Cultivating Mindfulness By 54321 (Episode 316)
I'm back with Juliet today discussing ways to calm down, center yourself, and engage the senses. We break down the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise that brings us back to center, and we're eager to have you try it!
Below links to some bonus episodes with meditations from Jules and me - we love guided meditations and reminders on how to calm our minds and bodies, and this weeks' practice is another we can add here to this mix!
A Simple Exercise
Sometimes in the craziness of life, it's really helpful to have a basic exercise that helps you focus and come back to the calm of the present moment. When I talk about finding your "center", it's really the essence of "namaste." It's looking for that place of peace and calm that connects you to everything while also bringing you inward.
When you find your center, you're in the present moment. You're not worrying about the future or stressing about the past. You're simply observing what is. And, you're finding those things that soothe you and bring peace to your soul.
When I am finding my center, I know I'm there when I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and simply focus on that.
So let's start there.
Take a deep breath, a belly breath, and hold for 5 seconds, and then exhale.
Then, Name/Acknowledge each of these out loud:
5 Things You Can See
What delights you to look at? Is it a flower or a family photo? Maybe it's what you've intentionally set out in your home that delights the eye.
Maybe you have a lot of clutter around you. I know how stressful that can be! This may be your cue to clear an area completely and get really clear on what you want to bring back to that space. I love to pull everything from an area, and then "shop" with my things and look for a new place to feature the items I really care about. Creating some intentional spots that are pleasing to the eye in my home is really valuable.
I know, especially if I'm looking around at the house being a mess and I'm feeling overwhelmed, the best thing I can do is step away from the chaos and focus somewhere else. Getting out in nature is a great way to simply appreciate the tiny things of beauty without feeling the need to clean it all up.
And finally, maybe what you see isn't truly tangible at all. Maybe it's stopping to notice the love or happiness in another. Maybe you're watching the joy of your children laughing and playing together. Maybe you see contentment and a smile on their face, and that reminds you that all is going well in this world.
Pay attention to what your eyes are drawn to, and how many times that feeds your soul with joy and peace.
Go broad with your definition of “white space.” It doesn’t actually have to be white! Color can make your space come alive. Think about in nature – there can be an absolute chaos of color that’s beautiful. Think of a sunset, a field of wildflowers, or even the many shades of a single color, like green, in a forest.
On that note, add in nature. I absolutely love bringing some of the outdoors inside. I asked Nathan, instead of getting me typical roses on Valentine’s day, to get me flowers every month for the house. Plucked from our garden or wild on the side of the road are just as fabulous (if not even better) than getting them from the store! (side note, Trader Joe’s is the best for beautiful cheap bouquets!) I love plants and am also quite a pro at killing them, so I stick with some super hearty plants in the house to add the greenery. Real plants do more than just give you a little greenery in the house, they are literally a breath of fresh air as well.
And if you don’t have a green thumb? Buy the herb plants at the store to keep on your countertop – pluck from those for your food, and when they die, it’s okay. It’s the same price as the bags and boxes of the fresh cut herbs, and you get a plant for a short bit!
Think visual and really look around your home – what words come to mind by what you see? Rest? Peace? Homeyness?
4 Things You Can Feel
Oh, the things you literally feel can be the most soothing things ever...or the biggest distraction! I remember there being a time I would wear uncomfortable clothes. I'd muscle through wearing those heels that killed my feet, or wearing that sweater that looked great, yet was super itchy.
I remember a time in my life when I'd sacrifice comfort for fashion. I'd muscle my way through those super uncomfortable heels, and wear that sweater that looked cute, even if it was super itchy.
Now, as my own daughters are in their teens, I'm encouraging them to find their voice. That's hard enough work. To try to find their voice while they are literally uncomfortable in their skin is an added and unnecessary obstacle. I want them to be comfortable and confident enough in their clothes that they aren't thinking about how their clothing fits and instead are focused on their emotions, responses, and intentions - not thinking about how uncomfortable they are.
What things feel good to you? Is it a soothing and comfortable fabric? Is it having the windows open and feeling the breeze and the airflow through? Maybe what feels good is a warm bath, massaging your feet for a moment, or doing a stretch - that's a great reset!
