Mindfulness is a state of heightened awareness of our moment-to-moment thoughts, emotions, and experiences. To be mindful is to be fully present in the moment and embody equanimity towards what is unfolding, both inside ourselves and in our external reality. Practicing mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress, increase concentration, enhance coping capacity, improve life satisfaction and boost happiness.
This 30-day challenge promotes the practice of mindfulness by offering daily activities to help you reconnect with your inner self, ground your awareness in the present moment and cultivate the habit of living mindfully. This challenge can help beginners jump start their mindfulness practice and those experienced in meditation and mindfulness, to take their practices deeper.
The challenge begins by offering practices to enhance connection with our senses, then progress towards developing greater awareness of our minds and, lastly, expand into practices to help us develop deeper connections with others and to experience the world around us more fully.
How to complete this challenge
This blog provides 30 daily practices consisting of short morning meditations followed by mindfulness exercises to come back to throughout the day. Beginners can start with as little as 5 minutes of meditation practice and extend the time as desired. Mindfulness exercises can be incorporated into your normal daily activities and will require minimal to no additional time commitment. Participation is completely free and does not require any props or materials!
Tips for success
♡ Make your commitment to the challenge public by sharing this blog with your friends and letting them know you have taken on the challenge. Research shows that committing to a goal publicly increases the chances of successful completion.
♡ Begin on the 1st of the month so it’s easier for you to remember which day of the challenge you’re on.
♡ Let your household members know you have committed to the challenge and will require a few quiet minutes every day to practice. Encourage them to join in too!
♡ It is recommended that meditation be practiced first thing in the morning so you have the rest of the day to follow it up with mindfulness exercises designed to expand deepened awareness created in meditation to your daily routines and activities.
♡ If you have limited time for meditation, set a timer with a signal to alert you when the amount of time you wish to practice has passed. Again, you can start with as little as 5 minutes and extend the duration as desired.
♡ Place small cues throughout your living space to remind you of your mindfulness commitment throughout the day. For example, place small stickers on your bathroom mirror, refrigerator door, car window and computer monitor.
♡ Drop any expectations and be patient with yourself. There is no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness. You cannot fail. Practicing mindfulness is simply practicing being fully present with whatever is arising in the moment without any striving or judgement. It is normal when you start meditating and practicing mindfulness that your mind will wander and various thoughts and emotions will arise and distract you. When that happens, don’t get discouraged, simply notice the thoughts and gently bring your focus back to the present moment.
To learn more about mindfulness and tips for practicing, check out our article “What is Mindfulness & How to Practice it?”
Day 1: Breath Awareness
We begin our challenge with the most basic and fundamental mindfulness practice of breath awareness. Our breath is something that is with us from the moment we are born to the moment we die. We breathe about 960 breaths an hour and 23,000 breaths a day but most of the time we are not conscious of our breath at all. Bringing attention to and observing your breath is, in itself, a powerful practice with immediate calming and centering results. It is also used as a fundamental component in multiple other mindfulness practices. We’ll be coming back to mindful breathing many times during this challenge.
Meditation (practice with eyes closed while lying in bed or sitting upright): bring your attention to the sensations of the breath moving in your body. Do not change or control the breath in any way. Simply notice the sensations as they constantly change and move. Notice the coolness of the air as it enters your nostrils, how the air feels entering your lungs, how your rib cage and belly rise and fall with the breaths, the warmth of exhaled air in your nostrils. If your mind wanders off and begins thinking about various concerns, worries, anticipation and random thoughts, simply bring your attention back to feeling your breath. Don’t judge yourself if you find that you forget about your breathing. This is natural. Return your awareness to the breath, as many times as you have to.
Day’s Practice: As you go about your day, take mindful pauses to observe your breath. As you stop on a traffic light or wait in line, focus on your breath. Is it fast or slow? Deep or shallow? Regular or irregular? Are there pauses between breaths? Are you sometimes gasping for air? Do not try to alter the breath in any way, simply observe it as a silent witness.
Day 2: Body Scan
Body scan practice is designed to help you develop a mindful awareness of your bodily sensations. Research shows that it can help reduce stress, improve well-being, and decrease aches and pains.
Meditation (practice while lying down with your eyes gently closed):
Take a few deep breaths and bring your awareness to what your body is feeling. When you’re ready, start moving your attention progressively up your body noticing any sensations in each area. Start with your feet and move on to your calves, knees, thighs, hips, pelvis, abdomen and lower back, chest and upper back, hands, lower arms, elbows, upper arms, shoulders, neck, face and head. Take note of any buzzing, tingling, pressure, tightness, temperature, or anything else you feel. If time is limited, you may set a pace by taking one or two full breaths for each body area. Be curious and open to what you notice. Each time your attention wanders, simply notice that this is happening, then direct your attention back to your body’s sensations. At the end of this exploration, spend a few moments to expand your attention to feeling your entire body. Then open your eyes and move mindfully into your day.
Day’s Practice: Throughout the day, take pauses to notice and feel the sensations of your body at the moment. Can you feel your heartbeat? Can you feel the warmth inside your belly? Can you feel your muscles tensing and releasing? Do not judge anything you feel, simply observe.
Day 3: Exploring Touch
Today we dive further into developing sensual awareness and disciplining mind to maintain its focus through the practice of mindful touch.
Meditation (practice while lying down or sitting comfortably with your eyes gently closed):
Begin with mindful breathing and, when you’re ready, bring attention to the surface of your skin. Notice any sensations arising from your skin’s contact with the environment. Feel your clothing touching your skin, notice how air feels on your body, feel your hair touching your face. After the initial scan, bring your attention to one sensation at a time and explore it for a few breaths. Resist the urge of judging the sensations as pleasant or unpleasant, simply observe and delight in the ability to feel. If your mind wanders, simply notice the though that arose and bring your attention back to your skin. When you are finished exploring, take a deep breath and bring your hands to the sides of your face. Feel your face in your hands and feel your hands on your face. Invite the feeling of gratitude for the miracle of sensation and as you exit the meditation, take that feeling with you into the day.
