Originally posted on the Radical Wellness Blog:
The shower used to be the time I would run all the day’s activities through my head. It would be unconsciously stressful and chaotic and I’d often get out of the shower wondering, “Did I even wash my hair?” You know when you go on autopilot and don’t know how you ended up somewhere? Yeah, it was kind of like that.
Mindfulness is the opposite experience. Mindfulness is being present with what is happening as it is happening. After going to my first meditation retreat, I learned how to practice mindfulness by using a mantra to bring me back to the present when my mind moves away. A mantra is simply a phrase you repeat to yourself to bring you back into the moment. Another way to practice mindfulness is to use your five senses to experience the present moment.
Clear sensory experiences in which you utilize more than one of your senses at once can be an excellent time to practice mindfulness. Notice I called it a practice. A practice is something you do to become more skilled at an activity. When I began to practice mindfulness and meditation, it was hard. I went into it with great intentions but usually less than a minute in, I had already abandoned myself and the moment. At the beginning, it felt like ruthless choosing to keep coming back to the present. It felt a bit like a battle with my mind. I would become frustrated with myself and discouraged. Over time, I softened my grip and tried practicing without judgement of my experience, rather I watched the mind wander as if I was an outsider looking in.
When I started practicing mindfulness in the shower, I recognized what a complete sensory experience it was. I would watch the water fall out of the shower head like rain and feel the warmth drip over my head and off the tip of my nose. Already, these two sensory experiences brought me to the moment without much effort. Next I closed my eyes and listened to the sound of the water splash against my body and onto the shower floor. With my eyes closed, the scent of the lavender soap filled my nostrils as I washed my body, fully present and aware of what was happening in that moment. Once the soap was rinsed, I opened my mouth and tasted the water on my tongue- immediately grateful for clean water to wash myself with. This complete sensory experience in the present moment filled me with gratitude for the privilege of the opportunity to wash myself with clean, warm water anytime I want. What a gift. So now, I use each shower I take as an opportunity to practice presence because when I do, I become more skilled at it. This allows me to be more present with people in my daily life. It helps me see them as they are and notice when my stories of past or future pull me away from the gift of the moment.
With privilege, comes great responsibility- to myself and those I interact with. So, this privilege of a shower is something I use as an opportunity to be grateful and present. Try it. Not just once. Make it a practice, a habit that serves you and those you encounter throughout your day.