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Meditation and mindfulness in everyday life

17 08 2006

ZenAnything you do or experience can provide you with an opportunity to practice mindfulness. But you may want to begin with some of your usual activities - the ones you may be doing now on automatic pilot while you daydream, space out, or obsess. The truth is, even the most routine tasks can prove enjoyable when you do them with wholehearted care and attention. Here’s a list of common activities with a few suggestions for infusing them with mindfulness:

Washing the dishes: If you set aside your judgments, which may insist you should be doing something more meaningful or constructive with your time, and instead simply wash the dishes - or sweep the floor or scrub the tub - you may find that you actually enjoy the activity. Feel the contours of the plates and bowls as you clean them. Notice the smell and the slipperiness of the soap, the sounds of the utensils, the satisfying feeling of removing the old food and leaving the dishes clean and ready for use.

Working at your computer: As you become engrossed in the information flashing across your screen, you may find yourself losing touch with your body and your surroundings. Pause every now and then to follow your breathing and notice how you’re sitting. If you’re starting to tense up and crane your head forward, gently straighten your spine and relax your body.

Driving your car: What could possibly be more stressful than navigating an automobile through heavy traffic? Besides the constant stop and go, you need to be aware of potential problems in every direction, any one of which could pose a threat to your safety. Yet, you add to the stress of driving when you hurry to get to your destination faster than you realistically can and then get angry and impatient in the process.

As an antidote to the stress, you can practice mindfulness while you drive. Take a few deep breaths before you start and return to your breathing again and again as you consciously let go of tension and stress. Feel the steering wheel in your hands, the pressure of your feet against the pedals, the weight of your body against the seat. Notice any tendency to criticize other drivers, to space out, to become angry or impatient. Pay attention to how the music or talk shows you listen to affect your mood as you drive. When you wake up and pay attention, you may be surprised to realize that you and the people around you are actually piloting these two-thousand-pound chunks of plastic and steel with precious, vulnerable beings inside. And you may feel more inclined to drive mindfully and safely as a result.

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