Day’s Practice: Throughout the day direct your attention to the feeling of touch. As you pick up different things throughout your day, pause and notice what it feels like to touch them. Are they smooth or rough, soft or hard, warm or cold? Notice how your own touch feels on your skin as you wash your hands or run your fingers through your hair. If you come in contact with others, notice the sensations on your skin as you greet them with a hug or handshake.
Day 4: Mindful Seeing
This practice is simple but incredibly powerful. It helps us notice and appreciate seemingly simple elements of our environment in a more profound way.
Meditation (practice with eyes open while sitting or standing):
Pick an object such as a flower or a leaf or any mundane item such as a mug or a dish and place it in front of you. Contemplate that object with your eyes noticing each and every detail: size, shape, color(s), texture of the surface, opacity, reflections. If your mind wanders, just notice where it went and gently bring it back to the sight in front of you. When you’re ready to end the contemplation, extend your attention to the wider space around you, notice different objects within that space, direction and intensity of light, colors and distances. Invite the feeling of wonder at the richness of the experience of seeing.
Day’s Practice: During your day, take moments to mindfully look at objects that surround you noticing as many details as you can. If you have paintings or photographs displayed in your home or office, stop and take a look at a few of them with your full attention and curiosity as if you were seeing them for the first time. Notice what you discover.
Day 5: Mindful Hearing
The practice of mindful hearing, or intentionally paying attention to the sounds filling our ears, can not only help us to come back to the present but can also stabilize the mind and further refine our sense of hearing and ability to deeply listen.
Meditation (practice while lying down or sitting comfortably with your eyes gently closed):
Settle into a comfortable position and become aware of your breath flowing in and out. When you are ready, shift your awareness to the sounds that are present in the moment. Without searching for sounds, let them come to you and fill your ears while simply hearing sounds near and far away. If you notice any judgments or thoughts about the sounds, let them pass away. Do not try to identify or label the sounds, just focus on hearing the bare sounds themselves. When your mind wanders or fixates on a particular sound, gently return your attention to the flow of sounds occurring in the present moment. When you are finished, shift your attention back to your breathing and gradually open your eyes.
Day’s Practice: Listen to a few favorite songs or pieces of music without doing anything else and without singing along. Imagine you’re hearing them for the first time. As you listen, try to follow every sound of the melody. If your mind wanders down the memory lane, gently bring it back to the song playing here and now.
Day 6: Rediscovering Smell
Mindful smelling involves noticing when your sense of smell is being activated and understanding its impacts on you. Our sense of smell is our most powerful sense that can trigger many automatic responses. Becoming accustomed to noticing what you can smell at any given moment and being aware of how it can control our mind and body can help us become more deliberate in how we respond. For example, practicing mindful smelling can be used as a technique for overcoming compulsive eating habits.
Meditation: Go into the kitchen and select a few items that have distinct smells, like an orange, peanut butter, coffee or cinnamon sticks. Sit comfortably, take a few mindful breaths. When ready, one at a time, bring the items under your nose, gently close your eyes, and take a deep inhale. Bring your awareness to the smell and stay with the sensations for a few moments. Briefly notice any physical responses in your body and any thoughts and memories that arise then bring your attention back to the sensations of smell. Repeat as many times as desired with each item you picked.
Day’s Practice: Every time you enter a different space, like another room of the house, or step outside, take a deep breath and notice what you smell. Observe any thoughts and reactions you experience. Before you take the first bite of every meal or snack, take a moment to smell the food. Observe how your body responds. Does your mouth get more watery? Does your stomach grumble? Do you start feeling sensations of taste in your mouth before even taking a bite?
Day 7: Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is a great practice for anyone looking to adopt healthier eating habits. It has been shown to cause weight loss, reduce binge eating, help you feel better and enjoy your food more.
Meditation: Take a raisin, a piece of dried fruit, peanut, or a berry. Hold it in the palm of your hand. Take time to gaze at it with care and full attention imagining that you’ve just dropped in from Mars and have never seen an object like this before. Let your eyes explore every part of it. Then take it between your fingers and explore its texture. Take it under your nose and with each inhalation, take in any aroma that may arise. Now slowly bring it up to your lips and gently place it in your mouth; without chewing, spend a few moments exploring it with your tongue focusing on the sensations of having it in your mouth. When you are ready, very consciously, take one or two bites into it and notice what happens in the aftermath, experiencing any waves of taste that emanate from it as you continue chewing. Without swallowing yet, notice the bare sensations of taste and texture and how these may change over time, moment by moment. Finally, when you feel ready to swallow it, see if you can feel what is left of the raisin as it moves down your throat and into your stomach and sense how your body as a whole is feeling after you have completed this exercise.
Day’s Practice: Eat one meal alone today with no distractions at all. Before you take the first bite, take a few moments to notice the colors and the texture of the food, notice it’s smell. Eat slowly and pay attention to taste and sensation in your mouth.
Day 8: Five Senses
We have spent the last few days tuning into our senses one by one. Today’s challenge is to expand our awareness to taking in all our senses together.
Meditation (practice while standing outdoors or in front of an open window):
Begin with your eyes gently closed and take a few breaths. When ready, open your eyes. Notice five things that you can see, one at a time, taking a few moments to see the shape, color, size and any other details. Once you have moved your attention through each of the objects, let go of the experience and shift your focus back to your breath. Notice four sensations you can feel. Sensations inside your body or on the surface of your skin. Move though them one at a time without labeling or judging them. When you have felt each one of them, let go and refocus on your breath. Notice three sounds you can hear. Then and let go and return to your breath. Notice two scents you can smell. Let go and return to your breath. Notice a taste. Return to your breath. Now, take a deep inhale and allow all your senses to flood your awareness at once without trying to enumerate or differentiate anything you perceive. Delight in the richness of the present moment and carry that feeling with you into your day.
