A Six-Step Mindfulness Practice You Can Do Anywhere


Mindfulness, a practice that dates back thousands of years, transcending cultures and religions, has become a trendy topic that’s making headlines of all kinds.

From meditation apps to yoga studios, scientific write-ups, and marketing campaigns, mindfulness is seemingly everywhere, and yet, ironically, nowhere at all. Because although commercialization is expanding its reach, if we look closer at what’s happening, we’re also reducing the scope of this practice by turning it into a commodity. 

The original intention of mindfulness was to use it to become fully aware of the present moment, the ephemeral and elusive “now,” not just the “now” that occurs on our meditation cushions or yoga mats. It’s a practice of nonjudgmental awareness and heightened attention that’s application is virtually limitless.

The original intention of mindfulness was to use it to become fully aware of the present moment, the ephemeral and elusive “now,” not just the “now” that occurs on our meditation cushions or yoga mats.

Attention might be the most precious commodity in our modern world. Given that we are constantly being distracted by a bombardment of pings and notifications, it's often rare for us to bring our intention and attention to any one thing. That’s also precisely why we need mindfulness, and why we may be gravitating toward it right now. With the celebration of multitasking and the glorification of “busy-ness,” as a society, we are becoming less and less “here.”

As busy people, naturally we often put a practice like mindfulness on our “to do” lists, where it just becomes one more meaningless item among seemingly endless activities and errands. But the problem is, mindfulness isn’t a task we can accomplish. It’s a way of being. And the benefits of mindfulness (from increased regional brain gray matter density, to its use as an effective therapy for post-traumatic-stress disorder and as a means for reducing stress, anxiety, and even depression, and more) are many.

Needless to say, it’s a powerful practice that is worth exploring as it was originally intended to be explored: from wherever you are, right now. 

So how do we practice mindfulness in the middle of everything—in the middle of being so busy? 

This basic six-step practice of finding presence can help you begin.

1. Drop Everything

If you want to become present, you have to commit to presence. So remove all of the distractions that you can, and commit to simply being with yourself for whatever period of time you’ve allotted. It doesn’t need to be hours—just a few moments or minutes can be extremely helpful.

Turn off your phone. Close your laptop. Perhaps put a “please do not disturb” sign on your door. And give yourself your undivided attention. 

2. Get Comfortable

From there, get comfortable. You can sit on a chair or a couch or the floor. You can also lie down. Or you may wish to stand. Find a position that feels good so you can settle into the moment with ease.

3. Become Aware

Now, wherever you are, look around. Observe your surroundings, truly seeing and taking in what’s around you. You might, for example, look for everything that is yellow. Then scan for everything that has a circular shape. 

Go slowly and systematically. It’s not a competition or a race, so take your time. Allow this simple observation to bring you into a more heightened state of awareness.

4. Draw Your Awareness Inside

Once you’ve finished scanning your surroundings, either close your eyes or soften your gaze. Experiment to find out which option you prefer. Maybe try both on different occasions to see how each affects your experience.

Then become aware of sensations in your body. Slowly scan from your feet all the way up to the crown of your head and take note of what you feel along the way. 

Take your time and experience everything. Where do you feel tension? Where do you feel freedom? Where do you feel neutral? Where do you feel tired, sore, open, relaxed, and so on?

Avoid assigning meaning to any sensations (e.g., “My back is sore because I worked out yesterday”). Instead, just become a neutral observer and simply notice, “There is soreness in my back.”

5. Retreat to Your Breath

After you’ve scanned your whole body, bring your awareness to your breath. Become very aware of its movements and how it flows through your body. Observe its pattern and rhythm. 

When does your chest rise? When does your chest fall? Does your belly move with your breath? Where does air enter your body? Where does it exit? What’s its temperature? How quickly does your breath move? What is its depth? Is it loud? Is it soft? Is it labored? Is it relaxed?

Become acutely aware of every aspect of its ebb and flow. Avoid trying to change its rhythm; simply observe its natural pace. And again, avoid trying to assign meaning to any observations that you may find. Simply observe without judgments or assumptions.

If at any point, your mind starts to wander to your to-do list or other unnecessary thoughts in this moment, simply tell your mind “not now” and bring your attention back to your breath. Come back to your observations. Don’t beat yourself up for straying thoughts; acknowledge that your thoughts changed focus and then bring your attention back to your focal point on your breath. Continue with this simple practice for as long as it serves you.

6. Slowly Resurface

Finally, when you’re ready to “continue with your day,” slowly and mindfully move your extremities to reawaken your physical body. Flutter open your eyes (if you closed them) and reestablish focus on the world around you. Take a moment to again become fully aware of your surroundings. 

From there, make a conscious decision to stay as present as possible throughout the rest of your day. And as your day unfolds, observe every moment with this new sense of enhanced cognizance and attention. 

When you brush your teeth, notice the smell of your toothpaste. Hear the sound of the brush rubbing against your teeth. Taste the mint flavor of your toothpaste. When you’re washing dishes, notice how the soap feels on your skin. Watch the bubbles grow and then burst. Feel the temperature of the water. When you’re eating, observe the muscular contractions in your jaw. Savor the flavors on your tastebuds. Absorb the presentation and the scents of the meal. 

As much as you can, remain fully present in each moment as it unfolds. 

We Need Mindfulness Now More Than Ever

In our go, go, go society, being still is an anomaly and being present is a dying art. But when we spend our entire lives rehashing the past or planning for the future, we may miss the entire experience of being alive, which unfolds only in the present moment. As John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." This, above all else perhaps, is why we need mindfulness.

About the Teacher

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Leah Sugerman
Leah Sugerman is a yoga teacher, writer, and passionate world traveler. An eternally grateful student,... Read more