Hanging up laundry mindfully?  Why not?

There is an old Zen saying: You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour. In theory, I think there’s no real substitute for “formal” mindfulness practices–that is, setting aside time for breathing, walking or mindful movement meditation. Formal mindfulness practices change your brain in ways that make it easier to be mindful in daily life. I should be able to set aside 30 minutes a day, no problem. In reality, when I’ve meditated for 15 or 20 minutes a day for a week straight I’ve had a very good week.

Without letting ourselves off the hook for committing to a formal meditation practice, let’s be realistic. The most beneficial mindfulness practices are the ones that we will actually do. “Informal” mindfulness practices that can be incorporated into our usual activities are going to be the easiest way for most of us to practice mindfulness on a daily basis.

I’ve noticed two major obstacles when trying to practice mindfulness informally: remembering to do it and remembering to reflect on the experience afterwards.  How to Train a Wild Elephant by Jan Chozen Bays offers 53 different ideas for incorporating mindfulness into daily life, along with printable reminder cards you can stick up wherever you’ll notice them. The book also recommends keeping a notebook for jotting down what you’ve experienced and thinking about what you’ve learned.

While the author (a zen teacher) and I are approaching mindfulness from very different perspectives, I found the suggested exercises and teaching points so interesting that I couldn’t resist reading the book in one sitting. A few months have passed and I’m ready to go back and try the exercises one at a time. I suspect the structure of following along with a book will make it easier for me to practice consistently. The Toronto Public Library has an eBook copy available if you’re interested in trying it too. 

Can’t remember the last time you managed to finish an entire book? Try the five suggestions in this Huffington Post article with illustrations that can be printed and used as reminders.


Naomi Eaton