Day’s Practice: Take mindful pauses to direct your attention to the environment around you and take it in with all your senses. Spend some time outdoors, if you can.
Day 9: Awareness of Gravity and Balance
So far, we have focused on rediscovering our internal world of sensations. For the next two days, we shift our focus to developing awareness of the natural forces and noticing how they shape our environment and our bodies’ inner workings.
Meditation (practice while standing with your eyes open):
Take a few mindful breaths to get settled. When you’re ready shifty your weight to your right foot and lift your left foot a few inches off the ground. Take 4 slow deep breath as you balance on your right foot. Observe the sensations in your body, feel the weight in your stating foot, feel your muscles working and quivering. Become aware of the pull of gravity and the invisible dance your body is performing to keep its balance within it. Without engaging in them, notice any thoughts and emotions that may arise. On your 4th exhale, bring your foot down. Take two deep breaths standing equally on both feet noticing any sensations. When you’re ready, shift weight to the left foot and lift your right foot. Take 4 breath in mindful observation. Gently close your eyes and notice how that changes your sense of balance. Lower your foot down and take a few breaths in an equal standing posture before you complete the exercise.
Day’s Practice: Any time you change your body’s position from sitting to standing or vice versa, do so mindfully, observing how your weight shifts and noticing all the subtle actions your body performs to find balance within the gravitational field. Allow yourself to marvel at the miracle of gravity and how your body has evolved and adopted to it.
Day 10: Awareness of Vital Energy
Vital energy is known by many names: life force, chi and prana, to name a few. It is the fundamental physical, mental, and spiritual energy within us and is the source of life and knowledge. Becoming aware of and learning to cultivate this energy gives us the keys to invigorating our bodies, sharpening our minds and reaching spiritual realizations.
Meditation (practice while standing with your eyes open or gently closed):
Begin by bringing your attention to your natural breath. Create engagement in your body by gently lifting your knee caps, pulling the navel and bottom ribs in towards the spine and bringing your shoulder blades down and back. Feel your spine long, chest lifted and feet grounded. When you are ready, inhale for 5 counts while raising your arms up towards the sky, pause and retain your breath momentarily at the top, then exhale for 5 counts while lowering you arms down, pause and retain your breath momentarily at the bottom. Repeat for 10 breaths. Concentrate on observing the sensations of movement in your body while staying anchored to your breath. If you notice any thoughts arising, just take a mental note and let them pass bringing your attention back to the movement and breath. When you’re finished, relax your arms down and feel the sensations of the vital energy buzzing through your arms and shoulders.
Day’s Practice: Every time you move around, try to notice the sensations of energy circuits activating in your body. Feel your heartbeat rising, your breath getting faster, your body getting warmer. Take a mindful walk or a yoga class, if you can.
Day 11: Withdrawal of Senses
For the last 10 days we put a lot of mindful attention towards connecting with our senses. Today we’ll work in complete opposition and practice intentionally withdrawing from our senses. Why is this important? Because without the ability to control our senses, we cannot control our minds.
These days, most of us suffer from sensory overload, the result of constant bombardment from television, radio, internet, etc. that aim to stimulate our interest by appealing to our senses. We are constantly confronted with bright colors, loud noises, and dramatic sensations. Sensory indulgence has become the main form of entertainment in our society. The problem is that the senses are unruly and if we don’t discipline them they will dominate our minds and disturb us with their endless demands preventing us from connecting with our true selves.
Meditation (practice sitting comfortably in a supported position with eyes closed):
Begin by taking a few deep breaths. Relax. Be completely still. Observe your breath without controlling it as it comes and goes without any strain. For a moment, notice the sensations on your body. Stay with the breath and begin moving deeper. Withdraw your attention from the surface of your skin and become aware of the feeling of the blood moving in your veins. Relax completely. Keep moving deeper by bringing your attention to a single point behind your sternum. Visualize a subtle vortex emanating from that point, going up your spine and opening above the crown of your head. See all your sensations coming up that vortex and dissolving as they leave your body through the crown of your head. Stay with your breath. With each inhale, feel yourself drawing deeper within. With each exhale, feel yourself letting go of all holdings. Notice a lightness and a feeling of distancing from the body, mind, emotions, and all worldly cares. Continue journeying deeper and deeper within, to the place of serenity, joy and peace. Enjoy a few minutes of this tranquil time.
Day’s Practice: Minimize any sensual stimulation today. Unplug from all media (TV, music, internet, magazines). Turn off any background noise. Dress simply and comfortably. Keep gazing within towards your innermost self.
Day 12: Thought Awareness
Today and for the next several days we’ll direct our attention to becoming more aware of our thinking and emotional minds as well as unconscious habits and tendencies. Don’t be surprised if this exploration challenges you. Remember to stay kind and non-judgmental with yourself, no matter what comes up. Our only goal is mindful awareness.
As we advance through this process, we can begin to notice the stories we create in our minds around different expectations or pressures, or maybe just how much noise engulfs us at any given moment. And as we train our mind to notice our mental habits, we will gain more freedom to choose how we act.
Meditation (practice with eyes closed while lying on you back or sitting comfortably upright):
Take a few deep breaths and as you do this, get a sense of where you are at this moment physically, emotionally, and mentally. At this time of the day, how is your body feeling? Is there any tension or tightness anywhere? What emotions are present? Is there a neutral feeling or a sense of anxiousness or calm? Is the mind busy or calm? Begin to bring attention to your breath, naturally rising and falling, and dropping in deeper towards inner stillness. Continue to observe your breath. If at any point the mind wanders, just see where it wandered to. Touch that thought for a moment, as if it was your own reflection in the water, let it ripple away, and gently return to the sensations of the breath. Continue like this for a few minutes, noticing any thoughts as they arise without following them. If you suddenly catch yourself being caught in a though, do not judge, simply return to following your breath.
