By Leo Babauta
Earlier in this meditation course, I talked about how to expand your meditation practice to other parts of your day. Today I’ll go a bit further into that topic, and talk about the hardest part: remembering.
First, let’s expand our definition of meditation â€” is it sitting and paying attention to the breath or body? That’s one form of meditation, yes. But actually, paying attention and being aware, being conscious â€” that’s something you can do during any activity.
So let’s say that our entire life can be meditation. All day, every day.
Of course, during some of that meditation, our minds will wander, just as it does during sitting meditation. So the practice will be to come back to the moment, to wake up from the dream, as often as we can remember.
The trick is remembering. The way you get better is practicing.
Let’s explore remembering to be aware.
How to Remember
The trick for remembering is creating triggers that remind you to be awake. This, of course, takes a good amount of effort and time, which is why we’re not focusing on this for this module … but it’s something you can start doing as we wrap up the month, and beyond.
What can be a trigger for remembering? Anything. Here are some good examples of mindfulness bells:
- Stoplights â€” Zen priest Thich Nhat Hanh once said that as you drive, let stoplights be your mindfulness bell. Then, instead of getting stressed out by your driving, or daydreaming … you can pay attention, and use driving as a form of meditation.
- Sitting down to eat â€” as you approach the table, let this be a reminder to mindfully enjoy your food, paying attention to each bite, and the sensations in your mouth and the rest of your body as you eat.
- Entering the show â€” let the shower door or curtain be your reminder to pay attention as you shower, transforming it from an ordinary act into meditation.
- Door frames â€” as you enter a room, touch the right side of the door frame, and let this be a reminder to pause and take in this new space you’re entering.
- Other people’s eyes â€” when you meet someone, or see someone in your office or home, let their eyes be a reminder to give them your full attention.
- Your spouse or child’s voice â€”Â just as there are bells in a meditation hall calling the sanga to come meditate, let your child’s voice (or your partner’s voice) be a bell calling you to pay attention to them.
- Your phone’s lock screen â€”Â as you reach for your phone, let whatever picture you have on your lock screen be a reminder to be mindful, and not to get lost on the phone.
- Your new tab page â€” when you create a new tab in your browser, let that be a reminder to pay attention for a moment to your breath and body, and not get mindlessly lost online.
- The kitchen sink â€” after you finish eating, let the sink be a reminder to mindfully wash your dish.
- Sunshine â€” if you’re outdoors and you see or feel sunshine, practice mindfulness as you walk around outdoors. Alternatively, fog or cold or wind can be your reminder.
- Other ideas: your anger can be a trigger; have a mindfulness bell go off on your computer; you can wear a bracelet; or put nice mindful sayings in different parts of your house or office.
You get the idea. Anything you want can be a reminder, but you have to consciously decide that it’s going to be a reminder, and then make that happen.
How do you form these things into triggers for mindfulness? Here’s what I suggest:
- Pick one of the above triggers (or your own), and consciously decide to form that mindfulness trigger for the next few days.
- Put a visual reminder next to that trigger if possible â€” for example, a note next to your shower door, or a meditation cushion as your phone’s lock screen, or a stone next to your kitchen sink or at the table where you eat. Some of the above triggers (other people’s eyes or voices
- Whenever you see this trigger, see how long you can be mindful during the activity that follows it.
- Repeat this as often as possible for at least a few days, but a week is even better, before adding another trigger.
As you can see, it will take time. And you’ll forget, a lot. That’s OK. You don’t have to be perfect, but the constant exercise of remembering that everything is part of your life meditation practice will transform your life.