Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Weaving Mindfulness Into Daily Life

There are many practices designed to weave mindfulness and kindness into one's daily life. Some examples include:

  • Attending whole-heartedly to an activity that you perform every day but don't actually pay attention to, like brushing your teeth or washing the dishes. Just doing such an activity every day for a week without getting lost in thoughts about the past and future gives one a taste of what mindfulness is like, and how it can be present during basic activities of one's daily life.
  • Using simple but common everyday experiences as reminders to be mindful. For example, instead of automatically answering a phone, you can use the first ring as an opportunity to check in with your current level of stress and mindfulness, and the next ring as an opportunity to take a breath and become more mindful befor answering.                                  
  • Reading the examples above, you might think, "Come on, that's silly. How can little things like that make any difference?" But if it's all about reconditioning your mind and brain, then every time you tap into the inner resource of mindfulness, you've conditioned your mind and brain in that moment, which shapes the conditions of the next moment, and increases the probability that mindfulness will arise when you need it in the future.                                                    

  • Using driving as an opportunity to cultivate mindfulness in daily life. For many people, driving typically involves not just driving but listening to the radio, talking on the phone, getting lost in memories and plans, etc. Especially if you are in a rush, driving can create stress and even result in anger and aggression toward other drivers. But driving can be an opportunity to whole-heartedly pay attention to the experience of driving, including how you react to the behavior of other drivers. When used as an opportunity to practice mindfulness and kindness (e.g., thinking toward other drivers, even aggressive ones, "may you be happy, may you be free of stress"), driving can be an opportunity to neutralize bad habits, cultivate helpful skills, and arrive at your destination more mindful, calm, and kind than when you got into your car. Again, though some this may sound corny at first, with the right motivation and some discipline, you really can begin changing the way your mind and brain act in response to things that would normally stress you out and stir up negative emotions and memories.                                                                                            
  • There are many practices designed to transform experiences of negative emotions into opportunities to experience and cultivate mindfulness, lovingkindness and compassion. For example, in Pema Chodron's books and tapes (see the section, "Recommended Books, CDs/Tapes, and Articles"), she teaches practices that work with imagination and breathing to transform experiences of sadness, helplessness or anger into experiences of empathy for yourself – and the millions of other people around the world who are experiencing that same feeling at that same moment. Maybe that sounds far-fetched right now. But with a foundation of mindfulness practice and a disciplined effort to remember such practices when you most need them, in your daily life and relationships, it really is possible to use unwanted and painful experiences to cultivate greater kindness toward yourself and others
Source: Jim Hopper, Ph.D.
              Last revised, 2/3/2012  

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