I was eating at an Ethiopian restaurant yesterday. For those not familiar with that cuisine, the food is served on thin pancakes and one is supposed to eat one’s dinner with the right hand. For me it was a painful exercise in overcoming my conditionings. The table went quiet: a measure of the concentration we all needed to not eat warm food with knife and fork. We were suddenly fully there: eating.
In this post I’m stepping away from the abstract philosophical to the practical every day. One of the ways we complicate our lives is by lack of mindfulness, not being ‘in the moment’. Sometimes this is OK. It isn’t really a problem to not be aware of your chair when you’re online. Now that you’ve just read that, you probably ARE aware of your chair. Perhaps you’re sitting a bit straighter as well. That’s the start of mindfulness.
The exercises below are meant for those times when you are so fluttered you bump into doors and chairs, for instance. Or when you just can’t get that quarrel with a colleague out of your head. These are all exercises I’ve tried, but I certainly don’t pretend to do them daily or even in all cases successfully. Just something to work with to get back to yourself.
- Mind your feet while you’re grocery shopping. (my yoga teacher)
- Mind your chair while you’re typing.
- When going through a door, think ‘I am I’ (Fourth Way exercise)
- When putting on your shoes, try and put on the one you usually put on second first. (also Fourth Way, Ravi Ravindra)
- Drink your tea without sugar if you’re used to sugar in your tea. If you’re used to no sugar, just once put in sugar. Works with coffee too obviously. The point is, like the previous one, to become aware of patterns and how hard it is to break them (Jiddu Krishnamurti). The point is NOT to change the pattern. A new pattern is just as much a pattern as the old one. Just create a bit more flexibility.
- When you have to wait for something (grocery line, pc starting up etc.) breath consciously.
- Cleaning the house: be aware of every step of cleaning.
- Keep a diary of your thoughts and feelings. The goal isn’t to create literature, but to observe. So don’t mind repetition.
- Notice… take a deep breath; notice five things you can see. Notice five things you can hear; Notice five things you can feel (shoes, pants, hair against forehead etc.)
- When you’re annoyed at waiting for a stopping sign, or anything else for that matter, just SMILE (Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Buddhism)
In all these cases the point isn’t to beat yourself over the head if you can’t do it consistently. Just try – the trying is the exercise. As you can see, mindfulness doesn’t have to be about meditation.