Sometimes the biggest challenge in learning a new skill or practice like meditation is learning how to fit it into your routine. Most everyone has those days when it is a feat to even have showered, let alone setting time aside to sit quietly and meditate.
This is the focus of Week Four of the How to Meditate program. This week, you will learn how to fit your meditation practice into your busy day — perhaps when you need it the most. Give the skills outlined below a try for one week. Consider it a one-week experiment in learning how to take what you’ve learned into the “real world.” Make a commitment to follow these simple steps every day of the week.
What You’ll Do
A good meditation practice does not end when the timer goes off. Too often, once a meditation session stops, it may only take moments before you get caught up in the stresses and routines of the day and many of the benefits of having had meditated are erased. Meditation should not be seen as a temporary break, but rather a transformative process that enriches your life and the lives around you. This week, we’ll work on bringing meditation “off the cushion” and into the rest of your life.
How It Works
By adding brief “reminder” or “mini” practices into your day, you can maintain some of the benefits of meditation all day long. By using a few simple techniques to achieve a brief meditative state, you’ll be able to work your meditation practice into your daily activities to achieve lasting calm and focus.
Get Motivated for Week 4
With these practices, you’ll be able to evoke a meditative state — however brief — whenever you need some calm or creativity in your life. Doing meditations in a variety of environments will help you stay focused and in control of your mind. You won’t be as influenced by impulsive emotions and will be able to focus more on what you would like to do.
The Steps to Meditate Every Day
Below are six techniques for working meditation and the mindfulness that comes with it into your daily life. Try at least one of these each day this week to find what works best for you:
- Chore Meditation: Any repetitive chore can be turned into a meditation simply by adding a focusing element. You can count your breaths while cleaning counters, folding laundry, or washing windows, for example. Any chore that is automatic in nature and does not require decision-making while you are doing it works well. Take a moment for mindfulness.
- Walking Meditation: While taking a walk, link your breathing with your steps. A traditional walking meditation practice (made popular by Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh) is to take a step with each breath. This slow walking meditation practice can be very powerful. If you don’t have the time or place for slow walking, then just take a breath with every two or three steps while walking down the hall, across a parking lot, or in a store.
- Exercise Meditation: Turn exercise into meditation by focusing your mental energy on your body. Picture the push and pull of your muscles. Feel how your body gracefully adjusts to your movements. Be amazed at your balance. Even better, try out an exercise program that is rooted in breath and mindfulness like tai chi or yoga.
- Two Breaths: Taking two simple, mindful breaths can engage your meditative state at any point in the day. Take two breaths before making a phone call, answering an e-mail, or starting your car. This is a great way to bring meditation into your day dozens of times, particularly in the midst of a busy or stressful day when you need it the most.
- Sound Cue: Choose a particular sound, and take two breaths every time you hear it. Traditionally, monks would do this when they heard the wind chimes and bells of the temple. Choose a sound that occurs frequently in your setting. You could take a five-second pause in your thinking whenever you hear someone else’s cell phone, for example.
- Transitions: Transitions are times when you move from one setting to another. Coming home from work, for example, is a transition from your professional self to your private self. Going into some meetings, you may transition into a different personal style in order to get something done. Lunchtime may be a transition for you as well. Traditionally, monks would pause every time they crossed a threshold and transitioned from one room to another. Pick a few transitions in your daily life (like getting into your car, walking into your workplace, and opening your front door), and take a five-second meditative pause before entering the new setting. Perhaps you will even make opening a certain computer program or checking your e-mail a transition.
Your Meditation Commitment This Week: “This week I will try at least one of these brief meditation practices every day.”
- Don’t be tempted to substitute these practices for your daily meditation. You must maintain your daily habit of sitting and focusing. That habit will allow you to use these practices effectively. You develop your “meditation muscles” by sitting and focusing. These new applications are about using that new strength in your daily life for an extra boost.
- In the beginning, try to pick practices that you can do when you are alone. It is difficult to take two mindful breaths while talking to someone, or even when you are in a situation where other people can watch you. Your car is a great place for a bit of privacy. While you are working on your computer or doing laundry are also good times for these meditation moments.
- Look at an anatomy book and marvel at the human body. As you go through your day, you can do an “exercise meditation” that focuses on whatever your body is doing. You could simply be walking, typing, or going up the stairs. Picture how the muscles and nerves work. Be awed by your own body.
Ready for More?
If you want to do more, try developing a mindfulness practice. In mindfulness, the idea is to be aware of whatever you are doing. The opposite of mindfulness is an automatic action. Pick something you do often during the day, like opening a door.
Can you be aware of yourself opening the door each time? Are you really present as you open the door? Are you aware of your hand on the door, the door opening, your body crossing through and the door closing behind you? Or is it an automatic process without awareness?
Develop your mindfulness skills by picking something that you do often and trying to be aware of yourself doing it each time. It is a lot harder than it sounds, and it takes practice.
The Complete How to Meditate Program
Here is the whole program from start to finish. Even after completing the full four weeks, these lessons and tips are great to have on hand for reminders and coaching as you develop your practice more fully.