“Waking up this morning, I smile.
Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.
I vow to live fully each moment
and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.”
(‘Peace is Every Breath’ – Thich Nhat Hanh)
In mindfulness training we often talk about formal and informal practice. Formal practice involves sitting for an allotted time, using an audio or self-guiding your way through a meditation, for example a breathing anchor or body scan exercise. It is when key techniques and concepts are learnt and experienced as a mindful way of being is nurtured. Informal practice takes place in ‘real life’. It involves bringing mindful awareness, developed in the formal practice, into the activities of everyday living. It is no less essential than the formal practice and is often where the magic happens. I frequently experience ‘a-ha’ moments at this time, perhaps when a seed I planted in my formal training comes to fruition in my day to day life.
“If one really wants to keeps one’s consciousness alive, then one must practise right now in one’s daily life, not only during meditation sessions.”
In the ‘Miracle of Mindfulness’ the Vietnamese Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh, suggests reserving a day each week to devote entirely to mindfulness. This sounds a tall order, but perhaps is a little less unrealistic when you consider what it actually means; living in the moment and bringing awareness to whatever it is you are doing. A whole day of mindfulness is probably still out of reach for most of us, outside of a retreat setting, but the principle can be used to scatter mindfulness throughout the day. When you wash, notice the temperature of the water on your skin, the scent of the soap, the sound of the water splashing. When you get dressed or sort laundry, notice the different textures, colours and weights of the fabrics. What sensations do you feel when you brush your teeth? Do you always hold the brush in the same hand? Are you even aware which hand you use? When you make a hot drink, wait for the kettle to fully boil. Notice if a feeling of impatience arises and an urge to flick off the switch before it finishes. Watch the feeling come and go with curiosity. When you prepare and eat a meal, notice the colours, textures, aromas, sounds and tastes. Pause before eating to soak them up into your awareness. Savour the first mouthful. When you’re cleaning, gardening, carrying a child, notice how you move. Are you aware of your body? Are you moving with your breath? When you travel, notice your surroundings; the landscape, the people, the weather. Pause throughout the day. Take a breath. What is happening? What are you thinking, feeling and experiencing?
I’m yet to devote an entire day to the practice, but I have dedicated a morning to mindfulness and I regularly include both formal and informal practices into my day. They help me develop a sense of spaciousness to fully experience my life. Rather than taking time, they seem to create time, giving me renewed clarity to fully engage with whatever it is I am experiencing.
“After you have worked in the garden, or watched clouds, or gathered flowers, prepare a pot of tea to sit and drink in mindfulness.”
See My Toolbox for more ideas on bringing mindfulness into your day.