Day’s Practice: Throughout the day, notice when your mind wanders as you go through your daily tasks. When that happens, do not judge yourself, simply take a mental note of where it wandered to and return to the task at hand. At the end of the day, jot down as many thoughts as you can recall that distracted you today on an index card. Save that card someplace where you can find it later.
Day 13: Emotional Awareness
Ability to identify and manage our emotions is a vital part of living mindfully. Emotions, by their nature, are uncontrollable, we do not get to choose when and how we experience them. However, by cultivating emotional awareness we learn to recognize our emotions as they arise and accept them without judgement. This recognition helps us move through emotional states faster and respond to our emotions in healthier ways.
Meditation (practice in a comfortable upright seated position):
Begin mindful breathing. When ready, bring attention to your heart space and call forward any emotions that are there. Emotions that you may have pushed down and suppressed, ones that may still be painful or cause suffering. Allow those emotions to come forward so you can acknowledge and release them. Visualize your emotions coming up to the surface of your awareness like little bubbles come up to the surface of water. As they come up, name each one. Whether it be fear or grief, sadness or guilt, insecurity or anger. Name and acknowledge each one with acceptance. They all had a story. There is no need to remember the stories now, just accept and acknowledge what is still there. And just like air bubbles pop when they reach the water surface, see your emotions pop and dissolve as they reach the
surface of your awareness. Continue with this until it feels complete.
Day’s Practice: Stay mindful of your emotions. Every time you become aware of an emotion rising within you, pause and name it out loud or whisper under your breath if you are in public. At the end of the day, jot down as many emotions as you can remember becoming aware of today on an index card. Save that card someplace where you can find it later.
Day 14: Awareness of Habits
Don’t we all want to have better habits? And haven’t we all found that breaking old habits can be very hard? The practice of mindfulness is instrumental in becoming aware of our habits and effectuating positive changes. Habit is our cognitive autopilot that allows us to get through repeated routines without expending a lot of mental energy every time we do them. When we repeat the same behavior in the same context multiple times in becomes physically encoded into our brains’ biology. Thus, after enough repetitions, when encountered with a specific context, our brain launches us into action without our conscious recognition of it happening. Scientists estimate that as much as 40% of people’s daily behavior is habitual in nature and is thus performed with little to no conscious awareness. By becoming mindful of habitual patterns that are unhelpful to us and learning to recognize specific contexts that trigger them, we can begin to develop foresight and create space for making more conscious choices rather than continuing to run on autopilot.
Because habitual behaviors are literally hardwired into our brains, it is important to be gentle and non-judgmental with yourself if desired habit change does not come easy.
Meditation (practice while lying on your back or sitting with eyes closed):
Begin mindful breathing and, when you’re ready, direct your awareness towards one habit of yours that you would like to let go off. Spend a few moments gazing at that habit with your mind’s eye as if it were a tangible object. You may even imagine that object as having a certain size, shape, color and density. As you continue to breathe, with every breath imagine that object melting away like a piece of ice in summer sun or a sand dune blown away by the wind. Continue until you see it completely disappear. Now, call into your mind a new habit that you would like to develop. Once again, imagine it as an object of certain size, shape and color and as you breathe in and out, see that object grow in size, get denser and more saturated in color; see it taking up all the imaginary space that your old habit once had. Stay with that imagery for a few breaths and when ready, exit the meditation.
Day’s Practice: observe yourself throughout the day and try to notice when you act out of habit rather than conscious in-the-moment choice. Notice what triggers it. When you notice habitual behavior, ask yourself, how does this habit serve me, does it help me be who I really want to be? Whatever the answer is, do not judge yourself, simply take a mental note and move on.
Day 15: Self Inquiry
The practice of self-inquiry allows us to begin to discover our true inner selves and explore the most fundamental and mysterious question of human existence “who am I”. Finding the answer can be a lifelong quest that takes decades of dedicated inquiry. So, don’t get discouraged if the answer does not reveal itself to you today, you are just getting started.
Meditation (practice while lying on your back or sitting upright with eyes closed):
Settle into a comfortable meditation position and direct your gaze inward bringing attention to the feeling of being you. Ask yourself “Who are you? How does it feel to be you? What is it that makes up your inner self?” and simply observe any feelings and images that may follow. If you find yourself distracted by an errant thought, bring your awareness back to yourself by asking “To whom is this thought occurring?” Continue exploring the feeling of being you and when you’re ready to exit the meditation, hold on to that feeling and take it with you into your day.
Day’s Practice: Take mindful pauses to distance yourself from any thoughts, emotions and actions that may be occurring at the moment to reconnect with who you are underneath all those temporary experiences. Just quietly ask yourself “Who are you?” and observe whatever follows.
Day 16: Self-Love
Cultivating self-love is essential to mindful living. When we’re constantly caught up in self-critical thoughts and emotions, it is impossible for us to truly inhabit the present moment and connect authentically with those around us. Self-love is often misunderstood as egotism or vanity but in reality, it’s none of those things; self-love is simply acceptance of our imperfect human selves without judgement and criticism. Loving yourself does not mean putting yourself above others, in fact when we master self-love, we lose any need to compare ourselves to others or to compete with them. And when that becomes the case we can connect with every person we meet from the core of our authentic being rather than putting forward a contrived story of ourselves created to cover up our inner feelings of deficiency.
