Mindful hand washing is a simple way to become more present in your daily life. It's easy to create a mindful moment for yourself and this exercise can be applied to lots of other activities in your daily life.
Stress Management Mindfulness
In the following video I share about a stressful time in my life that led to learning about this simple mindfulness exercise. It's how I got started with mindfulness. If you prefer to read, I cover the same information in this blog post.
We were several years into my husband’s PhD and the timeline was not going the way we expected it to. A lot of things had gone differently than we planned and as Ken’s graduate school path continued to take unexpected turns, the finish date for school kept getting pushed further into the future than we originally pictured.
I felt a lot of stress and sometimes felt a little like Alice when she fell down the rabbit hole- watching things fly past me with no control over any of it. I was desperately trying to figure out how to have some sort of control over how life was going or find a way to be happy despite things not going the way we had planned.
The Power of the Present Moment
I got an audiobook out of the library and started listening to it while going for walks. The book was The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.
I didn’t love everything about the book- there were some things that didn’t really click for me and some things that really frustrated or annoyed me but I listened to the whole thing and there were a few things from that book that stood out to me so much that now, years later, I still think of them.
As you can gather from the title, the book focuses largely on being present in the current moment. This is the first time I remember hearing about mindfulness and this hand washing mindfulness practice.
Mindful Hand Washing
In the book, Tolle talks about washing your hands consciously to practice mindfulness and awareness of the present moment.
"When you wash your hands, when you make a cup of coffee, when you 're waiting for the elevator -instead of indulging in thinking, these are all opportunities for being there as a still, alert presence."-Eckhart Tolle
While you wash your hands, you pay close attention to the moment and to your experience of it. You notice the way the water feels on your hands, the smell of the soap, the sound of the water coming out of the tap, splashing onto your hands and the sink. You become very aware or conscious of your senses and what they’re experiencing.
It’s a simple task to try, so the next time I washed my hands I did it. I was surprised by the experience and the way that it really pulled me out of my busy thoughts and into the present moment. It reminded me of taking my toddler for walks outside and the way that she used to stop to look at ants on the sidewalk, to touch the grass, to watch tree branches blow in the wind, to listen to the cars drive by.
I was surprised to find the act of washing my hands to be an enjoyable experience! Normally I would just do it and move on without thinking about it. My mind would be busy with other thoughts while, physically, I was on autopilot. I felt like there was something to this ability to get out of your busy thoughts and experience a moment more fully. If that could happen with washing my hands, then other moments had the potential to be much more enjoyable as well.
Remember this next time you’re washing your hands. Slow down for a moment and really think about each of your senses and what you’re experiencing and see how that feels. You can apply this with anything you do of course- it doesn’t have to be hand washing. Any of the regular moments in your day can be turned into moments of mindfulness. Just stop yourself and think about what each of your 5 senses is experiencing. Here are a few other "awakening exercises" from Tolle.
If you try the hand washing exercise, tell me what you think of it in the comments!