How To Practice Daily Mindfulness
As much as I wish everyone who reads this blog meditated every day, I know some people don’t. Others are on-and-off, and some are even seasoned practitioners. Regardless, I hope you will consider practicing the following at some point. With Zen, we are trying to return to simple mindfulness, and the practice outlined later in this article will help you do that throughout your day.
The state of mind we cultivate during meditation is a state of “no-mind”. When we are truly experiencing meditation, we are not thinking, nor are we thinking about thinking. At a certain crucial point, the mind is intensely focused. The intensity of this focus comes from the mind not being focused on any one thing in particular. It is highly alert and awake, but it is not thinking.
This is the most powerful period of a meditation session. It is what enlightenment is, contrary to what many Westerners believe. Enlightenment is simply the glimpse of pure awareness. It comes about spontaneously and informs us, and then it disappears for a little while. These brief moments of illumination allow us to see the present moment for what it is: infinite, unyielding, and pre-conceptual.
Thinking does not bring us into existence. Thinking mere perpetuates this idea that you are you and I am me. The ancient monks who sat in silent contemplation thousands of years ago accessed this place beyond thought, and you can as well. Accessing it unlocks a type of understanding that leads to a few generalized changes in thinking and behavior:
- More unconditional compassion (as opposed to conditional compassion)
- Indifference to fads, popular opinion, and appearances
- Increase in gratitude
- Decrease in striving and clinging
- Increased enjoyment of everyday life
- Calmness, stress reduction
- Inner-strength and self-discipline
Where do these benefits come from? They come from the mind that is not trying to acquire them. The meditating mind recognizes that these qualities are not “benefits to be attained”, but are simply the realities of proper consciousness. When you are tuned into reality these things are second-nature. So here is where the daily practice comes in.
Throughout your day, pick specific times to stop whatever you are doing and simply take a deep breath. Focus on this breath and try to immerse yourself fully in the moment. Recognize when you are clinging to the past or future within the moment. This is simple but over time it becomes a pattern that helps keep the spark of mindfulness lit throughout the day.
This shouldn’t replace meditation practice. It’s just a little complement to it to help bridge the gap between sitting and everyday life. This gap becomes narrower and narrower over time until we can experience the gifts of mindfulness constantly.