As we near the end of January (already!), I thought I would share a few ideas how I keep my practice alive day to day… and invite some of your ideas too!
One thing many of us may relate to is feeling like there isn’t enough time to sit and practice. That’s where I love this phrase, “short moment, many times.” Sharon Salzberg has mentioned it in a few places, including in one of her books:
Q Can we benefit from meditation practices if we limit them to small pockets of time during the day, such as the commute to and from work?
A Yes, we do benefit from small pockets of practice. One of my Tibetan meditation teachers counseled, “Short moments many times,” as a way to make progress in meditation. What I find personally though, is that if I have a period of time dedicated specifically to meditation, say ten to twenty minutes in the morning, I am much more likely to remember to be aware of my breath or my emotions when commuting or periodically throughout the day during different activities.Sharon Salzberg, Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace, Chapter 1 Q&A
I have mentioned throughout the month some of the ways I do this. The first few bites of a meal. Washing dishes. Standing in line. Washing my hands. Drinking tea. (There are more, but you get the idea.)
Andrea Fella brings in various ways to be mindful in the day. She has a couple of articles available:
- Mind Your Life! An exploration of practices for daily life:
- Daily Life Practice Retreat handout:
A few things I appreciate from Andrea Fella’s teachings:
- She suggests picking a simple activity that takes a few minutes to be lightly mindful. (I like brushing my teeth for this purpose – and my dentist appreciates the end result of such attentiveness!)
- She also suggest picking a more frequent activity to be a “mindfulness bell” in the day. One point that is unique is she suggests picking an activity that we initiate rather than respond to.
I had heard some teachers suggest using a cue like the ringing of the phone or the ding of a text, but Andrea F prefers things like opening a door, closing an application on the computer). I can see how that makes sense. So I try to bring mindfulness in the sending of an email, rather than the receiving of them.
She also brings in a sense of kindness to these intentions to be mindful, because we will forget, and then we will remember that we forgot. But that’s actually a reason to celebrate!
When we choose specific things that we vow to wake up to, often it takes us quite a while to remember our vow. Hours, if not days, can go by without our recollecting our “project”. The first time we remember our project, we are likely to think we have failed. We think: “It’s been two days, and I haven’t remembered at all, obviously I can’t do this.”
In actuality, when you remember your project for the first time, it means that your mindfulness has begun! In that moment of remembering, take notice of what is happening for you right then and there, and then resolve again to keep trying to “wake up” for your chosen activity.Andrea Fella. Daily Life Practice Retreat. Insight Meditation Center.
These drops of mindfulness through the day add up and make a difference. So if your life conditions aren’t conducive to sitting for hours in a day (mine aren’t!), then do what you can, knowing that what we do matters.
In terms of establishing a daily formal meditation practice, it can be useful to have a “bare minimum” goal rather than a lofty but unachievable wish.
I remember one of my running coaches say that I didn’t have to agree to do a long run, but I just have to get out the door – then see what happens. The beauty in this invitation is it helped me get over the “ugh, I don’t want to do this” feeling. And miraculously, once I tied on my shoes and stepped out the door, it was so much easier to keep going. But if it was a long day, I didn’t have to beat myself up for not going for an extra long distance… I could say, “well, I did the minimum.”
Another trick from my coaches is to have the running, biking, swimming, etc. gear all laid out the night before, so that when it’s time to go, I don’t have to find my shoes, and where’s my jacket, and how come I can’t find my keys again…
I have transferred those lessons to my meditation practice. I have a bare minimum (“tush on the cush”). I have what I need to meditate handy too. Actually, my morning meditation is just sitting on my bed when I first wake up (usually petting one of the dogs) – so it’s really low tech!
I think the biggest support I have found is to practice with a community. For example, I attend Wednesday evenings with the Saskatoon Insight Meditation Community, and I have that booked in my calendar each week. Knowing I’ll get to sit with others (at home on Zoom), and get some inspiration from Jeanne (or other teachers) helps me keep motivated to practice for the days in between.
And nowadays, so many meditation communities are online. You could probably sit hours a day! It’s been great that I’ve been able to pop in to sessions led by teachers I had only heard by audio, or that I could have only seen if I travelled. So if there is a recording you’ve heard, or an article you’ve read that spoke to you, maybe do a search to see if there’s something online that you could join.
Longer periods of practice are useful too, if that is something that fits into your lifestyle. Right now, there are many daylong practices or online retreats, and given the nature of doing these things at home, many of the schedules are set up that you can weave them into your day and still take care of the dogs and get groceries or whatever needs to be done.
And there are apps and recordings, books and magazines, … the list of supports is endless. (I have a few listed under the Resources menu.)
As you might tell, I’m kind of keen on all this. So if you’re interested but not sure where to look, feel free to drop me a line, and we can discuss!
And no matter how long you’re away from the practice – whether a few moments in one meditation, or many days, weeks, or months, remember: you can always begin again.
This breath. This moment.
Practicing the Art of Zen
how can I be in the present
when I need two hands to twitter and tweet
when world events are everywhere all the time
above below under inside outside
ear buds flat screens cell phones
and I miss the exact second the rose
opens its red lips or the dramatic entrance
of the lilac’s perfume as it catches a ride
on the back of a spring breeze
and floats through my open window
how can I listen to my breath
move in move out move in move out
through the rumbles of cement trucks
bells and whistles of garbage trucks
siren songs ring tones doorbells
computer music and twitches
how can I possibly be
in the moment
when the world is so
in my face
in my ears
in my rooms
in my yard
the next and next and next…
how in this world do I let go
of all the cacophonous chaos
practice practice practiceSusan B. Auld
What supports do you have for maintaining a daily practice? Let me know!
With good wishes,