Please enjoy this set of Seven Mindfulness Challenges.  These are simple yet very powerful brain exercises to teach you how to divert your attention away from everyday stress and bring it back to things that really matter to you, things that make you happy.

Mindfulness Challenge #1 – Writing Habits

For best results, please read and do one step at a time. DO NOT read the next step until you are done with the current step.

Step 1 Find a quiet space where you know you can be left alone and undisturbed for the next 5 minutes. Get a piece of paper and a pen. Sit down comfortably and get ready to write.

Step 2 Look at the paper, notice the colour, the shape, the size, the logos or writings already on it. Notice and focus on each and every detail.
Then look at the pen, its colour, shape, size, branding, notice any special features, unusual characteristics, concentrate and observe it all giving it your full attention.

Step 3 Look at your hands. First notice how your hand and fingers grasps the pen. Which fingers are you using to hold the pen? Is the pen straight or angled? Notice how your wrist is positioned. Then notice the position of your other hand. Is it resting on the table/paper you are about to write on? Is it holding the paper? Remember to observe without judgment, with full concentration and detachment.

Step 4 Now notice how the rest of your body is positioned. Are you sitting on the chair? Resting comfortably on the sofa? Notice if your spine is straight or arching. What about your legs? Are they stretched in front of you? Do you have your feet on the floor? Are your muscles tense or relaxed?

Step 5 Write down your first name. Pay close attention to how the pen is moving along the paper as you write. Are you tilting your head as you write? Can you observe any other body language such as bending your head closer toward the paper or squinting your eyes as you write?

Step 6 Sit back and relax. Now, observe each and every letter you wrote. Observe, without judgement, the way letters look. Are they straight, tilting to the left, right? How legible is your handwriting? Are the letters capitalised? If there are two same letters in the name, did you write them down exactly the same way? What colour is the ink you wrote your name with. Is the ink smudging on the paper? Can you smell the ink?

Step 7 Congratulations. You just completed a mindfulness exercise.

© 2017 by Hwy2Ananda; All Rights Reserved

Mindfulness Challenge #2 – Watch it Grow

Mindfulness is a brain exercise that teaches you how to divert your attention away from everyday stress and bring it back to things that matter to you, things that make you happy.

Start by carefully choosing a plant for this exercise. You are encouraged to be creative when selecting it. The more unusual the plant, the more fun will be to watch it grow!

It can be a tree, a bush or a small perennial. Preferably, it should be a plant that blooms, changes with seasons and will be around for at least a few years. It should grow some place you can visit often, such as your backyard, a garden or a park. It also needs to be accessible for your 5-minute observations. You can choose an indoor or outdoor plant but make sure you can actually stop by and touch it once in a while.

After you find your ideal plant, position yourself comfortably in a full view of the plant. Observe it carefully for about 5 minutes giving it your full undivided attention and make mental notes of the following:

The plant itself: the shape, the size, number of branches, is it young/old, any unusual features such as bird nests, moss or a vine growing on it, insects or birds around it?
The leaves: shape, colour, size, position on a plant, the way it grows, how many of them, do they grow in clusters, any signs of damage done by insects?
The blooms, if any: shape, colour, size, position, how many, do they grow in clusters, blooming stage
The fruit, if any: shape, colour, size, position, how many, do they grow in clusters, ripeness etc.

If possible, touch and smell the plant, its leaves, flowers, fruits.

Visit the plant as often as you wish but at least twice a week. Each time observe it for about 5 minutes giving it your full undivided attention and note any changes from your last visit. If possible, vary the times of the day you visit the plant: the morning, mid-day and the evening. Note the difference in the way your plant looks like when it rains or snows, in full sunshine and with a cloudy sky. Enjoy and appreciate its beauty without judgment or emotions. Be a meticulous observer. If you wish, keep a diary of your observations.

Please share your experiences with us on Facebook. Your feedback might help others learn how to use this mindfulness exercise to destress and let go, 5 minute at a time!

© 2017 by Hwy2Ananda; All Rights Reserved

Mindfulness Challenge #3 – Bean…or Not!

This challenge is fairly simple:

Find a bag of dry beans in your pantry. Any bean would do. If you can’t find any, see if you have large grains such as barley. You can also use cereal such as Cheerios. 

