Okay, so this isn’t a post about reading books about mindfulness, or reading books that make you more mindful. Instead, I want to talk about reading in a mindful way.
You may have heard of mindful breathing, mindful eating and even mindful walking, but have you heard of mindful reading? Or better yet, have you heard of mindless reading? I don’t know if it’s an actual term, but I do believe it exists.
We can be mindless in many situations. Driving is the first that comes to mind. How many times have you driven along the same route to work or your child’s school and arrive, only to realise that you have no memory of the commute. We just work on autopilot.
This can also happen for the avid reader. I’m notorious for reading a couple of pages of a book during a television ad break or while the kettle is boiling. As a speedy reader, I tend to skim passages of text as I quickly get the ‘gist’ of what is going on. This works fine when I’m completely present, absorbing the words and sinking into the folds of the story. But when I’m distracted, I can read several pages and realise I have no idea what I’ve just read! Can anyone else relate to this?
Mindfulness promotes focus, concentration and staying in the present moment. I’ve written a mindfulness exercise that can be used anytime you want to immerse yourself in a book- but are feeling too distracted.
How To Read Mindfully
Have your book nearby for this exercise.
Sit somewhere quiet where you will be uninterrupted.
As you pick up your book, notice how it feels in your hands. Notice the weight of the book, if it’s heavy or light, thin or thick. Run your hands over the cover of the book and note if it’s smooth or glossy or textured; if it’s hard or soft.
Open the book and flip the pages, seeing if there’s a smell or sound it makes as you do so. Notice the muscles in your hands as you hold the book and the position in which it sits in your hands.
Pause on a page and take note of the typeface of the words and the colouring of the page. Does the book seem new or old, fresh off the press or preloved? How do the words look on the page, are they easy to read or do your eyes strain to make out the text?
Flip to the page where you will read from and read a few lines. Allow yourself to savour the words, noticing the flow of the words and how they sound in your mind.
Observe any impact the words have on you, they may develop as an image in your mind or evoke an emotion or physical sensation. How do you feel as you read each line? Do the words create a sense of relaxation or tension?
Do you feel a sense of anxiety or anticipation as you read? Are you eager to find out what happens next?
As you read the book, allow yourself to be fully aware of the reading experience. If you notice your mind wander, simply say to yourself “I’m thinking about….” and then bring your focus back to the text on the page. You may need to do this several times.
[Copyright Lauren Keegan 2015]
This exercise is an excerpt from my printable Reading Journal, available for purchase from Etsy
What helps you focus when you want to read a book?
Have you tried this or another mindfulness exercise to ground you for the reading experience?