When we struggle to stick to our regular routines, it's time to switch things up. So try something new this March — or, try many old things in a new fashion, and boost your meditation dedication.
Engage yourself in maintaining equilibrium throughout this month with 31 days of mindfulness. There are so many aspects of conscious living that we try to integrate into our lives all of the time. Now is a great time to refresh yourself and your mind. Try one of these contemplative focuses each day, listed in no particular order, and observe the plethora of paths to a more balanced self. Focus on the fun, and don’t get hung-up on the outcome.
1. Practice three-part breathing.
Use this exercise of harnessing the breath through a three-step process to empower your pranayama prowess.
Try bringing non-judging attention to each part of your body. Acknowledge how each feels, and eventually you'll increase awareness of the body-mind connection.
3. Eat with mindfulness.
Truly appreciate the act of nourishing your body to enrich your entire dining experience. In one full day you'll have many opportunities to try this practice.
4. Focus on your chores.
By turning your attention to seemingly mundane activities, you can use a daily chore as training in awareness — with or without music works just fine!
5. Try walking meditation.
Experience the awe of taking one step at a time, heel to toe and foot to grass, foot to sand, or foot to pavement. Instead of daydreaming the dawn, the dusk, or the day away, observe your physical body or your mental presence.
6. Breathe to a count.
Inhaling and exhaling on a count can enhance a here-and-now routine. You can count "one-two" as you inhale, and then "two-one" as you exhale; then "one-two-three" as you inhale, and "three-two-one" as you exhale. Take this strategy all the way up to 10, or try this exercise in which your exhale lasts twice as long as your inhale.
7. Commute mindfully.
Instead of indulging your wandering mind on the train or in the car, try being present. You may find you become a happier person at work!
8. Listen intentionally.
Often when we’re engaged in conversation, we're not actually listening. We're planning our next statement, or we're simply lost in our thoughts. Take a day to be an intentional listener.
9. Allow and accept.
Frequently we’re so busy rejecting a situation — tangled traffic, things unfolding the opposite of how we planned — that we get caught up in trying to change reality as opposed to simply allowing. Take one day to experience the mental and physical relief of letting go and accepting.
10. Practice gratitude.
Compile a list of opportunities you're grateful for at the beginning or end of the day — or better yet, throughout the day.
11. Use mantras.
Sometimes you don't need to meditate; you need a mantra. You just need to hand a challenge over to a greater force, and seek the strength, the compassion, or the removal of obstacles that only comes from trusting the universe.
12. Meditate while moving.
Mindfulness does not require you to sit still. Go for a long run, swim laps, or take to the yoga mat or tai chi studio to get your meditative groove one.
13. Practice non-judgment.
While it's true that we can't prevent our minds from judging, we can control whether we attach to the thought or let it go. On this day, release each judgment as quickly as it comes.
14. Meditate in the morning.
Arrange your day to include a morning altar session, ideally before the rest of the house or the world around you awakens.
15. Meditate in the evening.
Take time to sit at the end of the day, but be wary of waiting until too close to sleep or when you’re overtired.
16. Use alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhana).
Cultivate the power of the breath with this ancient channel-clearing practice.
17. Observe a tree of contemplation.
This graphic illustrates the many ways we manifest consciousness through the contemplative arts. Pick one that works for you.
Laughing yoga went viral a few years ago, and we know laughter alone is healthy. Create an opportunity to laugh your way through the day.
19. Practice lovingkindness or maitri (metta)
Be compassionate with yourself, unconditionally. Try a lovingkindness mantra: "May I be happy, may I find peace," or be gentle and forgiving with yourself for the day. Take it a step further, and focus maîtri on those around you as well.
20. Celebrate renewal.
Celebrate a fresh beginning: welcoming the first day of spring, refreshing your contemplative routine, reenergizing the feng shui in your home or office, or adapting a new outlook.
21. Be generous.
Practicing generosity with others cultivates more joy than doing things for ourselves. Give intentionally and purposefully with your energy, your time, or your funds.
22. Be fearless.
Fearlessness is not necessarily courage. When we move in fearlessness, we actually let go of the fear and release our attachment to the outcome.
23. Appreciate simplicity.
If you are not already seeking more simplicity by living with less, try it for one day. Go without excess and luxury and note the effects.
24. Try tonglen.
Surrender to darkness — pain, sadness, anger — by breathing it in, and share light — joy, gratitude, peace — by breathing it out.
If you're able, take one day to retreat from the world. No phone calls, no Internet, no television, and no people. Meditate, tune in to silence, chant, move, create or just be.
26. Meditate on nature.
Go outside. Be present in nature and all of its glory. Observe yourself and your environment.
27. Take a class or seek a teacher.
One day this month, take a class or work with a teacher to expand your horizons into new territory.
28. Practice ahimsa.
Ahimsa encourages us to avoid causing harm, and more importantly, not even let it cross our minds. Be aware of the weight of your thoughts and actions throughout at least one day in March.
Spend one day in which your central mindful goal is to observe yourself and your surroundings.
For one day, let go of your emotions, others’ reactions, or a harmful loop circulating your thoughts. If it’s time for you to release something or someone, conduct a sunset or transition ceremony.
31. Set goals mindfully.
Reflect on the effects of the awareness techniques you’ve implemented. Set intentions for your personal journey on the dharma path.
About the Author
Alexis L. Richardson is a freelance copy editor and writer based in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam. She has been practicing yoga and mindfulness for ten years. She taught high school English and journalism for ten years in the United States, the United Arab Emirates, and Viet Nam. Prior to teaching, Richardson was a photojournalist in North Carolina.