Meditation (practice in a comfortable upright seated position):
Find a comfortable seat, relax and sink into the moment. Begin to take slow deep breaths. With every inhale, feel your breath filing up and expanding your insides. And with every exhale, feel your breath releasing as you intentionally let go of all stress, worry and concerns. On the next breath in, visualize yourself breathing in the energy of love. See it as a beautiful white or golden light coming in with your breath and illuminating your entire body. See your body relax more as it fills with this loving light. With every inhale, allow your body to continue to fill up with this light and with every exhale, release any obstacles and any doubts you may have that make you feel unworthy of it. You may gently smile to yourself. Continue to breathe in and out, basking in the energy of love. Whisper to yourself “I am love and I am loved”. Take this feeling with you into the day.
Day’s Practice: If at any time in your day you feel insecure or down on yourself, take five deep breaths with every inhale visualizing breathing in beautiful bright light of love and with every exhale releasing any doubts and negativity.
Day 17: Self-Compassion
Being compassionate means being able to notice the suffering of others and respond to it with kindness. And while many of us regularly show compassion towards others, we may often fail to extend the same compassionate attitude to ourselves. Self-compassion involves responding in the same supportive and understanding way you would respond to a good friend when you have a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Self-compassion helps us meet life’s challenges from a place of mindfulness and self-love rather than self-reproach.
Meditation (practice in a comfortable upright seated position):
Begin mindful breathing and, when you’re ready, bring into your mind a circumstance or a personal struggle that challenges you in your life right now. Allow yourself to be with that awareness for a few moments. Acknowledge the emotional feelings and any bodily sensations that arise as a result of this awareness. Then say to yourself “this hurts” or “this is stressful” or any other acknowledgement that works for you. Next, acknowledge that suffering is part of life: “others feel this way too” or “I’m not alone”. Put your hands over your heart, feel the warmth of your hands and the gentle touch of your hands on your chest. Ask yourself, “What do I need to hear right now to express kindness to myself?” Is there a phrase that speaks to you in your particular situation, such as: “may I forgive myself”, “may I be strong”, or “may I be patient”? Repeat that phrase a few times.
Day’s Practice: Take a self-compassion pause any time you feel pushed or challenged. Acknowledge what you are feeling and how those feelings are manifesting in your body, acknowledge that you are not alone in feeling this way as many others probably face similar struggles at this very moment, and offer yourself soothing words of kindness.
Day 18: Silent Witness
Our next step of the mindfulness journey is practicing becoming a silent witness to our experience. Silent witness is the ultimate state of mindfulness when we begin to observe our experience unfolding with detached equanimity without any clinging or attachment to the passing moments.
Meditation (practice while lying on your back or sitting upright with eyes closed):
Settle into a comfortable position and take a few relaxing breaths. Don’t attempt to control the thinking process by trying to think certain thoughts and not think others. Instead, let your mind think about whatever it may. Now watch your mind and become aware of how you are actually distant from the thinking process. Say to yourself, “I am the silent witness. I make no effort to think, but thoughts come automatically. I am watching thoughts flow through my mind, but I am distant from them. I am the silent witness to my mind’s activities.” Just as a person sits by an ever-moving stream, so you, the self, sit by the stream of your mind’s ever-changing creations. See yourself watch any thoughts, emotions, feelings, desires, and fears that rise to the surface of the mind pass as running water in the stream. See yourself as the witness of that stream – not the stream itself.
Day’s Practice: As you go through different interactions today, practice changing perspective and picturing yourself as an outside observer rather than an active participant of the interaction. Apply the same observation to watching your thoughts and emotions as they arise and pass throughout the day.
Day 19: Inner Stillness
Inner stillness is where we land when our thinking mind finally lets go. When we come to inner stillness we’re in a place of complete calm, tranquility and ease, a place where our vital energy can be restored and renewed. Inner stillness is not something that needs to be created, it already is within us, our task is to uncover it from the mental and emotional noise under which it is buried.
Meditation (practice while seated comfortably in a quiet place with eyes closed):
(practice while seated comfortably in a quiet place with eyes closed):
Begin by taking a deep breath in. Hold it for a moment and exhale slowly. As you exhale allow all tension to melt away. Relax. Continue slow breathing and with each breath allow yourself to drop deeper and deeper into the state of ease and comfort. Bring your focus to the top of your head and allow a pleasant feeling of relaxation flow down your body melting away any remaining stress and tension. Feel every
cell of your body relax. Imagine yourself floating in a shimmering pond of warm clear water of perfect stillness. In this magical pond you are free from all memories of the past, all concerns about the future and from all responsibility. You have all the time in the world. It is a place of total peace and this place is all yours. Enjoy this place of stillness and silence for several breaths.
Day’s Practice: Take mindful pauses to reconnect with your place of inner stillness. You may picture it as clear blue sky. Clouds may obscure the sky temporarily, but when they pass, the sky is still there. And just like the sky is always clear above the clouds, so is our mind, underneath all the mental noise it is always clear and still. By diving underneath our thoughts and emotions we can connect with our inner stillness anytime.
Day 20: Mindful Remembering
People often speak of mindfulness as the art of living in the present moment. So, does that mean mindful people never think about the past or future? Not at all. They do so often. The difference is that when you’re mindful you do it by conscious choice and not automatically by being hijacked by intrusive memories and anxieties. Thus, mindfulness is the art of living with intention as much as it is the art of living in the present moment. Today’s practice aims to demonstrate how mindful remembering can be a wonderful tool for developing an even deeper awareness of self and fuller presence in your human experience.
Meditation: Pull out the index cards from days 12 and 13 of the challenge. Read over what you wrote. Observe your mind for a few moments as flashes of memories crackle through it. Notice what comes up and what feelings it stirs up. Now, with intention, bring your full attention to remembering as many details as you can about each of those days. What do you notice about your memories from the day when you were practicing observing your thoughts versus your memories from the day when you were practicing observing your emotions? How near or distant do they feel? How vivid or how dull? How does your present self feel about those experiences? When you’re ready to conclude your exploration, take a few cleansing breaths, let it all go and move mindfully into the present moment.
