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Using Mindfulness to Survive the Late-Winter Blues

Wed, 19 Feb 2020

Spring is just around the corner, and some of us may be looking ahead to warmer times (spring trips, Memorial Day BBQs, graduations) instead of focusing on enjoying the present. There's no doubt that March is when our winter blues kick in, if they haven't already.

Sharon Salzberg's new edition of Real Happiness is the perfect tool for learning how to stay mindful and present instead of constantly looking ahead. We've adapted some of her methods here for staying grounded as the seasons change. Read on for two everyday meditation tips you can practice anywhere!

Drinking Tea Meditation

How many times a day do we perform an action without really being there? When we’re simultaneously reading the newspaper, checking our e-mail, having a conversation, listening to the radio, and drinking a cup of tea, where is the taste of that tea? In this exercise we try to be more fully present with every component of a single activity—drinking a cup of tea.

Put aside all distractions, and pour a cup of tea. Perhaps you’ll want to make brewing the tea a meditative ritual. Slowly fill the kettle, listening to the changing tone of the water as the level rises, the bubbling as it boils, the hissing of steam, and the whistle of the pot. Slowly measure loose tea into a strainer and place it in the pot, and inhale the fragrant vapor as it steeps. Feel the heft of the pot and the smooth receptivity of the cup.

Continue the meditation as you reach for the cup. Observe its color and shape, and the way its color changes the color of the tea within it. Put your hands around the cup and feel its warmth. As you lift it, feel the gentle exertion in your hand and forearm. Hear the tea faintly slosh as you lift the cup. Inhale the scented steam; experience the smoothness of the cup on your lip, the light mist on your face, the warmth or slight scald of the first sip on your lips and tongue. Taste the tea; what layers of flavor do you detect? Notice any leaf bits on your tongue, the sensation of swallowing, the warmth traveling the length of your throat. Feel your breath against the cup creating a tiny cloud of steam. Feel yourself put the cup down. Focus on each separate step in the drinking of tea.

You may notice that many judgments come to mind: I chose the wrong tea. I drink too much tea. I don’t give myself enough time to enjoy tea. I should be paying bills, not sniffing tea. Am I running out of tea? Note these thoughts, and let them go. Simply return to the direct experience unfolding in the moment. Just now; just drinking tea.

Do a Task in Slo-mo

Restore your attention, or bring it to a new level, by dramatically slowing down whatever you’re doing. If you’re eating lunch, feel the sensation of the food on your tongue or the pressure of your teeth as you chew, your holding of a fork or spoon, the movement of your arm as you bring the food to your mouth. These specific components of an action may be invisible as you speed through your day.

Try slowing down when you’re washing dishes, bringing your awareness to every part of the process—filling the sink with water, squirting in the detergent, scraping the dishes, immersing them, scrubbing, rinsing, drying. Don’t hurry through any of the steps; zero in on the sensory details. See if you can be in the present moment as you wash one item. Do you feel calm? Bored? Notice your emotions as they come and go—impatience, weariness, resentment, contentment. Whatever thoughts or feelings arise, try to meet them with the gentle acknowledgment, This is what’s happening right now, and it’s perfectly okay.

Liked these tips? Want more? This New York Times bestseller has been revised and updated with new exercises and guided meditations. Beginning with the simplest breathing and sitting techniques, and based on three key skills—concentration, mindfulness, and lovingkindness—it’s a practice anyone can do and that can transform our lives by bringing us greater resiliency, creativity, peace, clarity, and balance. Buy your copy here!

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