Everyone says to “live in the moment.” Words like “mindfulness” have become part of everyday vocabulary. Meditation centers are popping up across the country. It’s like we’re living inside of one big Pinterest board.
Is it all just words? Sure, it’s easy to talk about “being more present,” but what happens when you live in the real world? The one with 10-hour workdays. The one with endless housework. The one with two-hour commutes. How can you really be more mindful when your face is squished against someone else’s armpit on the T?
Enter Rebecca Pacheco: a yoga instructor and meditation expert who’s become one of Boston’s leading authorities on practicing what you preach—even when the Red Line is late, again. Pacheco’s laidback but straightforward approach to mindfulness is exactly the jump start you need to find your Zen this summer. Here, check out her five ways to be more mindful right now.
1. Know why you’re doing it
At its most basic, being “mindful” means performing small tasks with a greater focus in order to reduce stress, increase happiness, and be able to let go of what doesn’t matter, Pacheco said.
“Life is not something to check off a list, get through, or skip over,” she said. “Being mindful can help you feel more focused, less distracted, and happier throughout the day by using intention. We don’t meditate or practice mindfulness to get really good at sitting still with our eyes closed not talking to each other.”
2. Just breathe
Pacheco recommends using a technique called “equal breathing,” which, she said, is ideal for combating anxiety and feeling more grounded.
“The objective is to evenly match the length of your inhale to that of your exhale,” she said. “For beginners, a three or four count is a good place to start. From there, you can work towards a five or six, then a seven or eight.”
3. Do it wherever
The beauty of practicing mindfulness, Pacheco said, is that it doesn’t require any one time or location.
“You can do it anytime, anywhere,” she said. “Sitting in traffic, preparing for a job interview, first thing in the morning to focus for the day, or before bed to calm your mind so that you can sleep more soundly.”
4. Realize there’s no right or wrong way
“The most common misconception about meditation is that doing it ‘right’ requires you to stop your mind of all thought, and you’re doing it ‘wrong’ if the mind wanders,” Pacheco said. “This is inaccurate and unrealistic. Thinking is what the mind does.”
To make meditation work for you, she said, it’s more about anchoring an overactive mind. One of the easiest ways to do this is is by using a mantra. Pacheco’s favorites include: “I am”; “Just this”; and “Let go.” To begin, inhale and say the first word silently or out loud. Then, exhale and say the second.
Pacheco said that you don’t have to repeat the mantra over and over again like a robot.
“Use it as needed, and see how it feels,” she said. “I like to use the analogy of giving a puppy a chew toy to save your favorite shoes or furniture. By giving the mind a mantra, you harness its energy and give it something calming and productive to focus on.”
5. Rename it
If the word “meditation” is a bit too “New Age” for you, simply call it something else. Call it a break. A rest. A lucid nap. Whatever you choose, it’s still good for you.
“Meditation is one of the few things that costs nothing and can improve everything,” Pacheco said. “I can’t emphasize enough the positive influence meditation has had on my life and those of my students.”