Find yourself a quiet corner with a table. Let everyone around you know to leave you alone for 5 minutes.

Now, place the items you found on the table and form numbers from 0 to 9 out of them. Concentrate on the task alone. Let it be the front and center of your effort. Notice the shape, the size, the smell, the color and the feel of the material you are using.

DO NOT READ FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS UNTIL YOU ARE DONE WITH FORMING THE NUMBERS

Done? Great! Now look at your numbers. Notice the following:

Size: really big or small? – try to come up with the answer why you think you chose this and not a larger/smaller size

Position: how are the numbers arranged on the table? In rows (how many)? Maybe in a circle or a wave? Were you consciously arranging the numbers this way or was it subconscious/logical/coincidental?

Perfection: how perfect are your numbers? Are they matching in style? Perfectly straight and aligned?

Take note of everything you assessed as “done subconsciously”. Your ultimate goal is to do everyday tasks with full awareness. Remember, practice makes perfect. The more you practice, the easier it will become for you to stay focused on the task of your choice.

© 2017 by Hwy2Ananda; All Rights Reserved

 

Mindfulness Challenge #4 – Glimpse at a Corner of the World

This challenge requires a bit of planning on your part.

Go outdoors, preferably in the early hours of the morning or in the late afternoon. Find a spot outdoors with variety of vegetations. Be it some herb patch in your garden, a flower bed in the park, or simply a green patch of grass with some trees.

Get ready for a 5-minute observation session. Find a secluded spot so you can sit still and observe with as little movement as possible on your part. Your goal is not to scare away any creatures that might come your way. Make sure to wear appropriate clothing so you are not too hot or too cold and wear sunscreen or a hat if needed. Don’t forget to mute your cellphone.

Now, sit still, concentrate on the task, observe, and enjoy. At first you might not spot anything so please be patient. Look closely around you. Any insects flying by or hopping in the grass? Any birds singing? Close your eyes for a moment and listen. Try to distinguish between different bird calls. Can you hear anything else beside birds, a cricket for example? Any ants going around you trying to carry on with their busy life? If you are lucky, maybe you can spot a butterfly or a lizard. The closer you look the more creatures you are going to find. Note anything and everything about them: the size, the shape, the color, any noises they are making, things they carry. What they are up to? Are they simply sunning? Maybe they are looking for food or trying to find some building material for their nest?

Amazed just how many creatures you found? My bet is you spent more than just 5 minutes at the task simply because you found it so fascinating. Yes, it is easy to get pulled away from your own world when you realize just how vast and complicated the world of creatures around you is.

Come back as often as you’d like and enjoy the mindful solitude in a crowded world of living creatures.

© 2017 by Hwy2Ananda; All Rights Reserved

 

Mindfulness Challenge #5 – Alone in a Crowd

This exercise might seem a bit counterintuitive but think about it this way. You need to be able to concentrate and control your emotions in real life. This includes very busy and noisy places.

Choose such a very busy and noisy place. It can be a restaurant during peak hours, a busy marketplace, a club, a train station or even an airport if you are traveling. Go there when you think it will be the busiest and find a spot where you can safely sit and observe. Your goal is to be alone in a crowd. Bring a friend along if you don’t feel secure in the place you chose because you will need to close your eyes for a minute or so during this exercise.

Now, get yourself comfortable and concentrate all your senses on what is happening around you. What can you see, hear, feel, smell? Observe, don’t judge or try to figure out why something is happening.

See the crowd? Notice the people. Your observation should be something like this: Mostly middle-aged people. Good mix of male and female. A few children. They are dressed casually, clothes suitable for warm weather. Two people wearing heavy coats. A man is taking a picture. A women on the right is laughing unnaturally. A small white dog on a leash is sitting by a bench. I see cars passing by and trees moving in the wind.

What do you hear? Someone is singing? Good. Acknowledge it. Don’t dwell on the quality of the voice. Your observation should be something like this: someone is singing, I don’t see the person singing, it’s a female voice, the song is about friendship. Done. Move to the next observation. Hear an announcement over the intercom? Your observation should be something like this: clear male voice, very loud and urgent.

What do you fell? Is it hot, cold, windy? Are you calm or perhaps irritated. Note what you feel and how you feel without judging: it’s warm but very windy, I feel calm but a bit annoyed by the singing. Acknowledge your feelings but don’t dwell on them. Note but move on.

