Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment. This awareness helps us recognise what is happening inside of us (body, mind, emotions) and around us in every moment.
When I first discovered mindfulness, I only practiced it on my yoga mat or meditation cushion. I would feel very peaceful while I meditated or practiced yoga, then as soon as I stepped out into the world I would feel anger and anxiety at the traffic and busy streets. I didn't know that there was another way to be in the world.
Sometime later during a day of mindfulness in Melbourne, I practiced mindful tea drinking for the first time. As a group we sat peacefully and enjoyed our tea in silence. As I sipped my tea, I had a big 'aha' moment. Tears streamed down my face as I realised that mindfulness is not just for the yoga mat or cushion, it is a way of life. My perception to my way of life forever changed that day. I experienced a breakthrough and they were tears of relief, relief that there is another way to live, a more peaceful and joyful way than I had been living all my adult life.
Over the last 4 years, as I've nourished my mindfulness energy, my practice has brought more peace and joy into all areas of my life. I know how to take better care of my anger and anxiety, my family relationships have improved, I find peace in my daily activities, and I have a deeper appreciation of nature and the people I love. I also now enjoy sharing this peaceful way of life with others.
In my mindfulness practice, I enjoy having a daily organic formal practice, which changes day to day and includes sitting meditation, mindful walking, yoga, Qi Gong and Tai Chi. I also enjoy practicing mindfulness informally by bringing it into my everyday activities. I find that my formal and informal practices nourish and support each other.
I'd like to share five simple ways I've been incorporating mindfulness into my daily life over the years.
1. Waking Up
The first thing I do when I wake up is breathe and smile. I feel grateful to wake up with a new day ahead. I often recite a gatha (poem/verse) from my mindfulness teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh:
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.
Reciting this gatha while I breathe and smile helps me let go of any anxiety I may feel about the day ahead. It brings me peace and calmness and I carry this peace with me as I sit up, place my feet on the floor, and take my first steps of the day.
As I step into the shower I practice smiling. My smile nourishes my gratitude for having fresh clean running water. My smile also helps me be present so I can enjoy the feeling of the warm or cool water on my skin. I step out of the shower feeling flower-fresh in body and mind.
My mindfulness teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, asked us “Why rush? Our final destination will only be the graveyard.” This reminds me to go slowly in life and especially when I drive. I try to always stay at the speed limit and give myself lots of space between my car and the car in front of me. When I stop at the red light, I smile at my old habit energy of irritation and use the red light as my ‘bell of mindfulness’ to bring my mind home to my body with my breath. Speed humps used to annoy me but I recently added a new driving practice to enjoy them! I slow down the car to peacefully drive over them while at the same time slowing down my mind with deep and calm breaths.
3. Preparing and Eating Meals
I really enjoy preparing my meals at home with fresh, organic and wholesome ingredients. In the past I would rush through cooking and be irritated at how long it takes. Now with mindfulness, I enjoy each task. Smiling also helps. Sometimes I catch myself with my grumpy face, and then I smile with gratitude to have delicious fresh produce. I smile at the vegetables and reflect on the journey they have taken and the elements (rain, sun, earth, clouds), farmers etc.) that have nurtured them. Then when I sit down to eat, I take away any distractions (TV, phone, books, newspapers) and eat just to eat. Between each mouthful I place my fork down and focus only on the food in my mouth, chewing slowly and enjoying the waves of tastes and textures. Eating without any distractions makes the food become real and I appreciate and enjoy my meals immensely. I've noticed that I eat less now too.
5. Queuing Up
While I am waiting in a queue at the supermarket or the post office, I try to practice “non-waiting”. I become aware of my habit of reaching for my phone to distract myself and leave my phone in my bag. Instead of checking my phone, I stand peacefully and enjoy my breath, being aware of what’s happening inside me and around me. Then when it’s my turn to be served, I am ready to offer my smile, peace and freshness to the cashier.
I'd love to hear about your informal mindfulness practices. How do you bring mindfulness into your everyday life?
A lotus to you, Buddhas to be,