by Brandon Nappi
“Can I practice mindfulness without meditation?” I am often asked. Here at Copper Beech Institute, we introduce mindfulness to thousands of people each year. We begin by sharing the reality that mindfulness is the simple capacity to be present to life non-judgmentally moment by moment. Meditation is one, time-honored way of cultivating attention, calm, and compassion but it is not the only way. While meditation practice is the beating heart of Copper Beech Institute, people are amazed to discover that there are countless ways of practicing mindfulness beyond meditation.
Here are a few ways of practicing mindfulness this summer in additional to the traditional method of meditation.
1. While Walking
Stillness of attention can be cultivated when life requires you to be in motion. Mindful walking can be practiced while walking the dog, strolling on the beach, walking through a parking lot, or on your way to a meeting. Bring your attention to the soles of your feet. Become curious about all the sensations that arise in your feet as they contact the ground. You can walk at any speed, though you might begin by slowing your pace slightly. Observe all the large and subtle movements in the muscles and bones within your feet and ankles that enable this miracle of walking. Notice when your attention shifts to thinking or judging, and gently shift your attention back to the soles of the feet.
2. At Red Lights
Any re-occurring experience in daily life is a wonderful opportunity to practice present-moment awareness. Use red lights in your daily driving to become a mindfulness bell reminding you to practice. At each red light, become aware of your breathing at the tip of your nose. With eyes open, pay attention to the sensation of air streaming in and out of the body. Notice the temperature of the inhalation in comparison to the exhalation. Notice the slice of stillness between the in-breath and out-breath. The breath can only ever unfold in the present moment and the simple act of bringing awareness to our breathing naturally aligns us in the present in the short time of a red light. Add other reoccurring tasks to integrate short periods of practice into your day, including brushing your teeth, doing the dishes, drinking your morning beverage, or any time you pick up your phone.
3. While Hugging
Hugging—whether a friend, a child, a relative, our partner or a pet—is a way of demonstrating our connection. Hugging is a moment of profound encounter between two people who care for one another. We often perform this action reflexively without any thought. Allow yourself the gift of enjoying this moment of connection, however brief. For even a second or two, a hug reminds us that we are all connected to one another. As you hug, you might take a breath as a way of becoming fully present to the experience and your intention to care for this person within your embrace. You might silently offer this wish as you release your hug: “May you be happy and safe.” The same care we extend in a hug to one person, we practice sharing with the world.