It has been a while since I’ve had time to sit down and write; there is always something going on. Seems that these days, time is a precious commodity for most of us. But between the ‘going on’ I try to have moments of presence through the simple practice of mindfulness which doesn’t really require anything but your awareness. Not even time. But, what is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a practice of presence, focus and awareness. Of being in the moment, able to observe the outer and inner world without forming opinions and thoughts about it. By simply noticing everything you can about the moment or an action and becoming aware of it, you train your mind in presence and focus. This way you are less on auto pilot and more involved in your life and every experience you are having. Furthermore, with this practice, we can train the mind to detach from daily events beyond our control and only observe without getting mentally involved.
The practice itself is a simple one; you don't need anything and it doesn't involve any special technique you must remember. However, implementation is often not as simple, and like everything, it takes will, time and practice.

Quieting the chatter

Mindfulness practice is a form of meditation, and the ultimate goal, like in other meditation practices, is quieting the chatter of our monkey mind. 
Imagine you are sitting in a big room full of people awaiting a workshop or a yoga class with your favorite yoga teacher. You are happy you came and are awaiting the start with anticipation, and would love to find a moment of quiet to ground, but there is so much going on around you; people are laughing, talking loudly, walking around to find their spot, maybe asking you to move a bit. So much noise and distraction and all you want is some quiet time before the workshop starts, but are unable to find it. 
All of the sudden, you hear an announcement on the PA system that the workshop is delayed by half hour or so and you notice people start to leave the room, one after another, followed by a group, and another group, until you are the only one left in a big, empty room. No more chatter.
You decide to stay. At first you look around and become aware of your surroundings; you notice the windows, the color of the walls, the ceiling, the sound of a ceiling fan, the smell of all the mats still in the room. You slowly start to bring the awareness to yourself and notice your body, your breath, your inner state and the thoughts which arise. But, you don’t go deep, you are still there, still noticing everything about your surroundings, and about your inner world. You are present, you are aware, you are here. You feel your body ready for the experience, you feel your breath relax, you notice the feeling of inner peace and even your mind gets more quiet.
After a while, you hear someone come back in the room, and you are aware of it but you don’t form any opinions or much thought about it. More people come in, the chatter is back, the movement is back. You are aware of everything that is going on around you, but you don’t attach to it. You are able to stay with whatever you choose to focus your awareness on. You find the quiet within and can sit there observing and enjoying happiness and anticipation you feel in the moment. 

This is practicing mindfulness. Not going off to another space and time, but being completely aware, more so than ever, without forming attachment to the experience itself but rather being an observer of your senses, emotions and thoughts. And it takes time and baby steps.
In the visualisation you are first left alone in the room because in order to train the mind, we need to start with easier tasks and less distractions. If you practice mindful walking (I’ll come back to that) you would start by walking in the woods or a park, not a busy, noisy street. If you want to practice mindful eating, home is a better place to start than a restaurant, and so on. 

The practice

You can practice mindfulness whenever and whatever you do, but it is best ti start simple. 
To practice mindful walking start somewhere more quiet where you won’t be distracted by traffic or other people passing by. Choose a walk in the woods or a park. Start by noticing your surroundings, the path you are walking on, the trees. Than bring the awareness to yourself and start noticing every single step, the sensation of your feet touching the Earth, your toes moving, the sound your foot makes, or as Thich Nhat Hanh beautifully said: ''Walk as though you are kissing the Earth with your feet''. If your mind starts to wonder you can choose another point of focus, like your arms moving as you walk, or your breath.
Next time you crave something sweet and you open your favorite vegan chocolate, that bag of dates, or you are having your lunch - you can practice mindful eating. Notice the shape, texture, smell of the food and how it feels on your lips or in your hand. Notice the first bite and how your body reacts, chew slowly, notice every taste; is it sweet, sour, salty? Notice the second bite. Has anything changed? Can you feel a different layer now, sense a different taste? 

You will notice your mind wondering off often when you first start, but the moments of awareness will become longer and longer the more you practice. After a while, this practice heightens your senses, awareness and experience of the moment, and whether you are eating, walking, taking a shower, practicing yoga, having a conversation or making love, you will enjoy the experience so much more because of a very simple reason – you are actually there to enjoy it. 

Practicing focus helps us in being present, being present raises our awareness, and this leads to a more conscious state of being. And by being a more conscious human being we are not only helping ourselves to live a more joyful life, we are raising the vibration of global consciousness to a higher level. So, it's an important work. And isn't it great that you can start right here and now? (maybe with that chocolate;)