Daily Exercises in Mindfulness
Years ago, I woke up in Porto, Portugal and stumbled out of the house for a morning coffee. Still in a “London-rhythm”, I asked for my order to be in a take-away cup. That’s how we have coffee in London. We order coffee, it is made in about 120 seconds, and then we rush out. The Portuguese barista responded with an incredulous stare, whilst my friend calmly explained that in Portugal, people don’t ‘take coffee’ in that way. There were no paper cups at the coffee shop. People here sit down. And make time. For coffee. I realised urban life had robbed me of one of the simplest rituals in a day and that indeed, it was possible, to make 5 minutes and turn this into a ritual. Likewise, there are many ways integrate a mindfulness practice into daily life. Here are 7 ways to explore mindfulness and "micro-meditate" throughout the day.
1. Whilst showering / brushing teeth. instead of pondering the day's tasks or what you need to do next, take time to fully notice the movements of cleansing. Meditate on self-care, for example "I cleanse this body as the vessel of my consciousness." or "I cleanse this body to practice good action." or "I cleanse this mouth so I may speak positively." Bring awareness to the feelings and sensations in your body, from hand to mouth, teeth - what are you tasting, smelling, seeing and hearing?
2. Commuting to work. Turn the most mundane commute into a practice of peace, patience and adventure. Instead of lamenting a late bus or train, what if you took time to gaze at the sky? Instead of feeling crowded by those around you, view fellow commuters not as separate, but as equals. Here’s a few other tips by Zuzu Perkal.
3. Eating. Practice sophisticated gratitude for the experience of eating. Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh taught a wonderful technique of "looking, or seeing, deeply into your food." When sitting down for a meal, look at each component of your plate and take a minute or two to reflect deeply on all the steps that were necessary for them to reach you at this very moment. Where did the food come from, how was it grown, how far did it travel and how was it prepared? Whilst eating, be a silent 'food critic', chewing slowly. Carefully pay attention to flavours and sensations that arise with each individual bite. Observe texture, taste, smell, sound.
4. At work. Throughout the day, notice posture and any sources of tension in your body, for example, in your neck, shoulders, stomach, lower back or jaw. See if you can breathe into them and adjust your body for alertness, poise, empowerment and collaboration. When sitting down for a meeting, set an intention for a positive outcome. Start all conversations with a smile.
5. Tidying up the house. From de-cluttering the wardrobe, to vacuuming, to wiping surfaces, to scrubbing the bathroom tub - what if you turned tidying into an activity of mindfulness and joy? I like Marie Kondo’s philosophy in “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. She encourages recognizing each object in your home as you clean for its use and value. This enables you to clean with gratitude, and let things go that no longer "spark joy".
6. Doing dishes. When doing dishes, treat each item as an object of contemplation, not duty. Reflect on it’s practical use, give thanks for what it enables you to do. See what happens if you adjust your mindset to appreciation - for the water, for the temperature of the water, for each dish. Consider each object as sacred and helpful to your day. View repetitive motions as a rhythm and transform the practice into a meditation.
7. Having a cup of tea / coffee. Make time for this as daily ceremony for yourself. Instead of rushing to work, allow yourself to sit down, experience and observe. How does the cup feel in your hands? Inhale the sensuality of the aroma. Place and lift the cup gently, and with grace. Devote this time to cultivating an abundance mindset. There is enough time. There is enough space.
With my love, Dinésha