Mindfulness is something we may associate with sitting meditation practice. Even if you do meditate, chances are that you spend most of your day off the cushion and engaging with the world around you. If you’re not one for meditation, that’s perfectly alright. Whether or not you can find a meditation group near you, you can practice building awareness in your everyday life.
There are many ways we can cultivate mindfulness in our daily lives and interactions with work, family, and everyday obligations. Here are a few methods I use in my daily life to build mindfulness, return to the present moment, and free myself from the chaos of the thinking mind.
Pick One Daily Task
This practice is one of choosing a single trigger for awareness. You can pick something you do regularly, and use it as a time of mindfulness practice. You may try doing this with the act of brushing your teeth, hearing a phone ring (or vibrate), or eating. Whatever you choose, try to be fully present while doing the task.
You can do this by bringing your attention to the present moment. When you come across your awareness trigger, pause and see what is present for you. Try noticing the posture of the body (sitting, standing, walking, etc.), the feeling of the body breathing, and any sounds going on. You may also just take a quick note of the mental state. Are you calm, agitated, anxious, or lost in thought? There’s no right or wrong answer; just investigate what is going on for you in this moment!
Return to the Breath
The breath is a common anchor of awareness in meditation practice, and we can always return to it outside of formal meditation as well. Take a moment right now to see where in the body you can feel the breath naturally. You don’t need to breathe in any certain way; just let the body do the breathing.
Some people feel the breath most strongly in the stomach and abdomen. Others may feel it in the chest most, or at the nostrils. No single place is better than another, so see what your experience is. During your day, you can always return to this mindfulness of the breath practice. Tune into your spot in the body and just take a few breaths.
I like to take three breaths when I pause during my day. Make an effort to be with the breath from the beginning of the inhale all the way through to the end of the exhale. You don’t need to figure anything out or really do anything at all. Just be present with the experience of breathing.
Notice the Movement
Whether you sit in front of a computer all day or are up and moving, you can bring mindfulness to the experience of moving. There is a lot of movement going on throughout our days, and it can be a different way to investigate mindfulness of the body.
You can start by noticing when the body changes posture. That is, notice when you move from sitting to standing, standing to sitting, or standing to walking. Tune into the movement of the skeleton, muscles, and body as a whole. See if you can just be present with what it feels like to be moving in the body! Try to bring some curiosity to this practice.
Stop and Listen
We may not think of the sense-door of hearing when we think of mindfulness. The word mindfulness generally brings up an image of somebody focusing on their breath or the body. However, we can bring mindfulness to the experience of hearing as well!
Take a moment to stop and listen to the noises going on around you. We can train the mind to be present by slowing down and just listening for a moment. We can listen to the sounds going on in the room we’re in or outside. We may notice if the sounds are human-made or of nature. You may also try this practice when somebody else is speaking. Really make it a practice of yours to be present in listening when somebody is talking.
Set a Mindfulness Reminder
This is another practice I use regularly. Most of us are near technology in some form almost all day long. Use your technology by setting a reminder or alarm on your phone to pause and be mindful. You can set an alarm for a random time during your day and pause to do any of the above-mentioned practices. Maybe you have time to stop and try a 5 minute meditation during your day.
Whatever you decide to do when your alarm goes off use it as an opportunity to give the mind and body some rest, simply being with whatever your experience is in that moment. Tune into the breath, feel the body, or listen to the noises going on around you.
If you can incorporate even one of these practices into your daily life, you can make mindfulness more of a habit in your life. You’ll eventually find the mind settling into present-time awareness by itself, without you needing to prompt it.
Matthew Sockolov is an empowered Buddhist meditation teacher, and offers one on one mindfulness coaching to individuals who wish to deepen their meditation practice.
Infographic authored by Synchronicity Foundation for Modern Spirituality. To view the original post, Free Infographic: How to Meditate.