While setting aside a part of your day to practice mindfulness and meditation is a good habit that helps keep you consistently in tune with your body and mind, knowing how to incorporate those practices into daily life and activities is one of the biggest components of a good mindfulness practice. And while Independence Day might have you packing your afternoon with food and friends and rounding out the night with a display of fireworks lighting up the sky, what you may not realize is that the celebration is just as a good a time as any (perhaps even better) to get in touch with your mind.
We know what you’re thinking. You expect me to believe that a time when I’m surrounded by people and noise and full-on fireworks is the right time to practice meditation? Actually, yes. By trying your hand at a bit of open-eye meditation this Fourth of July, you may find that this occasion is the perfect time to embrace deep, steady breathing and take advantage of your busy surroundings to take your mindfulness practice to a new level. The trick is to meditate in such a way that you take in all of the details of everything happening around you.
“When we meditate with our eyes open, we can become aware of visual details we often miss in our daily lives, and we also begin to notice how our environment affects our inner experience,” says Annaka Harris, a mindfulness teacher and the author of I Wonder. “This can help us feel connected to the world around us, as it becomes clear that we are in fact part of the environment we are inhabiting, rather than separate from it.”
Start by paying attention to your breath and your body before the fireworks begin. As with any meditation session, take notice of the thoughts that arise while you watch the display without judging or acting upon them. Continue to focus on your breathing.
Another effective method, according to David Gelles at the New York Times, is to follow a single point of light as it explodes into existence, falls, and fades away. Then, try to expand your view to encompass the entire display, and notice the difference in experience. Try to notice the ever-changing nature of the light as it fades in and out of view, and consider the constantly-changing nature of the world and of events.
While these may be Fourth of July-specific tips to help you practice awareness and mindfulness, remember that these opportunities exist at all moments. No matter your location or surroundings, there’s always a way to embrace a little mindfulness session here and there, and it is perhaps most effective when practiced in the midst of the chaos of the world; not removed from it. This allows us to take notice and mindfully process our surroundings and engage with the world around us in a more compassionate, focused way. On the Fourth of July and every day, opportunities for gratitude and acknowledgment present themselves to us, and we need only to notice.