Day’s Practice: Observe your mind today and notice when you experience memories. Whenever you catch yourself being immersed in a memory, ask yourself “how does this memory serve me?” and “is it my true intention to dwell in this memory right now?”. If the answer to the second question is “yes” then bring your full attention to focusing in on that memory. If the answer is “no” then intentionally let it go and shift your focus to the present moment.
Day 21: Mindful Immersion
One of the fundamental qualities for mindful living is called beginner’s mind, a disposition that is void of any expectations and preconceived ideas about something, when the mind is open to seeing everything with fresh eyes. Young children have this ability naturally but with age it often dwindles. To reconnect with our beginner’s mind today, we will start the day with a brief childhood regression mediation followed by mindful immersion practice throughout the day.
Meditation (practice while seated upright with eyes open or gently closed):
Settle into the moment and connect with your breath. Bring your attention to the sensations of breathing as it enters your nostrils, moves down your bronchioles and into your lungs and then back out of your lungs, up your bronchioles and out through the nostrils. As you continue to breathe, become aware that this breath has been with you your entire life, from the moment you were born and every day since as it is right now. Can you remember feeling your breath when you were a young child? Connect to that memory and stay with it for a few moments. Now, invite into your memory other sensations from your childhood. How did it feel to wake up in your room in the morning? How did it feel exploring your backyard? Can you remember the feeling of getting your first pet, seeing the ocean for the first time or any other special moments infused with awe and wonder? Enjoy that feeling for some time, soak it in and keep it with you today.
Day’s Practice: Bring the sense of wonder and curiosity to any mundane tasks and daily chores you do today. Approach everything in your environment as if you were a curious child seeing it for the very first time. Pay attention to every detail of the activity, environment, your body movements and sensations. Pause to play and enjoy small wonders.
Day 22: Web of Kindness
Today we take another step on our journey of mindfulness by extending our mindful practices into our social lives. We humans are social beings who are highly affected by the energies of those around us. This, often, may be a source of anxiety and mental noise that deafens our ability to hear our inner selves and to stay mindfully grounded in the present moment. Many of us may find it easy to stay grounded and mindful when we are alone but as soon as we enter a social interaction switch right into the autopilot state. Over the next week, we will work on cultivating the ability to stay mindful and fully present while interacting with others. We begin by rising in our awareness of deep interconnectedness that unites all living beings in an endless web of kindness.
Meditation (practice while seated comfortably upright with eyes open):
Connect with your breath. When ready, focus on any tangible object of your possession that is near you right now. It may be the clothing you’re wearing, a piece of furniture, the floor beneath you, or any other object of your choosing. Contemplate it for a few moments pondering how it came to be here right now available for your use and enjoyment. Invite into awareness all the people who played part in making it possible: those who harvested the materials, designed, assembled, packaged, delivered it. People who you likely never met, some, possibly, on the other side of the world, who made it possible for you to enjoy it. Thank these people for their kind gift. Extend the contemplation of and gratitude for all your material possessions in this way. Next, bring into awareness your intangible assets such as your education, skills, relationships. Acknowledge that they too were given to you by others. Finally, bring your attention back to your breath and acknowledge that your very existence is a gift from your parents who gave you life, others who cared for you and kept you safe, plants and animals that gave of themselves to become your sustenance. Sit with this awareness of being endlessly interconnected with all of life. Exit the meditation with a feeling of boundless gratitude.
Day’s Practice: Take mindful breaks to reconnect with the awareness of the endless interconnections and interdependencies tying all of life. Pause to notice things that directly or indirectly came to you through kindness of other beings.
Day 23: Self-Awareness
Today’s practice will reinforce the self-awareness skills we’ve developed over the last there weeks and begin adding another level of challenge, maintaining self-awareness while in the midst of social interactions.
Meditation (practice while seated comfortably with eyes closed):
Drop into the moment, connect with your breath and do a quick scan noticing how your body and your mind feel today. When ready, visualize any social interactions you anticipate having in the course of the day. As you visualize, observe your mind. Does it grow exited with anticipation? Does it get anxious or apprehensive? Is there any negative self-talk or self-doubt? Check in with your body; what sensations do you notice? Does your posture remain relaxed and easeful or is there any tension in your body or face? As always, if you catch yourself being carried away by a thought or emotion, just gently return your focus to your breath. When you’re ready to close the meditation, silently repeat a few positive affirmations such as “I am confident”, “I am valued”, “I carry myself with ease”, “I am liked”, “I am worthy” or any others that feel good for you today.
Day’s Practice: Observe yourself during social interactions today. Do not try to alter your natural ways of interacting, simply watch the stream of your internal reactions, notice any bodily sensations, and acknowledge and name any emotions that arise as you come in contact with others.
Day 24: Social Awareness
At the core of our ability to develop social awareness and connect mindfully with others is the virtue of empathy. In today’s practice, we’re going to shift focus from ourselves to those around us and cultivate the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, including those individuals we find difficult or challenging.
Meditation (practice while seated comfortably with eyes closed):
Concentrate on your breathing and visualize someone you love and who loves you. Hold the feeling of their presence in front of your heart center. With your next breath, breathe in the love you receive from this person and breathe loving kindness back to them as you exhale. Breathe in loving kindness from your loved one and this time hold it within you. Let the image of your loved one fade away. Now, invite into your mind’s eye someone with whom you have a difficult time empathizing. It may be someone who was unkind to you or treated you unfairly. Once you visualize that person, look at them closely and see that you actually have much in common. Just like you, they have a body, feelings, thoughts, emotions; they experience joy, love, pain, and fear. Just like you they sometimes make mistakes. And just like you they want to be loved, understood and accepted. Gather the loving kindness you received from your loved one and breathe it out allowing it to surround this person as you try to understand and forgive them. Then let the image go.
