Wildmind Buddhist Meditation

Daily Life

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Mindfulness and daily activities

The point of meditating is to bring about a greater degree of mindfulness, so that your entire life can be transformed.

To some extent this can happen naturally; the mindfulness we develop in meditation simply spills over into our daily lives, and we find ourselves being more aware of how our mind and emotions function in everyday encounters with the world, leading to an increased freedom from reactive emotional and mental habits.

But we don’t have to simply hope that our meditation will have an effect on the rest of our lives. We can consciously choose to use everyday activities as opportunities to practice mindfulness.

I like to suggest to my meditation students that they take a few daily activities and make a point of doing them with more awareness than usual.

Elsewhere I’ve suggested a number of ways in which mindfulness can be brought into the act of driving a car. I think this is particularly valuable since so many of us spend a lot of time driving these days and since sharing the road with so many other drivers can be a source of emotional strain.

So here are a few suggestions for other activities that you can turn into meditation practices.

Showering meditation

Other activities that can also be used include simple things like showering or brushing our teeth. When you shower mindfully, you can be aware of the physical actions, such as rubbing soap onto your body, or the way you shampoo your hair. You can be aware of the water hitting your skin and running down your body. You can be aware of how your mind tends to think about what you’re going to be doing next, and get into the habit of bringing your awareness back to your physical experience. (Remember that the point in being mindful is not to think about your experience but simply to notice it.

Tooth-brushing meditation

There’s a wonderful scene in the film Adaptation where the character Susan Orlean, played by Meryl Streep, begins to appreciate the act of brushing her teeth after taking a drug made from a rare orchid. As you watch her seeing herself in the mirror, she begins by brushing her teeth in the normal habitual way. You can tell by the absent expression on her face that she’s miles away, thinking about something else. Then gradually she begins to notice what she’s doing and slows down. Then we see her delightedly playing as she brushes her teeth, enjoying the sensations as the bristles tickle her gums. From the way she seems to relish this simple activity, you can see that it’s as if she’s brushing her teeth for the same time.

One attribute of mindfulness has been described by Suzuki Roshi as “Beginners’ Mind”. Beginners’ Mind arises when we let go of the “been there, done that” attitude that we normally carry in to everyday activities. When we let go of the assumption that there’s no point paying attention to this experience since we’ve done it a million times already, we’re free to fully experience those sensations. Having let go of comparisons with previous experiences, we really can feel almost as if we’re brushing our teeth for the first time.

You may also find that brushing your teeth more mindfully and carefully leads to fewer cavities.

Eating meditation

Try eating breakfast without reading. See what it’s like when you really pay attention to the food you’re eating. Notice your mind wandering and bring it back to the experience of eating.

Comments

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Pingback from Eliminate Mental Clutter Through Meditation – Page 3 – SoberRecovery : Alcoholism Drug Addiction Help and Information
Time: February 24, 2008, 12:20 pm

[...] Showering meditation Other activities that can also be used include simple things like showering or brushing our teeth. When you shower mindfully, you can be aware of the physical actions, such as rubbing soap onto your body, or the way you shampoo your hair. You can be aware of the water hitting your skin and running down your body. You can be aware of how your mind tends to think about what youre going to be doing next, and get into the habit of bringing your awareness back to your physical experience. (Remember that the point in being mindful is not to think about your experience but simply to notice it. from : Mindfulness and daily activities | Wildmind Buddhist Meditation [...]

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Comment from susie mitchell
Time: November 6, 2010, 1:24 pm

I am a math and science teacher. I work with students who have a variety of issues that interfere with their ability to focus. Many of my students have stress, anxiety, and ADHD issues. I am starting to introduce my students to the idea of mindfulness. I was introduced to this concept in college. I appreciate your site because I can send my students here for good, safe information. I have three students, so far, who have bought into this and are eager for me to make time to take them for these mindful breathing and listening activities. The three students described their sensations, before my help, as feeling like they were going to explode – come out of their skin. I have been told by each of them it helps calm them down.

if you have any advise to offer I would greatly appreciate any feedback.

thank you Susie Mitchell

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 9, 2010, 9:13 pm

Hi, Susie.

