Mindfulness: being aware of your connection to your body and mind in the present moment. This has been an immemorial practice in Eastern religions and cultures, while in the last decade Western cultures have slowly become more interested in the practice. Traditionally in the West, yoga had a more physical aspect, but in recent years that has slowly evolved. Mindfulness has become a large part of yoga in the Western world and the word meditation is now popular in the vernacular.
While the West uses mindfulness as a more secular practice compared to the East, the benefits our bodies receive are the same. So I thought to myself, how is mindfulness practiced across the world? And I found some interesting answers! Here are four examples of how humans connect to ourselves and the world around us:
In Japan, they began to practice Shinrin-Yoku around the 1980s. This translates to “forest bathing,” which means exactly how it sounds. You surround yourself in a forest, or nature, with a leisurely walk. It’s encouraged to leave your phone behind and allow yourself to wander and notice the senses around you. Feel the earth beneath your feet as you walk, look at the trees and leaves around you, hear the breeze between the branches or birds chirping, and maybe find a spot to sit down and acknowledge all the things around you.
In Central and South America, they have been practicing cacao ceremonies for hundreds of years. Cacao is the tree chocolate is made from. A cacao ceremony is a space that is created in which people are invited to drink cacao together and create a safe space for processing inner thoughts and feelings. Each ceremony is a little different, but most start with learning about the cacao they are drinking and how it was prepared. Then a facilitator will guide the group through various exercises and experiences such as guided meditation, dance and movement practices, and partner exercises. It often ends with a small discussion of what the group created (energetically and emotionally) during the ceremony.
In Turkey, people practice keyif (pronounced like “kay-eef”) and this can be done at any time of the day. It’s the act of bringing your awareness to whatever it is you are doing such as sitting on a bench and watching the people or birds around you, drinking wine and eating dinner with friends and family, watching seagulls flying with the wind, or stopping and watching a street performer. Allowing your full presence to be on whatever is in front of you. The goal is to quiet your thoughts and increase your mindfulness.
Originally stemming from a religious background, and still widely used as a spiritual practice, these cultures (and many more) have cultivated their own way of practicing mindfulness to improve body awareness, overall happiness, stress management, and focus. While we are staying home to protect ourselves and families and friends from COVID-19, maybe you can try to begin practicing mindfulness in your own way. If you do, let me know!