With the New Year here, the determination of fresh starts, improved routines, and all-round well-being are energising the atmosphere – and it’s a great opportunity to look at what areas of our life could do with a bit of an overhaul.
For those of you who have signed up new gym memberships, I applaud you, but let’s not forget that our health and happiness isn’t just limited to our physical forms. The last couple of years have been trying for many of us, and sometimes taking a step back and taking a deep breath has been an invaluable tactic in coping with all of the unforeseen stress that has been coming our way.
Therefore, my own new year’s resolution is to be more mindful in my everyday life. For those of you who are unaware of the concept, this is the act of taking the time to be fully cognisant of your thoughts, body, and surroundings. The meditation equivalent of being in the moment; appreciating every facet that contributes to your current experience.
Yoga is a popular method of connecting your body and brain, allowing both to work together in harmony as you balance your mind and limbs in peaceful meditation. Without spoiling too much – our Irish at Heart subscribers will be benefitting from the practices of a yoga expert in the not-too-distant future, as part of our gorgeous Aisling offering.
Until then, here are a few ways to kick start your path into mindfulness – while remaining firmly Irish at Heart of course! Remember, mindfulness is a journey, not just a destination; so if you don’t get there on the first attempt, don’t give up straight away - just enjoy the adventure!
Bathe in your thoughts
I’m sure many of you are already aware of the calming powers of a nice hot bath – but maybe next time you sink into those fluffy bubbles, instead of letting your thoughts wander, use the tranquillity as an excuse to really focus upon them.
Part of mindfulness is appreciating every sensation and experience that presents itself to us within a given instance, and a warm bath is the perfect opportunity to pamper your senses! Of course, some of us just want to sink into the bubbles with a glass of wine and a good book, but if you want to immerse your mind as well as your body – then you can’t go wrong with a few luxuries to inspire a state of mindfulness…
This gorgeous little heart shaped bath bomb comes all the way from West Cork, with organic ingredients to nourish your body, and a delicious lavender scent to unwind your thoughts – the perfect prep for a session of mindfulness.
Reading – but not too much…
Sometimes we read to get lost amongst the pages, to transport our minds to worlds beyond our own – a pursuit that certainly has its merits. However, when we focus on mindfulness, the goal is to remain very much in the moment – to be aware of our surroundings and contemplate our reactions to them.
For this reason, that thrilling new detective novel that you’ve got your eyes on can perhaps wait for another time, while you seek out some literature of a more thoughtful nature. Perhaps a book of poetry could help you connect with your mind in a more conscious and meaningful way, or maybe even examining the lyrics to a song that you know well – but have never stopped to truly appreciate the meaning behind the words. The trick is to read something short enough that you don’t get lost in it, but deep enough that it can inspire your process of meditation.
‘By Time is Everything Revealed & Other Irish Proverbs for Mindful Living’ is a wonderful collection of Seanfhocail – sharing a thought from Ireland’s heritage every week, to guide you upon your journey of calm and conscious living.
Create a Corner of Mindfulness
Sometimes just setting out a physical place in our homes helps us to set boundaries for our thoughts - and upon entering this space we can fully commit ourselves to our pursuit of mindfulness, leaving all distractions of work, responsibilities and stress behind.
For some this might be a spare room which is filled with sunlight at just the right time of day, and for others it might simply be a window box with a favourite blanket draped over it. Last January to celebrate our Airmid theme we shared a blog on How to Invite Irish Healing into your Home which might just help you to create your own little spot of solitude.
Whatever kind of space you create for yourself, the important thing is to always be aware of its purpose when you walk into it – don’t use it for storing boxes or placing papers. If its purpose is clear, then so will be your route to mindfulness.
Mindful Melodies (with an Irish Twist)
Music can often be a helpful tool for meditation, but it’s important to be mindful in the actual selection of songs as well as the listening. For example, your favourite band – as much as you love them – might not be the best guide for clearing your mind to focus on the here and now. Music has powerful powers for recollection, and as enjoyable as those memories of an incredible gig, or a great party might be – they tend to encourage the mind to wander.
Picking music without lyrics is often a helpful approach to eliminate unnecessary distractions, but sometimes it’s the vocals that we find ourselves responding to – and some of us (not all) can find it difficult to relate to tracks without a voice in there somewhere.
My solution? Take a musical meditation that’s Irish at Heart! As long as you’re not tempted to translate as you listen, songs with Irish lyrics are the perfect balance; you won’t be distracted by the meanings within the words (unless you can understand them of course), and you can only appreciate the stunning vocal talents themselves, as they wash over your mind. If you’re looking for somewhere to start, Enya has plenty of recordings written in the Irish language, and I often imagine that she sings with the strongest part of her soul when her lyrics are in her mother tongue.
Get Out in Nature
Of course, practicing mindfulness is all about being aware of your surroundings, and where better to admire the wonders of being alive than in the great outdoors?
Take yourself on a walk – somewhere that the sounds, smells and sights are different from your everyday backgrounds, and take the time to appreciate them. Of course, when it comes to valuing the beauty of nature – Ireland is well positioned for inspiration. Whether it’s the salty wind that whips your hair and energises your soul as you stand atop the towering cliffs of Moher; or the fine grains of sand as they slip between your toes as you slip barefoot down the dunes of Dunfanaghy’s beaches. There’s always something to heighten your awareness of this beautiful world that we live in, and to appreciate the space that we occupy within it!
If you could pick one place in Ireland that you could practice mindfulness which would you choose and why? Let us know in the comments below!