Try This: Simple Mindfulness Practices
Thanks to all who have shared ideas from their own mindfulness practice. This list is a gathering from many dhamma friends and resources.
This list currently has 52 items! Suggestion for working with these: choose one and work with it for several days or even longer. Don't overload by taking on too many at a time. Pay attention to what this does for your mindfulness. You may end up with some that remain good and skillful habits!
1. Our days are full of "tasks" that run into one another in a stream of busy-ness. Place rocks in the stream by pausing for a moment when moving from one task to another, focusing on just one in-breath and one out-breath.
2. Look for spaces for brief meditations in your day as you wait for the coffee machine, sit at a railway crossing, stand in line, sit in a waiting room. Just look inward for a few moments, findng and being with the breath, grounding into the body.
3. Before rising in the morning, "check in" with body and mind. Asking "how am I today?" will allow you to be aware of when you're feeling weary or ill or sad, and how that might impact what happens in the day. Be kind to yourself when you're vulnerable. Be aware of the need for space to breathe before responding to external triggers.
4. Before sending an e-mail or text, take a moment to send metta/loving kindness to the recipient. Sometimes, if the subject matter is emotionally charged, you may even find this motivates you to edit before pressing send.
5. When you are feeling bored or restless, close your eyes for a moment and give relaxed attention to what this "feels" like in your body. Let go of the storyline in your mind.
6. If you work at a computer much of the day, be aware of how it feeds distractability with pop-ups and reminders, always pulling you away. If it is feasible for the work you are doing, disable as many of these bells and whistles as possible, allowing more complete focus on one task at a time.
7. Experiment with a handcraft or physical art that requires you to be with your body, i.e. knitting, painting, carving, pottery.
8. In a conversation where someone is sharing a story or expounding on a point of view, when the speaker pauses , notice how the space feels and resist the impulse to jump in with your own comment or response. Some teachers suggest a 5 or even 10 second rule, waiting that long, giving the speaker space to continue and cultivating your own capacity for deeper listening.
9. When you feel anger arise, try to touch into the sense of helplessness that lies below it. Send your energies inward, into compassion for yourself experiencing the pain of vulnerability or helplessness, rather than sending the energy outward, contributing to a painful situation.
10. Is there a siimple task you can do in the day with eyes closed, going inward? Maybe folding a pile of towels. Doing a few mindful yoga asanas. Washing a bowl of apples. Shelling peas. Taking a shower. Even talking on the telephone. You'll be amazed at how your other senses open.
11. Set a random timer on your watch, phone or computer, that rings several times a day. Make these interruptions a reminder to pause and be present. To know where the mind is, what thoughts are pulling. Are you here?
12. Experiment with renunciation, setting an intention to take a break from some habitual distraction for a day (or a few hours). This opens an opportunity to get to know how our mind works. What happens when you choose other than the habitual TV program, wine with dinner, phone call when you're lonely?
13. Next time you are having a conversation with a friend, perhaps over tea or lunch, give the conversation your full attention, turning off your cell phone for the duration of the interaction. Be there fully, body and mind.
14. Take the time to memorize an inspiring poem, prose passage, chant or song... choose something a little bit long, a little bit difficult, and work at this with diligence. For several days, repeat it often, outloud or mentally in whatever spaces open in the day. Once it is internalized in this way, you'll find it surfaces and runs through your mind when you need it most. There is a sweetness to this we seldom taste in a society that "records" externally rather than internally.
15. Submerge yourself in a simple "watching" activity. Whether you're watching the fish in an aquarium, the flames of a campfire, the setting of the sun, the leaves moving in the wind, be still for a significant measure of time (15-20 minues at least) and allow yourself to do "just" this.
16. When you are stuck in a spin cycle of thoughts that wind you further and further into anxiety, grief or anger, try standing on one leg. What you'll notice is that the effort required to do this brings you back into your body and sticks a finger in the spinning wheel of thought. If you're a yogi, you might want to try a balance asana instead (tree? dancer?)
17. Remind yourself to be grateful today everytime you turn a tap and water is at hand, every time you flick a switch and light fills a room. These are simple "conveniences" we forget to notice.
18. Is there something in your life that was once a treat but has become something you "expect" or "require"? Ice coffee in the afternoon? A massage every month? A drink before dinner? Try going without this the next time or two the regular time for doing or getting this comes up. Just notice how wanting colors the mind and the moment.
19. Sometimes our self-talk, self-judgments can be harsh and debilitating. If you notice this, try keeping a "kindnesses journal"...just a list of the little things you do each day that are kind or helpful to others. Read it over frequently. Realize your goodness.
20. Expecting a "difficult" conversation with someone? Spend time before sending goodwill to yourself and the other, thus preparing the heart rather than the words. It can also be helpful to carry a pen or a paperclip or such, when you go into the conversation. Before you speak each time, take a moment to "fiddle" with this object, giving yourself time to renew this intention of goodwill.
21. Stuck at a red-light or waiting in line? Practice sending thoughts of goodwill to those around you and notice how it settles your own restlessness.
22. Make an agreement with a friend to text each other at a certain time each day (or even once a week) as a signal that you both will "sit" quietly for 10 minutes watching the breath. During your sitting imagine your friend there beside you, and draw support and joy from your shared intention to be present in the moment as it passes.
