By Leo Babauta
As you read in the Month of Mindfulness Overview, we’ll be focusing on four mindfulness practices, one per week.
The idea is that we’ll learn more about being mindful in different parts of our day, by practicing meditating during different activities.
Let’s first talk about what meditation is. It can be defined as many things, but for our purposes we’ll keep it simple: it’s awareness practice. We’ll start with attention training, but talk a little about how to expand from paying attention, to becoming aware.
So by paying attention, we can become aware. But most of the time we don’t pay attention — we’re thinking about other things, and so we miss out on what’s happening right now. Maybe we’re avoiding thinking about the present moment for some reason. So paying attention can be difficult, because we’re always trying to avoid it, out of habit. We’re going to start to change that habit, and pay attention.
Here’s the plan:
- Week 1: Sitting meditation. This first week, we’ll sit for about 2 minutes a day. Just find a quiet place, and sit, first thing in the morning. What do you do when you sit? Practice training your attention on your breath. Notice the breath as it comes in, and then goes out. Read more: Sitting Meditation – How to Do It.
- Week 2: Mindful Eating. This second week, we’ll continue our practice of sitting for 2 minutes a day (you can go a few minutes longer if you’re getting good at it and haven’t missed a day), but we’ll add a second practice: one meal where you eat mindfully for at least a couple minutes. You can try doing it for the entire meal, but shoot for at least 2 minutes of mindful eating, one meal per day. Try to make it the same meal each day (lunch, for example). This practice will take what you’ve been learning in sitting meditation, and expand it to a setting with more things going on. Instructions.
- Week 3: Walking Meditation. This week, you’ll continue the first two practices, and add a third: a short walking meditation session. Choose a walk you do each day — from your car to your desk, for example, or from home to your bus stop. If you work at home, you can just walk around your house, or go outside for a few minutes. You can walk around the office, or again, go outside. The walk only needs to be a couple minutes long, though a couple minutes longer than that is also fine. No need to go for 20 minutes or anything. During this session, you’ll practice mindfulness as you walk. This will help you to be mindful during different physical activities. Instructions.
- Week 4: Single-tasking Session. This week, we’ll of course continue the previous three practices, and tackle a difficult area: work. What you consider work is up to you, but you’re going to take just 2-5 minutes a day, and do only one thing. You’ll be mindful as you do that one thing. This will give you a practice you can expand into your entire work day, but for now we’ll focus on a small session each day. Instructions.
We’ll go into more detail in a separate article for each of these practices.
Mindful Eating January Challenge on Lift
The folks at Lift asked me to advise them on a Mindful Eating challenge for January on their site. You might be interested in joining as it ties in nicely with our Month of Mindfulness.
The Lift Quantified Diet Project (which includes Mindful Eating) opens Jan. 1 — you can read more here:
Working with Multiple Practices
This will be one of my more complicated modules, because we’ll be eventually doing four practices each day (by the fourth week), as opposed to my usual recommendation of one habit per month.
Why? Because otherwise this module would take four months. That’s totally fine with me, but I have the sense that most people would rather do other habits this year, not just mindfulness.
However, be aware that you’ll need to give these practices some focus in the following months if you want them to stick. And I highly recommend that you get them to stick — they’ll not only enrich your life, they’ll set the foundation for other habits this year. Mindfulness is the key to forming all habits, so what we’re working on this month is absolutely essential for the rest of the year. Don’t skip it, don’t do it halfway.
Doing four habits a day might seem like a challenge. They’re not difficult habits, and take no equipment. We’re only doing two minutes a day per practice. So the difficulty will be in remembering, not doing.
How can you remember? Here’s what I recommend:
- First, fully commit. Tell everyone about it, join an accountability team, report daily. Set a consequence for not sticking to it, and hold yourself to it.
- Put visual reminders where you’ll do each habit. Sticky notes or an index card with a reminder — at the breakfast table, if that’s where you’ll do your mindful eating session, on your alarm clock so you’ll remember to meditate when you wake up, on the dashboard of your car so you’ll remember to mindfully walk from the car to your desk, on your laptop for when you’re going to do your single-tasking session.
- Put reminders in your phone or computer.
- Wear a mindfulness wristband or bracelet. It doesn’t have to be something you buy — a string or rubber band will do.
- Have someone you see every day remind you.
- If you forget, forgive yourself, but learn from it — what can you do tomorrow to not forget?
With a little focus, these four practices are totally doable. But you need to be committed, and you need reminders.
It’ll be worth the effort, my friends.
Best wishes for a mindful month.
Read next: Sitting Meditation – How to Do It.