Day 5 – Mindfulness Meditation for the Modern Life, Opening to the Environment
Till now we have taken time to explore mindfulness of our inner experience. On day five we began to examine how mindfulness can be extended equally into our outer life. We discussed choosing one activity that we do routinely, and choosing to do it more consciously. I often find that mundane tasks like brushing our teeth, washing dishes or folding laundry can become the perfect opportunity for us to space out. We begin to think about our to do’s, conversations from yesterday or circumstances yet to come. We are everywhere other than in the present moment. The mind becomes full while the task becomes mindless. Instead, while brushing our teeth, perhaps, we feel the bristles of the brush in our mouth, the flavor of the toothpaste, the swishing of the water, the fresh, tingly feeling after we have finished. Even just writing that makes me want to brush my teeth and pay attention. Slowly we can make more of our day carry a feeling of presence and mindfulness. It is possible. Tasks that I least enjoyed, like folding clothes and unloading the dishwasher, have now become the opportunity for me to slow down when I choose to take it.
We also continued discussing the nature of awareness. As a part of this practice, we aspire to refine our awareness so that we are present to events as they arise, rather than minutes, hours or days later. In life, events can carry such a strong emotional charge that before we are aware of it, we are already steeped in emotion and captivated by our reactivity. The pace of this cycle is so fast that we can continue in this patterned reactivity without any awareness for days, months, even years. The practice of both shamatha and vipassana are a direct antidote to this reactivity. Every time something arises, we practice pausing, allowing and returning to our anchor, the breath. We learn to slowly temper our reactions by repeatedly infusing space into a situation that feels emotionally charged. In this way, everything that comes up in our practice is in direct support of greater mindfulness and presence. Whether it is aggravation or ease, joy or sorrow, pain or pleasure, each these experiences can be a way for us to be here with what is unfolding, without judgement or the preference for it to be some other way.
We draw from this same teaching as we broaden our experience to include the environmental stimuli. Here we allow the sounds, sights, tactile sensations, smells and tastes to be a full part of our experience. Rather than feeling that a sound is a distraction to being here, instead it becomes the exact thing that can ground us more fully into this moment. Instead of a sight carrying us away into desire or aversion, it draws us mindfully into the visual space. We attempt to experience everything as if we were experiencing it for the first time. This is called a beginner’s mind. It is a mind that is unattached to its own story, preference or judgement. It sounds hard, but it is possible the more we practice. We will find that we don’t get caught up in our drama and our ego as easily or as quickly. For some moments, we can choose not to react nor repress. It is in this place, we begin to feel a sense of spaciousness and have the opportunity to take things lightly. Turning toward our environment will also very naturally progress to carrying this kind of mindfulness into our relationships and the world around us. Nothing is exempt from mindfulness. All of life is an opportunity to more fully awaken.
This week enjoy the opportunity to bring a sense of presence and attention to aspects of your day. It could be the act of giving a loved one a hug as they leave for the day, the first drink of coffee or the moment your feet land on the floor in the morning. Allow these moments to deepen your intimacy with the beauty and the mystery of life.