Day’s Practice: In your social interactions, stay attuned to the feelings and emotions of those you interact with. Pay attention to body language, facial expressions, and inflections of voice. Ask yourself, how is this person feeling right now and what may be motivating their actions. Maintain a non-judgmental attitude and seek to understand.
Day 25: Mindful Speaking
Being mindful of what we say is as important as being aware of what goes on in the mind. In fact, some aspects of the mind do not reveal themselves until we talk. By becoming aware of what motivates our speaking we can discover aspects of our inner life that may be inaccessible when we’re alone. Through regular practice of mindful speaking we become less likely to say things we later regret and more likely to speak wisely and thoughtfully. Remaining mindful while speaking gives us more choice in what we say and by recognizing those choices, we gain the ability to become more deliberate and considered communicators.
Meditation (practice while sitting or lying down, eyes open or closed):
Settle into a comfortable position and come in to your breath. Invite into your awareness the memory of an instance when someone spoke harsh, hurtful or untruthful words to you. Remember how those words impacted you at that time. Observe and name the emotions that come up as you reconnect with this memory; notice any physical sensations in your body that come along. Let the memory go. Take three deep cleansing breaths. Next, invite a memory of receiving words of kindness, a genuine compliment or having a warm, heartfelt conversation with someone. Remember how that felt and how it impacted you in the days, weeks or months following. Sit in awareness of the power of words for a few moments. As you exit the meditation, set an intention to communicate mindfully and kindly.
Day’s Practice: Choose your words with gentle care. Before saying anything, in voice or in writing today, ask yourself: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it useful? Is it timely? When speaking, notice not just what you say but also how you say it. Are your words, tone of voice and body language congruent? Notice how others react. See if you can sense the emotional residue your words leave.
Day 26: Mindful Listening
Research suggests that the average person remembers only about 25% of what someone has told them only a few minutes prior to being asked. Many of us, even when conversing on topics that we are interested in, often find our minds drifting off to think about other things that are going on in our lives. When this happens, we are not fully present to the conversation and inevitably miss some of the information conveyed.
The goal of mindful listening practice is to learn detaching from our racing thoughts so we can hear the message that is being shared with us, and so the speaker can feel understood. Mindful listening involves receiving information without judgment and without trying to formulate a response before the full message is received. This practice improves communication, ability to retain information, relate with people deeper, to have better focus, and make stronger connections.
Meditation (practice while seated comfortably upright with eyes closed):
Begin mindful breathing and when you’re ready, visualize yourself standing in front of a tall wall stretching far to the right and far to the left. There is a door in the middle of the wall. You open the door and stand in the doorway. From there you can see is a vast sky and a great panorama of beautiful landscapes on the other side of the wall. Then you turn around and look back to the other side of the wall. On the other side you see a vast shimmering ocean sprinkled with beautiful islands. On either side of the door there is an equally rich view to be explored. Stay with that visual for few moments. Carry this visual with you into the day for mindful listening is like the doorway between two worlds, the world outside and the world inside yourself. To practice mindful listening is to reside in the doorway between these two worlds so you can stay attentive and present to both at the same time.
Day’s Practice: Whenever you interact with others today, listen with full attention. Put away any distractions such as your phone. Notice the non-verbals such as the tone of voice and body language. Practice active listening by repeating back what someone said to you in your own words. Be conscious not to interrupt. During your interactions, pay attention to your own thoughts, feelings, and urges as they arise and, with intention, let them pass and bring your focus back to the speaker.
Day 27: Full Presence
Cultivating full presence liberates us from our minds’ selectivity so we can experience everything as totally as we can without withdrawing from the vividness of any experience. Our judgmental minds are quick to parse our experiences into pleasant or unpleasant, inviting or frightening, useful or not useful and selectively overindulge in the experiences we perceive as positive while blocking out those we perceive as negative. Our minds do that in an attempt to protect us from suffering but by doing so they also limit us to dwelling within the confines of a narrow set of self-imposed constructs. When we let go of this defensive way of living and relax into the present moment being just as it is without filtering anything out, we liberate a tremendous amount of energy that allows us to expand into completely new ways of perceiving, experiencing, relating and realizing.
Meditation (practice while lying on your back or sitting comfortably with eyes closed):
Settle into your body and connect with your breath. Invite in the awareness of the preciousness of human life. Acknowledge all the precious moments and beautiful gifts you experienced in this lifetime. And acknowledge any difficult moments of suffering that have turned into the blessings of strength and wisdom. Spend a moment in deep appreciation of the gift of life. Now, contemplate the truth of impermanence. Notice how your mind is constantly shifting with thoughts and feelings rising and fading away. And how your body too is constantly changing; from year to year, day to day and moment to moment. Your circumstances, people in your life, your environment, all constantly change and will ultimately cease. Impermanence is the nature of life. Every moment is precious never to be relived again. Every moment has a purpose and a lesson, no matter how joyful or painful. Sit with this awareness for a few moments. When you’re ready, exit the meditation and set an intention to stay open and fully present to each and every moment today.
Day’s Practice: In your interactions with the world and other beings today, practice allowing things to be as they are, without judging them or making up stories about them. Practice being open, relaxed, present and available to everyone you come in contact with. Stay equally present to every conversation, whether it’s pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. Do not rush. Let yourself relax into the present moment and your interactions with others.
