Observational Practices / Mindfulness

Observational Practices / Mindfulness

5-4-3-2-1, Clear Picture Grounding Practice

Sometimes when we are filled with discomfort, anxiety, or stress, it can be very difficult to be present or show up to the present moment that we are in. This simple grounding practice brings us back to the present moment by focusing on our immediate surroundings.

DIRECTIONS: Working backward from five, use your senses to list things you notice around you. For example, you might start by listing five things you hear, then four things you see, then three things you can touch from where you are, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.

Make an effort to notice the little things you might not always pay attention to, such as the color of the flecks in the carpet or the hum of your computer.

Sound Bathing

Sound Bathing is the practice of mindfully listening to different sounds that help relax the body and mind.

  • Step 1: Choose a place to be that has a variety of sounds to engage with. Outside is a great choice. It’s important that you can become very comfortable where you are.
  • Step 2: Close your eyes or lower your gaze.
  • Step 3: Notice your breathing and try to find a relaxed and comfortable rhythm.
  • Step 4: Listen. Allow yourself to be fully present to the sounds that are coming at you.
  • Step 5: When thoughts arise, imagine them floating on by and becoming lost in the sound chorus. Return to your place of listening.
  • Step 6: Enjoy, delight, and notice how your body is able to fully relax into the environment.

Sensory Attention

We are bombarded by external and internal stimuli that dulls our perception, distracts us, and prevents us from ever actually paying attention to anything. Over time, we begin to forget that we are embodied creatures set within a creation rather than an endless cycle of anxieties and desires. Sensory practice is a very simple way of restoring intentional perception by focusing on one sense at a time. 

The method of sensory practice is simple. To the extent possible, exclude other senses and focus on one sense’s perception of the natural world at a time.

So, for example, go for a walk in a park. Stop among the trees and close your eyes. Breathe through your mouth so you minimize smell. What do you hear? Listen. Really listen. Do you hear the wind, cars, trees creaking, a distant airplane, squirrels scampering, birds singing, children playing? Do you hear your own breath gently rising and falling? Do you hear your own pulse? Stay there in that moment for a while, at least 60 seconds. Stretch out your senses. What has changed? 

You then can switch to another sense. Close your eyes, put your hands over your ears, and smell. It works best if you simultaneously inhale through your mouth and nose. Do you smell the grass, pollen, hot blacktop, a faint whiff of garbage? Hold your perception. 

Finally, what do you see. Broad landscapes have too much in them to perceive. It is better to focus on something smaller. Maybe get on your hands and knees or bend down and look at a single square foot of ground. Do you see the little things scurrying, the mulched grass forming a carpet, the clover peeking through, various shades of clay, sand, and soil that lie beneath them all? Do you see the ground you have been walking on all along, but now perhaps for the first time?

Sensory practice is simply the delicate art of paying attention: Where am I, and with what else in God’s creation am I sharing this space at this moment? The more we pay attention, the more we cultivate our own sense of gratitude, groundedness, and wonder.