Living Mindfully

Mindfulness isn't just about sitting still. Sitting meditation is the practice we use to help us bring a different quality of consciousness to our lives. The ultimate goal is to live happier lives not being able to sit on a chair or cushion for hours on end with a really peaceful mind.

Through practising mindfulness in the form sitting meditations you will start to notice being more mindful in your daily life. It will probably be noticing simple things and feelings of appreciation and peacefulness. One of my first recollections of this was standing feeling the wind against my body while at a bus stop. Noting special or dramatic just a feeling that everything was how it was supposed to be.

We can help this process along by purposefully becoming mindful of activities that we regularly take part in such as driving to work, brushing our teeth or doing the dishes. Absolutely anything that we do can be used as an opportunity to bring our awareness to our experience.

The tricky thing in the beginning is remembering to pay attention as we generally do them without thinking. With this in mind its good to start off simply, by picking one thing and focusing on it for a few weeks. Setting up reminders can be helpful. You can get sheets of little stickers that can be strategically placed to prompt you e.g. in the middle of your steering wheel if you are going to be mindful of driving or on the toothpaste tube for brushing your teeth. Once you have remembered you simply pay attention to your experience while doing the activity and when your mind wanders off, you come back. It will probably be helpful to focus on one aspect of the experience to begin with e.g. for driving it could be noticing the feel of the steering wheel on your hands or your feet on the pedals. This can be done without affecting your ability to drive. You don't have to look at your hands or feet but feel them from the inside.

It probably wont feel like it does when you do a sitting mediation, that's to be expected but it doesn't mean you aren't being mindful. You might not feel a pleasant relaxation or get any sense that your mind is settling. That's okay, its just about being aware and letting whatever is going to happen, happen.

Walking is a good opportunity to practice being mindful  You can do it while walking to get somewhere in the course of your day. Just slowing down a bit and coming into your body. Walking can also be a vehicle for a formal meditation practice. Here we don't walk to get anywhere, we walk as an end in itself. There is a link to a Jon Kabat Zinn guided walking meditation here

Another interesting activity to look at is eating. If you are anything like me then you will probably be doing at least three other things while eating. See if you just eat, without the radio or the TV and pay attention to the sensory experience of eating. The tastes, the smells, the visual qualities  and the textures of the food. But beware,I often find myself reading the nutritional information of my cereal for the 300th time, keen to find some interesting detail that i missed all the other times. You may also find that you don't like some of the foods that you eat if you pay attention to what it tastes like.