When I was a kid, I used to do something a bit funny with a bag of salt and vinegar crisps. Don’t worry, not too odd, just a bit…strange.
Sometimes, when eating a bag of crisps, I used to eat them really slowly. Like, taking 15 minutes to eat a bag slowly. I used to lick the flavouring off, bit by bit, letting the salt and vinegar flavour zing on my tongue. I would then proceed to munch, very slowly through the remaining crisps, savouring the potato flavour as I went. I would repeat this charade through the whole pack, enjoying the whole process thoroughly.
What I didn’t realise then, as a kid, was that what I was doing was practicing mindfulness.
I guess I have an instinct for it!
For what is mindfulness if not savouring the present moment? I still occasionally do the same practice with food today (though not with crisps). As I slow down, I taste the food so much more. I let its taste tantalise my taste buds.
I was also doing it again the other day when going for a walk in a field. It was a sunny day, and the sky was a brilliant blue. As I looked up to take in the clear azure sky, I had the same feeling as when I meditate – stillness, peace.
I was mindfully looking up to the sky! Well done, Kevin.
The point I wanted to make with this blog post is that the practice of mindfulness is not just the 20 mins you sit still once or twice a day. What you need to be doing, to be an effective meditator, is to incorporate the patterns of stillness into your everyday life.
If you run, run mindfully. If you eat, eat mindfully. Whatever you do, pay attention undividedly and non-judgementally. Well that’s the goal. You will fall short.
But aspire to be a Buddha – permanently!
I found a good video that gives advice how to slow down and be mindful in every day life.
This nice video gives a few pointers to stay present during the day:
- Be mindful of your thoughts – just be aware of what’s going on in your head can create a space for presence to arise. Just focus on one or two mindful breaths, and you will create a buffer between you and your thoughts. Just observe, that’s all. This buffer, in time, can become a vast inner space for you to dwell in, in deep inner peace.
- Do one thing at a time – the old Zen masters used to say, when asked “What is Zen?” used to reply, “doing one thing at a time”. This still applies! When walking, walk. When eating, eat. When sleeping, sleep. The essence of Zen is throw yourself wholeheartedly at everything you do, with a purity of mind and mindfulness.
- Try to take things slowly – My crisp example applies here!
- Have a regular sitting practice. The skills you learn in practice you can apply in normal life.
So – mindfulness is not just for your 20 minutes on the cushion, it is about your whole life of lived experience.
Try using the tips here to open up to the vastness and intensity of reality inside you, and start living fully, not just on autopilot.