Mindfulness Basics, Part Three

Mindfulness of the senses

Here’s the third in our series of blog posts about key mindfulness practices, designed to help you get started with mindfulness or refresh your existing practice. In this post, you’ll find:

  • An introduction to using one of your senses—hearing—to help you stay in the present moment
  • A guided audio for you to follow
  • Hints and tips on how to get the best out of the exercise.

Enjoy your practice!

Using your senses to support your mindfulness practice

In the first two posts in this Mindfulness Basics series, we looked at two practices to help you step out of a busy mind:

Even with these techniques, though, most people’s minds will inevitably wander when they are practicing mindfulness! There are times when you need a little extra help—a mindfulness support—to bring you back to the present moment. Focusing on your senses is an excellent way to do this.

Why this practice?

People experience the world both through their minds and through their senses.

When you experience the world through your mind, you can easily get caught up in thoughts about the past and concerns about the future. When this happens, you switch off from the world around you—you’re not truly aware of where you are or what you’re doing.

Living in a busy head like this is a natural human tendency but, if you don’t want to be there all the time (think what you might be missing), then it’s good to have some techniques for bringing yourself back to the here and now and to the world around you. When you experience the world through your senses, you wake up to the present moment and find out what you were missing!

Why use sounds?

The guided audio in this post introduces you to the practice of using sound as an anchor to bring yourself back to the present moment when your mind wanders. You experience the sounds around you in the present—not in the past or the future. So, when you notice sounds, you are in the here and now!

Some people find it difficult to simply watch their breathing (another way of bringing yourself into the present moment) without over-controlling it. If that’s something you’ve experienced, then using sounds (something you can’t control) as your focus can bring a more open, spontaneous quality to your practice.

Before you practice

If this practice is new to you, here are some tips to help you get the most out of the guided audio:

  • Treat yourself to a quiet time and space in which to do this practice—as best you can, choose a time when you won’t be disturbed.
  • You can either lie down or sit in a chair for this exercise. Make sure you are comfortable and that you’ll be warm enough to be still for 20 minutes or so while you listen.
  • When your mind wanders, try to avoid getting frustrated with yourself. Remember that your wandering mind is a natural thing! Instead, gently and kindly bring your attention back to the sounds you hear around you. Bringing yourself back to the present moment like this again and again strengthens your mindfulness muscle!
  • Remind yourself there’s no such thing as a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ mindfulness practice. There is simply your experience, from one moment to the next. Be curious about what will happen and simply try the exercise.

Listen now

Gillian Duncan Mindfulness Teacher Edinburgh, Scotland

Top tips

  • Once you’re familiar with using sound to support your mindfulness practice, you’ll be able to practice anywhere—not just in quiet places!
  • Practise letting the sounds you hear come and go without judging them or being carried away by them. When you realise you can let sounds come and go in this way, you can begin to understand how you might also let the thoughts passing through your mind come and go without being carried away by them.

More Mindfulness Basics

Read Part One of Mindfulness Basics, Settling the mind.

Read Part Two of Mindfulness Basics, The body scan.

Read the mindfulness pebble reminder, Use your senses.

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