Mindfulness is a way to bring yourself into presence, ease and balance. Sandrine Harris, an executive assistant at Virgin Management and mindfulness meditation facilitator, explains how to master the art of being fully present…
We can think of mindfulness as a practice of awareness, when we pay attention to the present moment, breathe, and suspend judgment. This creates space for stress-relief, mental clarity, comfort in our bodies, and improved connection with other people. And it’s always there when you need it.
Here is a step-by-step breathing practice to introduce mindfulness into your work day. Simply, and mindfully.
1. Start by choosing a time during your work day, when you can dedicate five to 10 minutes to yourself. Take a brief walk, stretch your legs, raise your arms, and let your body move. Turn your phone on silent, have a sip of water, and choose a quiet spot in the office. Find a chair, and slide yourself forward on the seat, so that you are sitting tall, with a feeling of openness in your chest and belly. Invite your shoulders to drop down towards the floor as you place your feet shoulder-distance apart, with space between your knees. Rest your hands on your thighs and close your eyes.
2. Take a few moments to settle in, as you acknowledge this dedicated time for your practice. Then consider your breathing. Without changing how you breathe, simply notice your moments of inhaling and exhaling, and consciously follow your breath with your mind. Keeping your eyes gently closed, ‘invite’ your belly to expand as you inhale through your nose – at the same time, notice how your ribs and chest can expand during your inhalation too. As you exhale through your nose, allow your whole body to soften, bringing deeper relaxation as you do this.
3. When your mind starts to wander into your to-do list, a recent conversation, meeting prep or something else, acknowledge that your attention has shifted – this is a natural part of this practice because all of our minds jump from thing to thing. Sometimes, we hardly notice and being mindfully aware is the perfect way to bring yourself back to the here and now. Becoming more fully present is a radical act in acceptance: you’re refocusing your attention and creating space internally.
4. Now, place one hand on your lower belly and one on your chest. Find a comfortable position, with your shoulders down and your elbows dropped, so that you can remain here a little while. Sense the movement of your breath beneath your hands, as you continue to expand on the inhale and soften on the exhale. Each time you notice thoughts popping up, gently guide yourself back to the current moment of your breath cycle, releasing your thoughts, in favour of simply being in the N-O-W.
5. Return your hands to rest on your thighs, stay with your breathing for a few more cycles, and consider how you feel now compared to earlier. How does your body feel now? Enjoy this valuable way of paying attention to yourself, and guiding your mind into a present moment experience. Slowly open your eyes, keeping your focus on how you feel and your breathing, and visually take in your surroundings. Stay inside the stillness – this slowed-down, relaxed state – and remember that this practice is an important and rewarding part of your daily self-care.