Day 28: Authentic Relating
The practice of authentic relating enhances our ability to connect deeply and develop true intimacy within our closest relationships. Relating to someone authentically means showing yourself as you truly are and allowing the other person to do the same. Often in relationships we put forward a version of ourselves that we think the other person would find more appealing than our unadulterated self. We mask or filter things we consider unattractive or undesirable about ourselves to gain approval or to avoid disapproval. These tendencies are very common and also quite damaging to ourselves and to our relationships as they prevent us from being truly seen and known by our partners and lead to feelings of aloneness and detachment. Breaking these patterns takes courage, humility and a lot of mindful attention and self-reflection. The rewards, however, are quite worth it.
Meditation (practice while sitting comfortably with eyes closed):
Come into the present moment and connect with your breath. When you’re ready, invite into your awareness someone you share a close personal relationship with. Imagine this person sitting right in front of you. Observe yourself in this awareness. Notice any emotions and body sensations that come up without getting involved in them. Contemplate the feeling of knowing this person deeply. Ask yourself, “What makes me feel close to her/him?” Once again, observe any responses that arise in you. Now, ask yourself, “Who am I in this relationship? Am I showing my true self? Is there anything that is troubling me? Is there anything I want to express that I have not?” Imagine the person in front of you being open to hearing whatever you have to say. Trust that they will not judge or interrupt you. Visualize yourself expressing everything you have been keeping in. Feel the lightness as you unburden yourself. When you are finished expressing, picture the two of you draw closer and give each other a loving and reassuring embrace of understanding and acceptance.
Day’s Practice: Show your authentic self in your close relationships today, express your thoughts and emotions openly and genuinely. Allow yourself to be seen just as you are and accept people in your life just as they are without judgement or criticism. Speak up about what you need in the relationship and ask the other party about what they need from you. Mindfully observe your relating tendencies and habits.
Day 29: Mindful Consumption
Consumerist culture dominates our present-day world. On the daily basis we are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages persuading us to buy and consume more and more and more. And the central strategy behind such persuasion is identifying, creating and exploiting human insecurities convincing us that we’re incomplete, inadequate or deficient in some way and offering products to “fix” that. After continued exposure to such messages, many of us begin to internalize and become affected by them constantly resorting to consumption as means to alleviate our “problems” or feelings of discomfort in the present moment. As a result, we end up buying more and more things we don’t need and sometimes don’t really want and often at prices we can’t actually afford. In fact, overspending is among the top causes of individuals’ financial difficulties and failure to live within one’s means. And on the global scale, hyper-consumption has become a leading cause of environmental degradation and climate change.
So how can we reverse this troubling pattern? One way is through infusing mindfulness into our daily consumption behaviors. Consuming mindfully means becoming aware of how our consumption decisions affect our physical and financial health and how they impact our human community, other living beings and the planet as a whole. It also means making our consumption decisions by conscious choice and not though impulsive urges. Developing this ability can help break the cycle of mindless consumption, liberate us from the grip of never-ending perceived needs and our lower-self wants and open way for true self-love and true self-esteem.
Meditation (practice in any comfortable position with eyes open or closed):
Sink into the present moment and bring your awareness to your heart center. Breathe in the energy of love and feel that energy permeating your entire being making you feel warm, relaxed and content. As you breathe out, let go of all negativity, worry and self-doubt. Breathe like this for several breaths. When you are ready, offer the following affirmations to yourself: “In this perfect moment, I am perfect within my true self. I am whole, I am complete, I am enough just as I am. I need nothing more.” Repeat these affirmations as many times as feels beneficial to you.
Day’s Practice: Notice your urges to consume. Become aware of and question your wants. Before making a purchase or consuming something you already have, ask yourself, “Is this something that I truly want? Is it my true self that is driving this desire or is it something else such as an insecurity, wanting to impress, please or compete with others? What need am I fulfilling with this? Am I acting in my true best interest? How does this choice affect others? How does it impact the environment?” Make a conscious effort to reduce, reuse and recycle.
Day 30: Oneness Realization
We conclude our challenge by extending ourselves towards one of the most profound existential realizations, oneness of all creation. It our dualistic reality manufactured by thinking minds we have forgotten the truth of oneness which causes us much suffering as it severs our consciousness from the universal source and limits us in our capacity for self-realization. Oneness is not an elusive mystical concept, it is the unescapable reality of which many of us simply are not aware. One of the greatest scientific minds in history, Albert Einstein, described it wonderfully when he wrote, “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
The aim of this practice is to help us transcend duality and realize the truth that lays underneath all names and forms. This can be a trying journey as it challenges every notion of reality that we have been conditioned to accept our entire lives. To help us break though the veil, a visualization practice can provide an indirect connection to the feeling of oneness until we’re ready to shed our dualistic delusions and experience oneness directly.
Meditation (practice while lying on your back or sitting comfortably):
Settle into a comfortable position and allow each breath to take you deeper into relaxation. Imagine your body filled with golden light, the light from the source of all existence, see that light radiating through and enveloping your entire being. Now, bring the presence of people who are closest to you into your heart center. See their bodies filled with the same golden light of creation. Send them love and feel their presence as inseparable from your own. Next, invite into your heart center the presence of all people you know. Picture them too being filled with the same divine light. Send them love, compassion and understanding and feel your connectedness with them. Extend your awareness to all people in your city, all people in your country, and all people in the world, see them connected to you though the same golden light, send your love and compassion to them. Allow your love to flow to all the animals and plants as you picture them too being filled with light. Picture all the flames of light emanating from each living being join into a single flame enveloping the entire planet and reaching out into the universe and see the divine light reflecting back from the universe onto you and all living beings. As you emerge from mediation, carry the feeling of love and oneness with you.
Day’s Practice: Take mindful pauses to reconnect with the feeling of oneness and universal love. See yourself as a drop in the endless ocean of life, interconnected and inseparable from all of creation. Stay aware of the energy you put out into the world as all that you put out is reflected right back to you.