By Corrinne Lennox
Wikipedia defines mindfulness as paying attention to the present in a purposeful, nonjudgmental way. Mindfulness has been around for thousands of years, but has caught our attention only recently.
Most people use their thought processes to worry or recapture past events and to anticipate the future. But few live in the present. Mindfulness is an awareness of what is. It may include present events, such as tasting the food that we eat and paying attention to it.
In her book, The Anxiety Toolkit, Alice Boyce, Ph.D. suggests we take “two mindful bites” of our meal to pay attention to our sensory experiences–the texture and taste of the food, the crunch when we take a bite.
In a recent Riderwood class, residents did just that with one grape. Many were surprised by the experience. “At dinner, I never taste what I eat,” one resident said. “I just chew and swallow and talk.” Focusing on the breath is also very important. That repetitive activity forces people to slow down.
“I need to relax more,” said another Riderwood resident, “and slowing down my breathing helps. I tend to misplace things, keys and such, and focusing on the present helps with that problem.”
Finally, a third resident spoke of the sounds of crickets she hears outside her bedroom window. “I never noticed them before,” she said. “Now, when I stop thinking so much, I can hear the outside noises and not just the ones inside my head. It’s quite a revelation.