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January 23, 2017

Informal mindfulness for people who hate to meditate

The first 10 times I tried mediation my thought process went more in the direction of “things I need at CVS” than being in the present moment and "zenning out."

Don’t worry if this is the case for you. In fact, for about the first year I was exposed to it, I was convinced meditation just wasn’t for me. I couldn’t get myself to the point where I could sit comfortably and focus on nothing but the present moment.

But, as with anything, it really does take practice. And more than that, it takes finding out what kind of practice you will have. Just as in yoga, there are many different variations of meditation and it is something that you need to make your own in order to successfully incorporate it into your everyday life.

One of my instructors would talk of the concept of formal and informal meditation. In essence, formal meditation is exactly what you picture it to be, sitting in a designated area, for a set period of time, in concentrated meditation. This type of meditation did not come naturally to me.

But when I learned about informal mindfulness, something just clicked. It can be practiced in many ways. You can apply the principles in almost any situation, and it is actually fun to try. I would say 9 times out of 10, this is the type of mindfulness I am practicing.

Grocery shopping becomes less of a chore and more of a luxury when you take the time to actually think about what you are doing.

Informal mindfulness can be practiced anywhere, anytime, and that is the most beautiful part about it. For instance, you can practice informal mindfulness when you are cooking, walking, biking, cleaning, playing golf, or any other sport for that matter.

As I’m explaining it to you, I’m picturing myself grocery shopping. I would enter the store and keep my phone in my bag. I know what I need and I am familiar with the store, so I can use these 20-30 minutes to relax a little bit.

I simply start by telling myself, “OK, as I do this task/action, I am going to do it more mindfully.” I take a deep breath to clear my lungs and my head and begin. I vow not to look at my phone for the duration or lose focus as a result of distractions around me. I am thinking mostly about shifting to a Beginner’s mind and being present.


The Beginner’s mind, as it’s called in mediation, is curious, compassionate and present. We are so programmed to digest a constant stream of information that it is helpful for me to think of switching my brain into this mode off and on throughout the day.

How does my body feel? What, if anything, is it saying it needs? Breathing deeply, putting myself in the present, noticing sounds, sights, smells.

Then I am coming from a place of curiosity. Where did this food come from? What foods are in season? Is this locally grown? Has it been genetically modified? What seasonal twist can I put on my favorite recipe to spice things up? Is there anything new I would like to try?

And finally, showing compassion. I am lucky to have access to such beautiful, nutrient rich foods. I am grateful to the farmers who raised and cared for the crops, for the employees in the store who worked hard on the perfect presentation. I am thankful that I have the means to purchase this food, and people I love to share it with.

In 20 minutes, I am out of the store and on my way home. I have not only accomplished the task of grocery shopping, but I’m feeling a bit more centered. It becomes less of a chore and more of a luxury when you take the time to actually think about what you are doing.

Someone once said to me, “Yes, you went through the motions but did you actually have the experience?” That is exactly what informal meditation is. Taking yourself off autopilot and pulling yourself into the present moment, no matter what you are doing, so you can enjoy your life as it is happening.

From here, you can hone your practice and take it wherever you want to go.

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I hope these tips help you as much as they have helped me. I will continue to keep you posted on my health journey. Follow me for updates @christiemandia.

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