I teach a six-week study skills and personal development course for teenagers most summers, and I always include an element of meditation. This summer we meditated in various ways for 5 to 10 minutes each day that we had class. Mostly I did body scanning and various approaches to mindful breathing, plus a small amount of lovingkindness. But even the famed “three minute breathing space” can be a very helpful injection of mindfulness into the day. In the student evaluations, the meditation was frequently cited as being the most valuable part of the class.

I didn’t do it this year, but I’ve also sometimes used an “emotional check-in” as part of an attempt to get students to be more mindful of their emotions, and to help them articulate what’s going on with them emotionally. I’ve used lists like these, which also help expand students’ vocabularies. One rule is that students can’t just say they’re “tired” (too easy). They have to also pick a more feeling-laden term.

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Comment from Sanya
Time: January 26, 2011, 7:54 am

Hi Bodhipaksa,

I am reading your blog since few days and i find it very practical and useful.

I am practicing mindfulness from few weeks. I have started with meditation and i am finding it very calming and relaxing. Since my childhood I have never been able to be in the present. I guess I have rarely heard any lesson in the class. My mind always wanders,it is anxious and busy with internal monologue. But this mindfulness practice is really helping me to live in the present.

But sometimes it is difficult to be mindful of what i am doing and i feel i am loosing out on what is happening around me. For example if i am cutting vegetables i can be mindful of that but won’t i miss the sounds and activities around me. How is it to expand the mindfulness to my whole surrounding. Have i got something wrong in what i have understood? Please let me know.

thank you.
sany

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: February 2, 2011, 11:55 am

Hi, Sanya.

I was the same in primary (elementary) school. My mind would wander so much that I had no idea what was going on in the class around me. Even in high school I remember once “coming round” from a daydream to realize that everyone else in the class was busy doing a quiz that the teacher had handed out. I must have been sitting there for ten minutes, just staring into space!

It’s best not to be too rigid about mindfulness. If there’s a good reason for you to pay attention to what’s going on around you while you’re chopping vegetables, then pay attention to what’s going on around you. If it’s a trivial discussion on TV, then turn off the TV or tune it out, but if it’s something like your children playing then you really have to keep your attention partly on them.

The point is not to do one thing at a time all the time, but to keep your attention focused on what’s important, and to prevent the mind from going wandering into patterns of thought that cause you suffering. And you can mindfully observe how you’re responding to all that you’re taking in, so that you’re less likely to respond with anger, or irritation (for example).

So you can pay attention to chopping vegetables and also listen out (say) for your children, and also notice what your mind is doing. You’re still “in the moment.”

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Comment from suz
Time: February 22, 2012, 11:37 am

i meditate while i do housework. example, washing dishes to me is a chore that i do in a moderate speed, taking care of doing it properly. my mind sinks into nothingness while my body does the work. sometimes, the body does it automatically but very well while the mind is meditating on one subject. before you know it…the chore is done and your mind had meditated to relax.

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Pingback from How to be mindful when the kids are annoying the hell out of you
Time: May 17, 2013, 10:16 am

[...] WildMind Buddhist Meditation – some useful general info on mindfulness plus practical daily practice ideas. [...]

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Comment from Mike
Time: February 1, 2014, 7:02 pm

Do you have any tips for mindful reading? Thanks!

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: February 19, 2014, 2:52 pm

An interesting question!

I’d suggest reading on paper rather than reading on-screen, because there are fewer distractions in a paper book: you can’t for example hop onto Facebook quite so easily.

Notice when your mind starts to wander — the kind of wandering that might cause you to decide to check your email or look something up online. If there are things you want to look up online, make a written note of them and do it later, unless it’s vital for understanding what you’re reading — for example a crucial vocabulary word. And when you notice the mind wandering, close your eyes, focus on your breathing, and let your mind rest for a little while. Possibly what’s happening is that your brain is tired.

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