What do you smell? Coffee? Is it latte, espresso or something else? Pleasant? Does it smell sweet or sour like a burned coffee would. Duly note it. Move on to the next experience. Smell perfume? Observe: rich complex fragrance, a bit overpowering.

Close your eyes for a minute and note if there is anything new or different you can hear or smell now. Didn’t notice that persistent clicking noice a fan would make or a humming noice of air conditioner before? Don’t be surprised. Without a visual input, your senses are allowed to truly explore the environment around you.

From now on, every time you find yourself in a busy corner of the world, try to repeat this exercise. With time your senses will become more aware of your environment allowing you to calmly judge and react to events rather than to your emotions at a time.

© 2017 by Hwy2Ananda; All Rights Reserved

 

Mindfulness Challenge #6 – A Scrumptious Meal

With this exercise, I’m challenging you to truly enjoy a meal.

First, choose a healthy meal. A salad with variety of vegetables and/or fruits would be ideal. If you absolutely hate salads, a fully loaded hamburger would work as well.

If you tend to be self-conscious, try this exercise while eating alone. Otherwise, it might be a lot of fun to try it together with your family or friends. You can share your observations aloud if you wish.

Sit comfortably by the table with your meal in front if you. Your job is to pick one small bite at the time. First, assess the visual appearance of that bite of food. Your observation should be something like this; thin slice of cucumber, dark green on the outside lighter green inside; not peeled; visible seed nests in the center of the slice, firm.

Close your eyes and place the item in your mouth. Do not chew at first. Start from assessing sensations in your mouth while the piece you just picked up is still intact: cold, smooth, slightly sweet. Now its time for you to start chewing slowly and deliberately. Your observation should be something like this ; crispy, rough when broken to pieces, watery, I can now taste the salt and oregano my salad was seasoned with.

Pick bites of different food item on your plate and repeat the exercise. When you are done with each individual component of your meal, simply relax and enjoy the rest of it!

Try this tasty greek salad recipe:

10 cherry tomatoes (whole or halved)
1 shallot, tinily sliced
1 green pepper sliced in thin ribbons
4 small gourmet baby cucumbers, sliced
Handful of medium black olives (pitted, canned), halved
Feta cheese crumbs , 4 ounce or as much as you like
Pinch of dried oregano
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the veggies, add feta cheese and olive oil. Season with oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Mix gently. Enjoy with a slice of freshly backed crispy bread!

© 2017 by Hwy2Ananda; All Rights Reserved

 

Mindfulness Challenge #7 – The Sound of Rain

Believe it or not, the Fall season is creeping upon us yet again. With it come long, gloomy, rainy days. And so here is the challenge for you. Instead of thinking of these days as boring and wish-there-was-sunshine-instead days, let’s make them fun and perhaps even mysterious!

Let’s start from choosing a spot outside where we can sit comfortably listening to the rain without getting wet ourselves. It can be a covered bus or train stop while you are waiting for the bus or train to show up. It can be a cafe or restaurant with a covered outside area. It can even be your covered back porch if you happen to have one. If you don’t feel like going anywhere, no problem. Simply sit by the window and open it just enough to hear the rain.

Make sure to dress appropriately for the occasion. We don’t want you to catch a cold!

Once you position yourself comfortably, start from carefully observing the rain droplets. Look at the sky. Notice the clouds. Notice the size of droplets and the way they are falling from the skies. Is the rain heavy or merely a drizzle? Heavy rain is probably more fun to observe but a drizzle has its own charms as well. Does the wind carry the rain with it? Can you hear the waves of rain coming?

See how the rain droplets fall and splash on the objects around you: the trees, the grass, the rocks, the pavement, the passing people and their umbrellas, the cars, the birds. Each time you switch to a different object, close your eyes and try to hear the sound the rain droplets make while falling on that object.

Observe how living things deal with the rain. The flowers close. The birds shake their feathers and look for a sanctuary somewhere nearby. Notice how the water parts under people’s footsteps. Notice how the water dances under the wheels of the passing cars.

There is so much beauty and finesse in the rain! You only need to stop, take time to notice and simply enjoy it!

© 2017 by Hwy2Ananda; All Rights Reserved