23. When you hear yourself complaining (out loud or in the privacy of your mind) add the phrase "And I am very blessed". This is a simple, uplifting way to move the mind in a more positive direction.
24. Create post-its or "flash cards" to use in reminding yourself of intentions. For example: May I be kind to myself and others today.
25. When you notice your mind stuck in a cycle of angry or fearful thoughts, ask yourself: how is this helping? Try to replace the negative thoughts with something joyful and real. Remember a moment of kindness, your own or someone else's, and replay that scene in detail.
26. When a generous impulse arises, act on it: give the compliment, make the offer to help, make a donation you can afford. Then watch the joy that arises, what you gain from such a choice.
27. When you find yourself indulging in negative self-talk, stop. Imagine you are sitting across the table from someone who loves you. Take on their voice, in your mind, and let that voice tell you about all the reasons why you are loved, all that person sees in you as good and worthwhile.
28. Today each time you go through a doorway, breathe and be there in this new space and time.
29. Turn the tunes off in your vehicle and drive in silence.
30. Make preparing your tea or coffee in the morning into a ceremony. Move slowly and pay attention to each action and all the sensory input that arises: scents, temperature, textures, sounds, and finally taste.
31. Resist the urge to multi-task as you fold laundry or do the ironing or chop vegetables for dinner. Be with each movement, scent, sound and texture.
32. Take a walk without a destination and leave your cell phone at home.
33. Interrupt automatic pilot: take a different route to work, brush your teeth or hair with your non-dominant hand, walk to the laundry room or kitchen in your home backwards!
34. The next time you are alone and unworried about appearances as you eat a tiny treat (a chocolate, a wedge of cheese, a piece of apple) make it last as long as possible. Take the smallest of nibbles, close your eyes, observe the textures, the tastes, the variety of sensations in the various areas of your mouth.
35. When your phone rings, pause and breathe before answering.
36. When someone tells you a story from his/her life today, an anecdote or incident, listen with all your heart, not thinking instead of a story of your own to share.
37. Choose some daily action that occurs frequently for you (ie. typing in a password at your computer, taking off shoes, getting into your car, turning on water, etc.) and mark it as a mindfulness bell of your own, bringing you to the moment, consciously breathing and checking in with your thoughts and feelings.
38. When you wake in the morning set the intention to be present today. Placing your feet on the floor as you stand, place one foot and say mentally "be", place the other foot and repeat mentally "here". You may want to continue this walking meditation as you move through the first steps of your day.
39. Sitting in a waiting room or just alone on your deck in the sunshine, anywhere with a bit of open time, close your eyes and just listen for 2 minutes. Try to hear without naming what you hear.
40. Take a few minutes to make a list of things you enjoy doing, activities that help you to re-charge. Post this somewhere you'll see it often and form an intention to find time for at least a couple of these things in each week.
41. Having a blue day? A deliberate act of kindness directed towards another will inevitably lift your spirits.
42. Change the passwords for sites you frequent often. Choose words or phrases that remind you to pause or breathe. (substituting numerals or symbols for some letters will make these more secure, of course)
43. Designate a clear vase or bowl as a container and place in it plain white stones as you count your blessings. Make adding a few stones a daily or weekly ritual. This is a wonderful visual reminder of blessings.
44. Next time you notice your grumbling mind muttering "now I have to do this", change one word and say instead "now I get to do this". The smile this brings tells you a lot about how this changes mood and attitude.
45. Begin and end each day taking a few moments for well wishes for yourself, those dear to you and outward to all the world. You might enjoy composing a few lines for this that are meaningful to you and that you recite each day in the same way.
46. Feeling wound up and anxious? Close your eyes and take a few moments to "listen". Just notice the sounds coming to your ears, not naming them. Notice the sounds inside the body, that ear-against-a-seashell sound that is our inner silence.
47. When sleep is elusive, do a simple body scan. Moving from head to foot, place your attention in a particular body part (forehead all the way to toes), breathe with the intention of sending kindness there and consciously relax that place, before moving to the next. Chances are you'll be asleep before you've completed the mental journey.
48. When caught up in the moment and about to make a purchase you had not planned for, deliberately make yourself space to let the reactivity of grasping mind settle. Set the intention to return in an hour, or the next day. Often we'll find that given this delay, the attraction has lost its grip.
49. It's an old trick, the string around your finger to remember. But try tying a pretty bit of yarn around your wrist, or wearing a piece of jewelry, such as a mala bracelet to remind you of your intention to live, act, and speak skillfully. This could be for every day, or just for a day when you feel fragile and in need of a reminder of your heart's intention.
50. Write a letter or make a phone call to express feelings of gratitude. Too often we assume others know what is in our heart. Bringing joy to another will nourish your own spirit.
51. Taking a walk, keep yourself awake and alert by scanning the environment for the colors of the rainbow. Look for them in order (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet), building a rainbow of your own over the course of the outing.
52. Our sense of ownership (whether of people of roles, of views and opinions), often causes us pain. Write down on post-it notes, those things you claim and then symbolically tear them up, repeating to yourself "not me, not mine, not myself", freeing your heart.