“Sitting and watching our breath is a wonderful practice, but it is
not enough. For transformation to take place, we have to practice
mindfulness all day long, not just on our meditation cushion.”
Thich Nhat Hanh in The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching
Right Mindfulness is one aspect of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path,
which is the way to well-being. Other aspects are Right Thinking, Right
View, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Diligence, Right Concentration,
and Right Livelihood.
How much of
phenomenal world can you focus your mind upon at one time? Only so much
come into awareness at one time. Awareness is like a searchlight. It
a spot and scans the space around it seeking other objects upon which
focus. Once focus shifts to a new object, focus on the last one is
Since we live surrounded by stimuli demanding our attention, we hop our
consciousness around from one object to the next. We may think we are
but the process is jumping back and forth from one task or object of
perception to another. As we move through our day, consciousness may be
a blur as
we zip from one thought, observation, emotion or action to another.
As we blow through our
daily routine like a small tornado of competing thoughts, desires,
and sensations, we can easily lose ourselves. We lose track of our
intention. We respond out of habit rather than conscious wise choice,
and we perform less effectively in our tasks than we would if they had
our full attention.
When we practice
mindfulness, we lose the disharmony of competing mental activities.
Rather than moving dreamlike through confusing experiences, we are
awake. Our awareness grows more coherent. Our actions performed with
intention are more likely to
be effective and less tainted by unwanted consequences.
In order to become
physically stronger we exercise our muscles. In order to become a
we must practice. In order to be more awake in our lives we practice
Sitting in meditation
prepares us for mindfulness in action. Being mindful moment to moment
while doing what we do is both practice and the end of practice. There
are many meditation activities to encourage mindfulness.* The
essence is coming back
to the present moment, remembering to be present.
Try starting your day
with mindfulness. When you wake up, gather your intention, sit up and
aware of your body. If you need a stretch, stretch with awareness. When
you find yourself distracted, bring your awareness back to your body
your movements. Proceed with your morning routine and hold your
on what you are doing, feeling and thinking. You may find it easier to
present in activity by slowing down. You can do each activity as if it
a ritual. Brushing your teeth can become a ritual cleansing rather than
a haphazard chore to get through as quickly as possible. Note each step
in the process. You could say to yourself. “I am preparing to brush my
I am picking up my toothbrush. I am unscrewing the cap. I am squeezing
I am putting down the toothpaste. I am wetting the brush. I am brushing
my upper teeth,” and so on.
Try eating breakfast
with more awareness of eating breakfast. If you read the newspaper
while eating breakfast, just eat and read the newspaper. Be in the
process; be in the experience. Keep pulling yourself back to awareness:
*For additional mindfulness meditations see these books:
Thich, Nhat Hanh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching
, especially Chapter 11, Right Mindfulness.
Jon Kabat Zinn, Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness
Meditation in Everyday Life .
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© 2002 Tom Barrett