14 Dec Mindfulness through non-meditation
Are you struggling to keep up with regular meditation practice? Or avoiding the meditation mat as you find it hard to sit down and focus? Or, do you feel that the act of meditation is just not your thing?
Don’t worry; it happens to all of us – especially early on in the practice.
Being mindful is a long and tough battle to tame your mind, and the mind will not let you have control over it so easily. After all, your mind has always had its way with you thus far – by controlling your thoughts, emotions and feelings. By making your mind calm through meditation, you are trying to change its inherent restless nature. It plays “mind games” and tries to resist meditation by finding excuses, situations, feelings, emotions and other justifications to not meditate.
The good news is that you don’t have to sit on that mat and meditate to become mindful. Mindfulness can be inculcated through non-meditative techniques, which are equally effective. Walking, eating, doing dishes can all be turned into a meditation practice if it is done mindfully. This is the basic ethos of the Zen philosophy. Their practice inculcates mindfulness through various activities (in addition to meditation) in one’s daily life. Some examples of Zen mindfulness techniques are Chado (Zen tea ritual) or Kinhin (sleep meditation).
Everyone has 24 hours in a day. If you sleep for an average of 7 hours – then you are left with 17 hours for your daily activities and chores. In this, you have parked only 12-15 mins for meditation. So, what are we doing in the balance 16 hours 45 mins? During this time, the mind is completely in control, doing whatever it wants – running amok like a wild elephant thereby creating a roller coaster of emotions inside you.
To become mindful without meditation, you need to first identify certain activities during your day, and then decide to do them mindfully. Deploying non-meditative techniques, in addition to regular meditation, will result in faster progress. This is because you are giving more opportunities to train your mind during different times of the day. The benefits of this practice will also improve the quality of your meditation sessions.
Given below is a 7-step process that can help you build mindfulness through non-meditative techniques:
Step #1: Identify Opportunities: Chalk out the broad buckets of different daily activities you do in a day. This could be as small as “flossing, showering” to more engaging activities such as “working or cooking”
Step #2: Shortlist the activities for which you want to practice mindfulness: Out of the exhaustive list you created, you can now pick 2-3 activities in the day, of which you would like to be mindful. For example, you can decide to be mindful whenever you take your dog for a walk in the park, or when you drive from home to office.
Step #3: Decide your daily ritual or framework: Once you have identified 2-3 key activities, you can create a customized daily ritual for yourself. This works like a framework or a plan, in which you identify and include those selected mindful activities in your busy day.
For example: a ritual can look like the following:
“When l wake up in the morning, I will first be grateful for all the good things in my life and thank the universe. Then, I will be mindful of the following activities in the morning: when I make my bed, when I have my breakfast and when I go for my jog.
In the afternoon, I will become mindful when I eat my lunch.
In the evening, I will be mindful when read.
At night before I go to bed, I will be mindful of my conversations with my spouse.”
Each person can customize his or her daily ritual based on their roles, responsibilities, work requirements and hobbies.
Step #4: Practicing the technique: To do the select activity mindfully, you will need to put your 100% focus and attention on that activity. You need to be in the present moment, completely involved in the task in hand, observing every small detail and having your senses completely connect to that activity.
For example, let’s say you decide to be mindful in your morning walks. Walk in a slow, relaxed and calm manner (not too slow though!!). Be aware of each step you take, paying attention to the lifting and falling of the feet and the shifting of the body from side to side. Maintain a larger sense of environment around you – taking it all in – but do not think too much into it, or do not let your mind wander off after any random thought. Should your mind wander after a thought, bring it back gently to the sensation of walking.
Step #5: Identify reinforcers: It helps to keep trackers or reminders planted strategically to remind you to be mindful during the day. For example, keeping a small rock at your bedside near your alarm will remind you to be mindful the moment you get up in the morning. Similarly, you can keep a dangler in your car, or a sticky note on your office desk or set mobile alarms to remind you to be mindful at different times during the day. Keep changing your reinforcers from time to time, in case your mind seems to overlook or ignore them after a while.
Step #6: Inculcating fun tricks: You can also gamify this activity! For example, you can decide that during today’s breakfast, you will count the number of times you chew your food. Similarly, while commuting, you will count how many times you notice a red colored car or while listening to music, you will mentally repeat the lyrics of the songs – the list goes on.
Step #7: Go Slow: It is advisable not to be too ambitious early on in picking your daily mindful activities. Picking 2-3 activities of 10 minutes each is more than enough to start off with. Start with small goals, see visible improvements over 40 days, and then scale up by adding a new activity.
Follow the above 7 steps and reflect daily on your practice. You can use the Black Lotus App to journal your daily progress. The Black Lotus app is a meditation app focused on corrective meditation. It is the complete meditation app that helps you amplify the benefits of meditation by adding kindness and mindful activities in your daily practice. You can also pick the “Experience Zen” Meditation pack, which has guided meditations and non-meditative activities to help you incorporate Zen and mindful living in your life.