Day 13 Meditation
For today’s meditation, choose an activity you do each day that doesn’t very long when you do it: brushing your teeth, washing your face, brushing your hair. As you do this activity, bring your attention to your body, to your emotional state, to your thinking, to the quality of relaxation or stress. See if you can use the activity as a meditation, a time of coming into the moment, paying attention to your actual experience, learning about yourself, taking an interest and fully experiencing the simple things in life.
If your mind kicks into high gear and you feel in a rush to get through your task, see if you can take a few breaths, and even if at a quicker pace, begin again and bring your attention to the sensations.
You may be surprised by what you find in slowing down and paying more attention moment by moment. Do you feel calm? Bored? Notice your emotions as they come and go— impatience, weariness, resentment, contentment. You may notice that many judgments come to mind as well. Note these thoughts, and let them go.
Question & Answer
Q: I can’t seem to maintain a mindfulness practice throughout the day, how can I sustain it for longer?
A: For most of us, mindfulness is fleeting. We manage it for a moment, and then we’re gone again for a long period of time, preoccupied with the past, the future, our worries; we see the world through the goggles of long-held assumptions. What we’re doing in practice is working to shift the ratio, so that we can gather and focus our attention more frequently. Mindfulness isn’t difficult; we just need to remember to do it.
Welcome back. A friend told me once that he’d decided to make brushing his teeth a mindfulness exercise. The first thing he noticed, he said, was that he was holding onto the toothbrush so tightly it might have been a jackhammer about to leave his hand. It was a clue for him that he might be bringing excessive stress to many of his activities each day. We take the lessons we learn in one activity and see what they might reveal for us about many activities, about the patterns of automatic pilot that might be present in many ways in our lives, and what we might observe when we’re open to our experience moment by moment.
Choose an activity you do each day that doesn’t take a long time each time you do it. Brushing your teeth, washing your face, brushing your hair. As you do this activity, bring your attention to your body, to your emotional state, to your thinking, to the quality of relaxation or stress. See if you can use that activity as a meditation, a time of coming into the moment, paying attention to your actual experience, learning about yourself, taking an interest, and fully experiencing the simple things in life.
We’ll try a few different examples. If you prepare something like a cup of tea, you can use it as a time of meditation. First, observe the cup color, shape. Put your hands around the teacup. Feel the warmth. You can smell the tea. Lift the cup, take a sip. You can taste the tea. You can feel the warmth as you swallow. You may notice many judgments come up in your time. “I chose the wrong tea. I drink too much tea.” Whatever it might be, you can allow them to come and to go. Simply return to the actual direct experience in the moment just now. Then, the next sip.
How many times do we do something where we’re just disconnected, we’re not even really there? How many times do we go along on automatic pilot without awareness of our moment-to-moment experience? We’re drinking a cup of tea, reading the newspaper, checking our email, having a conversation, listening to the radio, all at the same time. Where is the taste of that tea? In this exercise, we try to be more fully present just with one activity.