As mindfulness becomes more and more popular in our daily lives, many are attending retreats and workshops to learn mindful techniques.
Still, it seems that our work days are crazy and losing the balance of our mind might appear to be so easy.
For the lay practitioner who is looking for ways to integrate mindfulness into day-to-day modern lifestyles, here’s a few simple techniques:
We all walk during our day. Walking is our main motor function for moving ourselves from place to place. This gives us plenty of opportunity to practice walking meditation. We do not need to wait for the next retreat in order for someone to tell us where, when and how to walk.
We can walk to or from the subway or public transportation during our commute to work, to or from the office when we go to lunch at midday or together with family and pets in the evening for a nice stroll in the park.
Remember the principles of the practice—purposefully slow down your walking pace so that you are only taking two or three steps per in-breath and out-breath. Pay close attention to your mindstream. When you see that it is deviating from focusing on the practice, pull it back and place your focus gently on the task at hand. You may even recite some mantra or gatha for connecting to or appreciating the practice of walking and touching the Earth. Perhaps you may be able to remember some from that last retreat.
Eat Mindfully at Least One Meal a Day.
Once again, we all eat. Incorporating an eating meditation into your daily schedule can be great for sharing your practice with friends, since it’s better to enjoy meals with company. Remember that mindful eating is about tasting every bite, chewing and savoring purposefully with patience. A good rule of thumb is to chew each mouthful at least 13 to 15 times, and to chew at least one mouthful 50 to 60 times. This really slows down your meal and allows you to fully focus on eating.
What’s more important than allowing your mind to fully focus on eating—because most likely your mind might be busy thinking about all manner of things—is allowing your body to focus on eating. In this way, we are using our bodies and the processes of our body to reign in our mind and allow it to relax. When you catch yourself thinking about that meeting this afternoon, or what your colleagues said this morning, there is a perfect opportunity to release that idea and bring your attention back to the present moment and your task: feeding yourself.
Make Space at Home to Sit.
Sitting doesn’t have to be all that long, and it’s really not too arduous. Ideally, for a working professional, a 20 to 30 minute sit is perfect. Establishing this practice four to five times a week will provide huge benefits in mental clarity, concentration and attention—not to mention stress maintenance, presence and a host of other psychological aspects of day to day living.
There are a slew of mobile apps that have been designed to provide sounds similar to Tibetan bells alongside timers, specifically made to appeal to the modern day meditateur. Most of these are free of charge. Some even provide reminders to let you know how many days it’s been since you last used the timer. Downloading one of these can be a huge asset towards maintaining a regular sitting practice.
For some, family might get in the way. Kids or the spouse, sometimes the pets, provide infinite distractions. Explaining to these people that this time is your time for yourself is perfectly legitimate. This is a good opportunity to outline personal boundaries and to discuss the importance of respecting each others’ space.
Animals may at first be very curious and sometimes concerned about your sudden periods of sitting in stillness. They may make great efforts to distract you. Consider all distractions a test. Seeing them as manifestations of the habits or barriers you need to breakthrough will provide very enlightening once those distractions begin to disappear. In time, your family will learn to respect your space. You may even find your practice contagious—others will join you during your time of quiet reflection and contemplation.
Take Breaks from Work Every 30-45 Minutes.
Part of being mindful is not being so engrossed in work that you burn yourself out. There are variety of ways to do this. Most importantly, it’s good to take a break for a drink: coffee, tea or water. Sit outside in the sun, or just enjoy whatever the weather is today. Leaving the desk is critical—just move your body somewhere else. A good stretch can work wonders. Talking to colleagues can spark ideas and creativity, plus it’s good for team building to maintain lines of communication.
Your office’s culture might initially be very resistant to mindful working habits. Colleagues and managers who are less aware might initially initiate provocation. Beginning by explaining mindfulness, habit transformation and healthy working habits is a good start.
If the problems persist, it may be a good sign that you’re ready for a new job at a more enlightened company. More likely, you’ll find yourself becoming a transformative agent in your workspace, changing your company’s culture for the better. Many companies are looking for ways to add an edge against competition—mindfulness is absolutely a great way to accomplish this.
There are more mobile apps and techniques for managing workflow. One of the most popular today is the “Pomodoro Technique,”‘ which is basically breaking up work into chunks of 15 to 20 minutes using a timer that looks like a tomato. Grabbing one of these apps will give you a great little tool for managing workflow and maintaining healthy levels of stress.
Remember that mindfulness is about appreciating life, appreciating yourself and appreciating your family, friends and colleagues. It’s about living in the present and not being carried away by all of the little distractions, hopes and fears that pop up throughout our day.
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Editor: Travis May
Photo: Wiki Commons