Embodying Practice

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Photo by Jeremy Bishop

Its difficult enough to maintain a dedicated formal mindfulness practice in this culture of busyness and striving. Its another thing altogether to endeavor to embody the practices in everyday life. The ideal environment of a dedicated practice space offers conditioned cues for dropping in and minimizes worldly distractions. The real world is full of noise, shiny objects, and urgent needs. How does your practice show up in the messy arena of day to day living, if at all? The following are some suggestions:

Find Presence:

  • Upon awakening, notice your body in bed and feel the sensations of breathing before arising. As you go about your morning routine, be aware of sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and tactile experiences.
  • As you are going from one place to another, be aware of the mind’s tendency to leap ahead to what might happen at the destination and see if you can intermittently bring awareness back to the bare sensory experience of traveling (whether driving, riding, or walking), as well as any thoughts and emotions that arise.
  • Rather than pulling out your phone while waiting in queue, notice the sensations in the soles of your feet, the activation of muscles involved in standing or sitting, and how your body is oriented in space.

Let Go of Preference:

  • If things aren’t going as planned, see if its possible to let go of expectation and become curious about what is actually unfolding.
  • With relatively inconsequential matters, rather than choosing, allow what makes itself available to you. Notice the after effects of this openness to experience.
  • When aversion (rejecting, disliking) arises, see if you can allow this feeling tone to be the focus of your attention for a few moments. Is it possible to soften and open to the experience, letting go of judgments, comparisons, and interpretations?

Mind Your Words:

  • Make listening a priority over speaking and see if you can truly be present with what others are saying rather than judging, planning a response, or daydreaming.
  • Before speaking, consider whether what you are about to say is necessary or helpful and kind. If not, revise your script or see what its like to be with the urge to speak rather than indulging it.
  • Express gratitude for others whenever you notice this attitude is present.

Respond Rather Than React:

  • When you feel a strong urge to do something, see what it might be like to connect with the breathing first. Notice what happens to the urge as you anchor yourself in this way.
  • Before reacting, pause and ask yourself, “What are my options?” Then choose the response that is most in alignment with your highest values.
  • When appropriate, experiment with the response option of doing nothing at all. Take a “wait and see” approach and notice how things unfold on their own.

The art of living is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive. ~ Alan Watts

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