To engage your abilities in mindfulness it is fun and helpful to play games/activities that encourage your skills. Here is a list of some that I have come up with:
Name the Moment:
Name whatever you are experiencing in the present moment, like the wind in the trees, or people walking by, or the feelings and thoughts you have, keeping in mind an intention of deep presence which connects to all things around you.
In this game you conceive of a short poetic phrase to describe something in the present moment. This is to hone in on not just what is, but its meaningfulness. This works best if you are in some dynamic environment, but it can apply to anywhere. For example, I was at the beach recently and I saw the waves on the ocean. They were beautiful and reminded me of people marching in rows. So the poetic phrase would be: I see the noble parade of waves marching towards the shore. You can do this for anything and everything around you, singular or plural. Also not just what it is but how it makes you feel. It is all for the purpose of building presence to the moment and realizing its meaning.
The Big Bang and Beyond:
This is a game to try and realize how things come to be. Everything is caused by previous things and conditions. That line of causes goes back all the way to the big bang, and even beyond that if you believe in the multi-verse. Find an object in your environment and realize how it got there. For example, at the beach I saw a wooden barrier that separated a public beach from a private one. It would take the battering of the waves every day at the end of it. It was completely green, probably form some way they treat the wood. This structure got there from multiple people who had families and ancestry who were devising how to put these pieces of wood in just the right place to partition the beach correctly. The wood came from trees that lived for at least 10 years. They depended on the soil, the sunlight, the rain, and the air. They grew from seedlings that came from previous trees who's ancestry goes down the evolutionary line all the way to the first life on earth millions of years ago, who's material came from the supernovae of previous stars and so on until the point where atoms were first coalesced after the big bang took place. Beyond that is previous big bangs, or maybe just a mystery. And so we do this for everything around us, realizing that nothing exists independently, but only based on previous causes and conditions coming together. Everything has a story to tell that is billions of years old. And everything is ultimately still a mystery. If you believe in God then He is the mysterious source of all of that.
Name Your Feelings:
In this activity note all the subtle and nuanced feelings you may be having in this moment. They may pertain to things that happened in the past, present, or will happen, or are just there for some reason unknown. This practice allows you to deepen your understanding of yourself, shedding some often needed light onto what our inner landscape is all about.
Feelings in the Body:
In this activity you are invited to go through a list with a partner or group and indicate with your hand where you feel certain feelings. One person takes turns saying the feelings to be located. All the feelings we have can be correlated to a part or parts of our body. If we have awareness of these places we can have greater presence to them, especially if they do not serve us or if they are difficult. Here is a list of some feelings you can hone in on. I invite you to really tune in to yourself, closing your eyes if need be, and listen to how your body reacts to these feelings:
Anger, love, jealousy, joy, selfishness, forgiveness, stress, gratitude, anxiety, grounded, dull, inspired, depressed, healthy pride, selfish pride, bravery, stubbornness, authenticity, being fake, being willing, being weak, longing.
More feelings can be thought of to add to this short list. An example of locating a feeling in your body is feeling love in your heart area. Using this activity especially for your harder or harmful feelings is important to use the wisdom and peace of the body and mind together to help pacify negative emotions.
Stuck and Flow
In this activity you verbalize where in your body, mind (thoughts and feelings), and life you feel stuck and where you feel flow. For those things you feel stuck about you bring presence to them as well as love and compassion, doing what you can to bring those places to flow. For those places where you feel flow feel gratitude and celebrate those aspects of your body, mind, life. you can start with the body then go to mind and then life, feeling the stuck parts first then the flow.
Pleasant, Unpleasant, Neutral
In this activity you recognize what in your experience is pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. For the pleasant things you take a breath and appreciate them without grasping at them, letting go of attachment, addiction, and harsh craving for them while having complete celebration and appreciation of it if it serves you. For the unpleasant things you try to be open to them without judgement, anger, fear, resistance, or bias. Acknowledging their existence and having a peaceful mind despite their presence is the practice of patience. Anything that is neutral can be an object that inspires equanimity, a sense of mental home-base, as well as an opportunity to realize the vastness of the ordinary, since even they too are an expression of the mystery of being. Name a pleasant thing first, then an unpleasant, then a neutral thing.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Meditate on and verbalize your strengths and weaknesses in life. In this way you have more self-knowledge, allowing you to recognize what you are good at and how you can improve your behavior, beliefs, and thinking. Keeping this kind of self-inventory allows you to know what your weaknesses are in the moment they arise so you can be familiar with them and have an ongoing practice to work on them, using your strengths if possible.
8 fold path
Inspired by the 8 fold path of Buddhism, use this teaching to make an inventory of your life. The 8 are:
Right View: do you see clearly, do you understand the truth.
Right Intention/Thought: is your heart in the right place? Are you coming from love and compassion?
Right Speech: Do you speak the truth? Do you speak kindly?
Right Action: Do you act with love? Do you act from truth?
Right Livelihood: is your work respectful of self, other, and environment?
Right Effort: do you apply yourself without laziness or being to harsh on yourself?
Right Mindfulness: are you present to the moment? do you keep in mind the most important thing for right now?
Right Concentration/ Meditation: do you focus intently and familiarize yourself with the right objects and in the right way?
This 8 fold path of self-reflection can be highly illuminating on your life and can be used multiple times.
This is a way to practice exposure to things that push your buttons, things you have difficulty with, things that you may be afraid of or resistant to. Bring to mind a button pushing scenario. It could be something that makes you angry, jealous, afraid, or addicted. Then, either you or someone with you says a word or two to describe the button pushing scenario. From that prompt the practitioner breathes in, witnessing her reaction from an objective centered place, and then breathes out letting go of attachment, anger, fear, or whatever the negative reaction is, continuously cultivating an overarching sense of acceptance and forgiveness and patience and love for yourself and the situation, if not for what the situation or person did then for your own release from a grudge. Do this repeatedly to slowly wean yourself out of undesirable habits.
These games and activities are useful to develop your presence. Mindfulness is about building the realization of everything the moment has to offer, within as well as without. Building a deep appreciation that can sustain you in all kinds of situations as well as a keen discerning awareness of what arises in your own mind will allow you to transform in order to live a happier and more peaceful life.