The Hidden Beauty of Mindful Living
By Kate Love
How to Live a Truly Mindful Life
Practicing meditation in your daily life doesn't mean selling all of your worldly possessions and joining a Buddhist monastery in the middle of nowhere. It simply means being more aware of your thoughts and actions throughout the day, which you can do without affecting your current lifestyle. Contrary to popular belief, meditation is not just something you do for 15 minutes every morning; it's a principle of awareness that you can practice in every moment of your life.
You can light candles and incense and sit on the floor when you meditate, but you can also spend your day in an office, wear a designer suit and sit in your executive chair to meditate. It is not outer appearances that are important; it's your attitude and what goes on inside you that counts. Meditation is not a posture or a set of mental exercises, but a process that begins with seated meditation and continues in everyday situations.
MEDITATE ANYWHERE, ANYTIME
While performing seated meditation you learn new ways to receive and understand sensation, control your emotions and develop a fresh way to view conscious thought. The most important moment in meditation is, however, the instant you leave your cushion. When your seated meditation is over you can jump up and drop the whole thing, or you can bring those skills into the rest of your life and enjoy a meditative lifestyle.
Most of our daily activities are completed unconsciously, in that we do not pay full attention to what we are doing. Instead, we are running on autopilot with our minds on something else. Our thoughts constantly jump from one thing to the next, worrying about the past or planning the future. Whether you are a fun-loving socialite, a homebody or a career-driven workaholic, we can all do with less stress in our lives and incorporating meditation into your daily activities can fulfil this wish.
Living mindfully is not an easy thing to accomplish, as meditation is much more difficult when you are moving and interacting than when you are sitting still. Focusing your thoughts and looking inwards is much easier to achieve in a peaceful place, especially if you have no distractions other than soothing music playing in the background. However, it is possible to maintain awareness on a daily basis and if you do so, all the aspects of your life, from the workplace to the morning walk, will be greatly enriched and improved.
According to the Dalai Lama, mindfulness is about being aware of what is happening in the present on a moment-by-moment basis. Brushing your teeth, getting dressed, having a cup of coffee; none of these actions should be ignored as insignificant. As you go about your day, remain mindful and aware of the relationship between your mind, your actions and your experiences. Become fully aware of all the aspects of your experience in each and every moment. Let go of unpleasant states of mind such as anger and stress, and allow yourself to focus on the positive. Breathe.
It is also important to continue to regularly perform seated meditation to support your practice. Even the most seasoned meditator continues to practice seated meditation, because it tunes and sharpens the basic mental skills. You must never forget, however, that seated meditation itself is not enough. It is the way in which those basic skills are applied to the rest of your existence that is more important, as meditation that is unconnected to everyday living is sterile and limited.
LIVING IN WONDER
If your meditation is not helping you to face everyday challenges, your emotional reactions are not becoming easier to deal with and you aren't more aware during your daily activities, then go a bit deeper into your practice. To some extent the mindfulness you develop in seated meditation spills over into your daily life. However, if you consciously choose to use everyday activities as opportunities to practice mindfulness the benefits will be much greater.
Meditation infuses our daily mundane activities and experiences with a breath of freshness and wonder. Living each day with awareness means you experience things more deeply, and over time the small things in life that are often taken for granted become more beautiful. A smile from a stranger, a soft breeze perfumed by jasmine, your first cup of tea in the morning; each moment becomes something to be treasured.
MOMENT TO MOMENT MINDFULNESS
Being mindful reduces stress and anxiety, improves clarity and peace of mind and, ultimately, allows you to be more productive and efficient in all of your daily activities. If you are overworked or drained from a weekend of non-stop partying, it also prevents exhaustion. Whether you are walking on the beach, preparing for a dinner party or closing an important deal at work, you will be amazed at the benefits your meditation practice brings you.
Eventually you will reach a point where you are mindful from the time you wake up until you fall asleep. By meditating your way through life, you open yourself up to a whole new way of experiencing moments that not only benefit yourself but also those around you. You will find you sleep better, enjoy new-found vigour and experience an overall sense of calm and happiness. Meditation is a way of life; have fun with it.
Words by Kate Love