The ring of a bell is a familiar sound to meditators; an invitation to settle and become aware, it marks the start of a formal meditation practice. When I hear the chime, I find myself more awake to my immediate experience, my breath, my body, my thoughts and my feelings.
A helpful way to include mindfulness in daily life is to use ‘bells’, or cues, as a reminder to become aware. It can be an object you keep in your bag or on your desk, a particular activity you do regularly (for example answering the phone or opening a door), a reminder on your phone, a post-it note on your fridge, there are so many ways to scatter bells throughout the day.
When the bell rings, take a mindful pause to check in with yourself. Notice your breathing. How does your body feel? Feel the contact between your body and the surface you’re resting on, your feet grounded on the floor or your weight dropping down through your sitting bones. What are you thinking? What are you feeling? Notice your senses, what can you hear or see? You can do one or all of these. Even just pausing to notice a couple of breaths is beneficial as it interrupts the habitual and automatic, but often unhelpful, doing mode.
I have a pebble that was given to me on the last retreat I attended. We were guided through a mini meditation using our pebble, paying attention to its appearance, weight and texture, whilst also being aware of our breath. The retreat leader suggested we take our pebble home and place it somewhere it would remind us to take a mindful pause. I’ve had it close by all day. Each time I’ve seen it or touched it I’ve found my awareness deepening and I’ve felt more engaged with the present moment. It is such a simple yet effective idea. Those mini moments of mindfulness really do add up.