I’ve been practicing for a few years now. What do I mean by practice? Activities that help me feel grounded, calm and centered, like meditation, yoga, journaling and reading. For you, it may be running, swimming, cooking, cleaning or something else. The specific activity you practice matters less, it’s more about the state of mind you find yourself in while practicing.
My experience with practice is that it is generally scheduled, planned or on my mental to-do list. And while I’m consistent with practice, I have felt a stark difference in my state of mind while I’m practicing and while I’m not. This observation sparked me thinking about what a more integrated practice could look like, to realize the benefits of feeling calm and focused throughout the day, not only when I scheduled it.
Enter awareness anchors
The solution I came up with is something I’m calling an awareness anchor. It is identifying something that I encounter in my daily lifestyle that I can use as a signal and reminder to check in with myself. It serves as an anchor to direct my awareness in the present moment.
Elevators are what I started with. This means that whenever I find myself waiting for an elevator, riding an elevator or leaving an elevator, I’m using these moments to check in with myself. Checking in could mean paying attention to the sensation of breathing, a light body scan or asking myself how am I feeling right now.
My natural behaviour while waiting, riding and leaving an elevator has changed thanks to this practice. I am not on my phone getting distracted anymore. I am not thinking about the last meeting or conversation I had. I am not anticipating the next conversation I will have or planning the many things I have to do. I am trying to just be present, with myself in these brief moments.
Using an awareness anchor several times throughout my day has become like a fuel stop along the journey. Rather than feeling rushed mentally all the time and waiting until the end of the day to refuel, this has become a more sustainable way to integrate a mindful practice throughout the day. And taking just a few moments to check in with myself while transitioning from one activity to the next, I find myself able to focus and concentrate better, and at times gain new insights I may otherwise have not have had.
If this practice sounds at all interesting to you, give it a try! And notice what changes. To inspire you to identify your own awareness anchor, here are some additional examples that people on my team, family and friends who have adopted this practice have shared with me:
- Water: pouring or drinking.
- Birds: sight, sound and images
- Coffee: every sip or the act of preparing it
- Space: the transition from an indoors to outdoors and vice-versa
- Doors: the act of opening and closing a door
- Transit: riding the subway, taking a taxi or entering/leaving a train
The practice of checking in with yourself throughout the day is simple, practical and can be helpful. If you find it valuable after giving it a try, share with me what your awareness anchor is!