DAILY LIFE MINDFULNESS
Learning the Way of Awareness
By Andrews Weiss
Many of us find it helpful to use gathas - little poems - to encourage mindfulness of what we're doing. Some of these are included in part two of this book, and are for some common everyday acts, such as waking up in the morning, washing dishes, turning on the television, and so on. Please feel free to use others from the two books of gathas in the recommended reading list, or make up your own.
Here are some possible ways to reinforce mindfulness in your daily life. During your first week of practice, please pick one or two and give them your wholehearted attention. You can use conscious breathing - awareness of breath - as a foundation to encourage daily-life mindfulness, just as you use it as the foundation for your sitting and walking meditation practice. Each week's home play includes adding another daily-life mindfulness activity to your daily routine, so you will be referring back to this list frequently as you go along.
- When you wake up in the morning, allow yourself some slow, mindful breaths before you get out of bed. Seeif you can be aware of your breathing and of making the transition from sleeping to waking. Be aware of the sound, the quality of light, or the darkness. Feel each in-breath calm your body and mind, and each out-breath release any tension or thoughts you're holding. Try smiling and see what happens.
- As you rise from bed, be aware of your feet making contact with the floor. Notice how different your body feels in the lying-down, sitting, and standing postures. Be aware of your weight on your feet, of the floor supporting your body, and of the motion of your feet and legs as you begin to walk.
- Try eating breakfast without reading the newspaper or watching television. If possible, eat silently for all or part of your meal. Before you eat, allow yourself to breathe in and out three times and bring your awareness to the food in front of you.
- Take a few minutes, either at home or on your way to work, to notice something enjoyable about the morning: perhaps the sunlight or the rain or the face of a child or a flower or the sounds of birds or the wind. See if you can allow yourself and your surroundings to inhabit the same space.
- On your way to work or school, or to appointments or your other daily errands, try to be mindful of your traveling. Be aware of your walking, your sitting on the subway, your strap hanging on the bus, or your sitting while you are riding in a car. If you are driving a car or riding a bicycle or motorcycle, try to be aware of your driving or riding. Take a few mindful breaths to relax your body and mind. Do your best to allow your steps and actions to be peaceful ones.
- If you drive a car or ride a motorcycle or bicycle, use a few mindful breaths to calm you and bring you in tune with your vehicle and the act of driving or riding before you turn on the ignition or right after you mount your bike. Notice how you're holding your body, and let your breathing help you relax your shoulders, soften your face. See if you can break the pressure of pushing to get where you are going and simply enjoy the process of getting there. When you see a red traf?c light, allow that to be a bell of mindfulness and an opportunity to come back to your breath; relax your face and see whether a smile is possible. When someone cuts you off, try using awareness of your breath to calm your anger and fear.
- When you get to work or school, or wherever you go on your daily tasks, practice some mindful breathing when you arrive and before you begin your work. If you are at a desk, try sitting down and taking some mindful breaths before taking out your work or talking with your fellow workers or students. If you are at a computer workstation, try taking three mindful breaths before turning on your computer. If you are shopping, pause before the entrance to the store and take three mindful breaths to calm and orient you before you walk in. Allow your body to relax before you begin, and see whether a smile is possible.
- Several times during the day, allow yourself to become aware of your breathing and re-center yourself. Use these occasions to become aware of your body and to let your breath quiet your mind. See if you can allow a smile to bloom.
- When you walk somewhere, try to be aware of your breathing and your steps. Are they peaceful steps or harsh ones? Can you allow yourself to slow down and make a trip to the bathroom an occasion for walking meditation?
- Many things happen every day that you can use as bells of mindfulness: the doorbell, the telephone, sounds on your computer, turning on a light, flushing a toilet, and so on. Let each one be an occasion to notice your breathing and allow some mindful in- and out-breaths. When the telephone rings, let it ring two or three times before you answer it. This is a great contradiction to our conditioning. Remember, if they really want to talk with you, they won't hang up! One of my students who spends a lot of time in meetings uses picking up his pencil asa bell of mindfulness and even had special pencils made up that have Breathe embossed on them.
- If you work on a computer, create a screen saver that encourages mindfulness - perhaps a photo of ?owers or animals, or scrolling, suggestive words like breathe or mindful every moment. Play around with this. The Wash-ington (D.C.) Mindfulness Community has a "mindful clock" program available on its website that can sound a bell on your computer hourly or every fifteen minutes as a reminder. This program is very effective and many of my computer-worker students love it.
- Approach your lunch and dinner with the same mindfulness with which you approached breakfast. A few mindful breaths before you start eating might be helpful. During the meal try to be aware of chewing your food. Pause between swallowing one bite of food and picking up the next one. Spend at least five minutes of your meal in silence. If you do have a conversation, keep the topics light and supportive; especially try to avoid arguments or angry exchanges.
- During your lunchtime, allow yourself some enjoyable time in addition to your meal. Talk with a friend, perhaps, or take a walk. Whatever you do, as you do it, see if you can be aware of your breathing. Slow yourself down, and relax.
- When you are ready to leave your day's activities, take a moment to appreciate what you've done that day in being mindful in your work or school or day's tasks. Consider how you can build on that the next day.
