Mindfulness in Every Day Activities: Be more present – show-up more fully for your life!

Informal mindfulness or mindfulness in everyday activities involves bringing the mindfulness we are developing/deepening through formal mindfulness meditation into our everyday lives. This is where mindfulness can lessen our suffering, and enhance our health and happiness. Some would say informal mindfulness is, “where the rubber meets the road” or where its benefits are realized in everyday life.

Mindfulness meditation practice is the heart of learning to be mindful in everyday life. This formal practice is the crucible or “laboratory” where we learn how the mind body processes work. It is where we can observe our thoughts, emotions, and body sensations, learning about impermanence, how not to identify as closely with our “self,” and change our relationship with stress/suffering. This is how we come to know ourselves on deeper, experiential levels.

To bring mindfulness into your daily life, identify several routine activities and practice doing those activities with mindfulness. Routine activities are things that we do every day, that are already a part of our everyday life. For example, eating is an everyday or routine activity. We (traditionally) eat three meals most days, and often include a snack or two as well. These can be opportunities that reminds us to be fully present, rather than being lost in thoughts.

By bringing mindfulness to eating we are paying attention to the full experience of eating – using concentration and awareness, paying attention to our five senses and the thinking mind with each moment of eating. When you notice the mind wandering, gently but firmly move your attention back to the activity, without any self-judgment about the wandering mind.

In this way, we are weaving mindfulness into each day several times. By eating mindfully we remember to be present in those moments. This carries-over into more and more of your day, your life. As you add additional informal practices (see below) you can bring greater presence, alertness, into your life until it becomes a way of being in the world. Formal mindfulness practice supports informal practice and informal practices support formal practice. They reinforce each other.

Suggestions for informal mindfulness practices – routine daily activities that serve as “wake-up calls,” reminding you to be present with whatever you are doing, while you are doing it, whether at home or at work. A few examples:

  • Eating

  • Walking

  • Showering

  • Brushing your teeth

  • Washing dishes

  • Vacuuming floors

  • Walking or petting the cat or dog

  • Climbing stairs

  • Stuck in traffic

  • When the phone rings

Awareness of the Breath – We focus on a single object and when our attention wanders away from this object we bring our attention back to the object. Awareness of the Breath meditation is a way of developing concentration on a single object – the physical sensations of breathing. Breathing in, you know that you are breathing in and breathing out, you know that you are breathing out. When the mind wanders (the focus of your attention has moved away from the breath) you gently but firmly bring your attention back to the breath. In short, you “aim and sustain;” you aim your attention on the breath and keep the attention there, gently, with a curious, kind attention and a wise effort.

Mindfulness Meditation – Concentration, Awareness, with Compassion
Mindfulness is awareness that arises by paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally (that is, being aware of and suspending judgment). Mindfulness involves training in attention, awareness, concentration, and compassion. You come to know and understand yourself in a deeper, experiential way.

Key aspects of mindfulness: Concentration – the ability to stay focused on one object, one-pointedness. Awareness – another way of knowing that is non-cognitive or experiential; in the present moment – not being caught-up in thoughts of the future or the past. Mindfulness brings a gentle, curious attention to whatever arises in mind and body. We are is just directly observing the sensations themselves, as moments unfolds, with nothing added. As practice deepens you gain insights into the conditions that influence thoughts and behavior. These insights deepen our understanding of our conditioning, leading to great compassion for self and others. Keep in mind, as with developing any art or skill, mindfulness requires practice and patience.

Walking Meditation – Walking meditation can be practiced as either formal or informal mindfulness. This practice focuses attention on the sensations of each step. We simply walk, while focusing on (attending to) and sustaining the focus of attention on the lifting, moving, and placing of each step. When the mind wanders – that is, when the focus of attention has moved away from the physical sensations of lifting, moving, and placing each foot, you simply bring your attention back to the sensations of walking. The physical sensations become your focal point or anchor, just as the breath is in the example above. Repeat “coming back” to the sensations of walking each time the mind wanders. With practice you can expand your focus of attention.

How mindfulness works: Mindfulness practice allows you to respond rather than react to stressful situations. Reactions are often automatic, unconscious, and habitual. Responses are conscious choices arising from mindfulness – perception, appraisal, awareness of what’s actually happening in the moment, clearly seeing. This process results in not identifying as closely with our thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, which in-turn loosens our attachment to them. This allows “space” for creative, conscious choices to arise.

Benefits of Mindfulness Practice, realizing greater health and happiness

  • Changing your relationship to stress, anxiety, anger, fear, sadness, and other emotions

  • Being less reactive and more responsive–allowing space for conscious, creative choices

  • Developing peacefulness, a reservoir of peace or calm energy

  • Gaining insights- identifying skillful and unskillful patterns of behavior, speech, etc.

  • Being more compassionate with self and others

Mindfulness Practice Evening is a Free Offering for the Community – that meets the second Friday of each month from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. These mindfulness instruction sessions explore different aspects of mindfulness through discussions and practice. They are free. All those who are interested are welcome – whether you are just curious or have a regular practice. Free parking. No registration is required. More information – mfhealy@bellsouth.net

The Dedicated Mindfulness Practitioners Group meets, each Saturday, from 8:30 – 9:30 a.m., for those with some experience with meditation. These two mindfulness practice opportunities and the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction workshop are held at the Healing Lodge, next to the Loran Smith Center, Piedmont Athens Regional, at 240 Talmadge Dr., Athens, GA 30606. More information – JaseyJones@gmail.com

The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) workshop provides guidelines and practices for bringing mindfulness to stress or the suffering that we all experience in life. MBSR was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the Center for Mindfulness, University of Massachusetts in 1979. It is one of the most effective and researched stress reduction workshops available today. MBSR is taught and researched at US medical centers, universities, and elsewhere throughout the world. Research on MBSR is the “gold standard” for mindfulness – www.goamra.org
The MBSR workshop is available thanks to the Loran Smith Center, Piedmont Athens Regional, 240 Talmadge Drive, Athens, GA 30606.

The Mindfulness Practice Evening is facilitated by Mike Healy, Ed.D., certified to teach Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction by the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and is a certified Integral Hatha Yoga instructor, RYT 200.

For information or to register for a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction workshop please visit www.MindfuLiving.Org or contact Mike Healy at 706-248-8918 or mfhealy@bellsouth.net The next Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction workshop will be held in early 2020. Individual instruction is also available.