What Is Mindfulness, Really? Practices for Daily Life

I recently said to a friend, as I watched him eat very quickly (as he always does), “You’re really not interested in mindful eating, are you?” He replied, “I don’t get mindful eating,”. “Respectfully,” I said, “if you don’t get mindful eating, I’m not sure you understand mindfulness at all.” “Maybe not,” he said.

Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Mindfulness is the energy that helps us to know what is going on in the present moment. I drink water and I know that I am drinking the water. Drinking the water is what is happening.”

How often in a day, do you know what is going on in the present moment? How often are you aware of the movement of your breath? The sensation in your spine? The distant sound of a bird or a car driving by? To be mindful is to be engaged in the practice of noticing what is happening right now.

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Waking Up: A Chance to Begin Anew

How do you feel when you’re first waking up? Are you excited for a new day? Do you feel like you’re starting anew? Or do you dread getting out of bed? Or maybe it depends which day of the week it is? Take a moment right now and close your eyes and think about the last time you felt excitement for life as you were waking up.

Waking up happens every morning. It’s a unique moment in our day, transitioning from sleep to waking life. In that moment we have a potent opportunity to shift our perspective and set the tone for our day.

My Ayurveda teacher, Dr. Vasant Lad, suggests that as we wake up we can rub our hands together to make them warm (if they’re not already) and then softly rub our face, neck and torso for a gently invigorating start to our day.

I met a man once, in India, who said that, every morning as he’s waking up, he looks at the palms of his hands and thanks God for another day.

As a yoga teacher, I use the idea of waking up to help my students access a “starting anew” feeling...

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Does the Early Bird Really Catch the Worm?

I’ve always been a morning person. I used to practically leap out of bed in the morning. I’d throw the covers off, swing my legs over the edge and hit the ground running.

Ayurveda suggests that, to optimize energy, waking just before sunrise is ideal for Pitta types; waking well before sunrise is best for Kapha but Vata can sleep later due to their hyper-mobile nature. They need more rest and stillness, since they are so mentally and physically active when awake.

I’m Pitta predominant and I’ve always enjoyed waking early after about 7 hours of sleep. This is exactly what Ayurveda suggests is a good amount of sleep for my type so, lucky me! I seem to be right on track.

Waking really early does have its cons, though. I’m often negotiating earlier dinner dates with friends so that I can be finished dinner by 7pm and home and in bed by 10:30pm. In the summer, when the days are longer, I sometimes wake as early as 4:30 or 5am and then find myself ready to be done the day by 5pm, when many friends are just getting off work and wanting to go out and do something active after sitting at a desk all day.

Since my early riser lifestyle occasionally puts me out of sync with others, I started to wonder if this schedule really does work best for me or if it’s just a habit I’ve gotten into. Would I actually function worse (or better) if I went to bed later and/or slept longer?

So, I did an experiment and started staying up later…

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