3 Things You Can Hear
What are you tuning into? What is music to your ears? Maybe it's literally music. My mom was always playing classical music at our home...except for when we were cleaning. Clean house days we blasted Queen and sang at the top of our lungs and had a blast!
What music motivates and encourages you? Our family loves Michael Franti and we have a whole Pandora Station around positive and uplifting songs.
Maybe beyond music, there are other sounds to tune into. I love the sound of moving water - maybe it's ocean waves, a fountain trickling, or the dance of water through a creek. Do you have wind chimes around? We love Corinthian Bells and the rich sounds they make. On that note, a tongue drum makes a pretty awesome sound, even when your toddler is banging on it!
Beyond the sound, maybe it's the lack of it that is most needed. Yes, paying attention to the silence can be a beautiful thing. Sometimes we tune in to what we're hearing and realize what needs to be omitted, like when our house is a cacophony of noise and I realize the music playing in the background has now become a competition with all our conversation and it's too chaotic. Hearing it allows me to see what noise to eliminate so I can better focus.
Sometimes it's the silence that centers us the most, and when we tune in, we hear the whisper of our soul instead.
2 Things You Can Smell
What smells calm and soothe you? What smells invoke positive memories of your childhood, or take you back to a beautiful moment of peace?
We often sit in the smells from the kitchen as Nathan makes amazing meals for us. Although, his kimchi isn't quite the favorite smell of the house!
I'll put a little saucer of water and lemon or peppermint essential oil to have going on the stove to freshen things up.
The smell of greenery - plants in general - that rich smell of moss and life....I love the freshness and burst of oxygen from smelling true nature.
Think about how many things can engage multiple senses - through taste, smell and touch, like holding a cup of hot tea.
1 Thing You Can Taste
And finally, let's go to that tea. What can you taste? What delights your tastebuds and is a treat for your senses? There are times I crave a salad, and times I crave chocolate. I typically pay attention to my cravings, as I've cultivated enough healthy habits that my cravings typically give me a higher balance toward healthy than unhealthy.
What do you love that is a treat, and how often do you get it? Like I mentioned before about that cup of tea, it does more than just fulfill thirst. On the podcast I shared about how I dug into this idea with Elyssa Smith as we talked about getting out of survival mode.
When you are in survival mode, you're thinking one of two things - don't get killed, or don't be rejected from the herd (hence killed). So you're paying attention only to what supports your basic survival. That doesn't include relaxing with a cup of hot tea.
So when we DO add in a treat - something that is an indulgence or solid nourishment for our bodies, it often jars us out of survival mode as we realize we aren't dying, and we can slow down and taste what we're putting into our bodies. There is some amazing psychology that is impacted when we are intentional with what we taste.
What Is Sacred To You?
Have you allowed for any sacred spaces in your home? Places that feed all of these senses?
Beyond just basic clean up, where do you see things that delight you and bring your joy in your home?
What is your furniture like? Is it comfortable? Do you have things that are soft and inviting for you to snuggle up with?
What sounds do you hear regularly? I absolutely love the addition of a little pond in our house in Venice, where we can sit on the back porch and hear the trickle of the fountain and the fun sounds of all the birds that fly over.
What are you smelling and tasting in your home? Hopefully it's not just dirty diapers and frozen dinners. Where do you soak in the smells and tastes of healthy and delicious meals, and fill your home with smells that stimulate and/or soothe you?
This week, sit down with your family and ask each person to do this challenge.
Do it for yourself, and see what all comes to light you're grateful for.
Do it with your kids, and discover what they are truly paying attention to, and how it may shift when they notice more of what they appreciate.
And do it with your spouse- you may discover they find meaning/significance/peace in something you never knew about before.
This is a great exercise for you to recenter yourself and find gratitude in the present moment. It can be very eye-opening to see what your whole family pays attention to when they are being intentionally mindful and aware.
The more we can take those little moments to stop and address what is right in front of us, the more it can center our soul and give us the opportunity to celebrate how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us.