it, you grow in wisdom — and that’s what you’re aiming for. The following figure shows the difference between how many people imagine mindfulness to be, and the reality.
Expect your mind to be rather wild and if you have a few moments of calm focus in the meditation, accept that as a bonus rather than a sign that you’re doing the process right or wrong.