- Help to make your trip home a transition time by slowing down. Walk mindfully and be aware of your breathing. Try to allow a smile to be there. Notice the quality of the air, and see if you can accept it for what it is - cold, hot, wet, dry - without resisting it or trying to make it different. Allow your attention to be with your surroundings.
- Try being aware of your feelings and thoughts as you approach home, and take a few mindful breaths before you open the door. Make this transition a conscious one, and notice what it feels like to be home and how that feels different from being at work or school or at your daily tasks.
- If you watch television at night, why not turn down the sound during commercials or between programs? Close your eyes, and allow yourself some mindful breaths. Get up and take a mindful walk to the kitchen or bathroom. If you're reading, try stopping every half-hour. Close your eyes for a minute or so, and bring your attention back to your breath; become more aware of the room and the noises or silence of your home. If you're with your family, try giving yourself some mini-occasions to breathe mindfully and relax.
- If you have a bell of mindfulness in your house, you can encourage it to sound several times during the evening to slow yourself and your family down.
- As you go to bed and prepare for sleep, take some mindful breaths, become aware of the bed supporting you, and allow yourself a smile. Feel the muscles of your body relaxing as you sink into your bed. Try letting go of the past day's activities and of your anticipation of tomorrow. See whether you can end the day with a smile.
Bell of Mindfulness
In my meditation classes we use a bell as one way to help us focus our attention. You can use this same tool at home. The bell can provide an enjoyable and easy way to share the practices of mindfulness with your family and to get their support. To do this, instruct your family members that each sound of the bell is a signal for them to stop what they are doing and to enjoy taking three in- and out-breaths. You can invite different family members to be responsible for sounding the bell at different times during the day or on different days. Every time the bell sounds, each member of your family will be reminded to return to his or her breathing, and this reminder will reinforce your mindfulness as well as the atmosphere of mindfulness in your household.
The kind of bell that we use in my meditation class is called a Japanese rin gong. It is a small bowl made of spun brass and comes with a small cushion and a small stick. We use the stick to "invite" the bell to sound. The stick is the "inviter. "The phrase invite the bell to sound comes from the Vietnamese language and custom. It suggests treating the bell with a lot more respect than the expressions hitting the bell or striking the bell. Would you hit or strike something or someone that you care about? Inviting the bell to sound creates a different, more mindful relationship.
When you invite the bell, here is a gatha you can use to help focus your attention. Say it silently to yourself, and coordinate each line with your breath:
Voice of the bell, voice of my heart, (breathing in)I invite your sound to awaken me. (breathing out)May all beings live in mindfulness, (breathing in) Our hearts open and minds clear. (breathing out)
When you hear the bell, try saying this gatha silently to yourself:Listen, listen... (breathing in) The sound of this bell brings me back to my true self. (breathing out)
Repeat this two-line gatha for three in- and out-breaths.Keep the bell in a special place where everyone can find it. If you have children, it is especially helpful to let them be the keepers of the bell. Parents have told me that their children will invite the bell whenever there is tension in the house or whenever someone begins shouting or behaving in a hurtful way; the bell becomes the children's way of saying "Stop," and it is very helpful.
When you invite the bell, first touch the bell with the inviter and hold it on the bell, so you create a "stopped" sound. That's a signal that the bell is about to sound. Then, use the inviter to invite the bell to a full sound, and you and everyone around you can enjoy your breathing.
Anything that reminds us to bring our attention to the present moment is a true bell of mindfulness. Becoming aware of my discursive thinking or the sound of the telephone ringing, engaging in daily-life mindfulness activities of any type - all have the capacity to assist me tobe in the present moment, to be truly mindful. The next time you find that your mind is wandering, try returning to your breath; you return to the present moment, and mindfulness is there, even if only for an instant. Doing this is a key to good practice.
Home Play Formal practice: Create a sitting meditation place for yourself at home. Try doing sitting meditation for five minutes in the morning after you get up and for five minutes in the evening, either after dinner or before bedtime. See whether you are a morning sitter or an evening sitter. Perhaps you are both! Morning sitting sets us up well for our day. Evening sitting helps us clear the thoughts and feelings that have come up during the day. During your five minutes of sitting, try using the exercise of counting the breath.
Informal practice: Take one item from the list of daily-life mindfulness activities. Do your best to remain mindful every time you do that activity throughout the week. Notice how your relationship to that activity changes over time with your mindful attention.
Excerpted from: BEGINNING MINDFULNESS: Learning the Way of Awareness
By: Andrew Weiss, Trade PaperPublished by New World Library -
About the Author
Meditation teacher Andrew Weiss has studied Buddhist meditation for many years in the United States, Europe, and Asia. He studied with Zen Master Seung Sahn, the founder of the Kawn Um School of Zen and teacher to American Buddhist teachers Larry Rosenberg and Jon Kabbat-Zinn. In 1989 he met Thich Nhat Hanh and in 1991 was ordained a brother in the Vietnamese teacher's Order of Interbeing. Weiss is a founder of the Community of Interbeing in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is the founder and practice coordinator for the Clock Tower Sangha in Maynard, Massachusetts. He teaches mindfulness meditation at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education and at the New England School of Whole Health Education, where he also serves as Dean of Faculty.
Click below to e-mail this article to a friend
or to post a link on your favorite sites.
Shop by Keywords Above or by Categories Below.
| * * * IN-HOUSE RESOURCES * * *|