My Story and the Origin of Buddhaimonia

My Story and the Origin of Buddhaimonia

For as long as I can remember, I had the idea in my mind that I was supposed to do something special. Even as a young child I have a few faint memories of thinking, “I’m special. I’m going to do something significant.” 

Years later, I’d realize that there wasn’t really anything special at all about that thought because we all have it at one point or another. We all believe we’re supposed to do something “big” with our life...that we’re special. Little did I know at the time, but that initial idea which was sparked in my mind would lead me down the path I travel today. 

For the past eight years, I’ve studied feverishly with one goal in mind. Everything from books like Think & Grow RichThe Millionaire Mind, and The Secret to John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, all books very popular in sales and commission-based business environments due to the focus around self-actualization, or realizing one’s potential, and money (a part of self-actualization, to most).

I’ve read just about every major self-development book you can name, from Tony Robbins' Unlimited Power to The Magic of Thinking Big. Later, I’d dive into Positive Psychology and the study of happiness and our overall well-being by reading the likes of Martin Seligman, Shawn Achor, Sonja Lyubomirsky, and others.

Lastly, I moved on to everything spirituality and worldly wisdom, eventually landing on Buddhism, most specifically Zen and the likes of Thich Nhat Hanh, Alan Watts, D.T. Suzuki, Shunryu Suzuki, and other teachers from The Dalai Lama and Pema Chodron to Chogyam Trungpa, and of course, the Buddha. 

Each new book I read, each new talk I listened to, and each new person I studied, from the self-actualization arena to pure “self-development”, “well-being”, and “spirituality”, I got a little bit closer. But a little bit closer to what? It was always about fulfilling the need, filling the hole I felt inside of myself.

11 Ways to Make Meditation a Daily Habit

11 Ways to Make Meditation a Daily Habit

While not quite "mainstream", over the past 30 years in the West, meditation has quickly begun to shift from being perceived as some “woowoo” practice for hippies by most to a useful tool which holds valuable benefits towards cultivating greater well-being.

Nowadays, people of all different backgrounds meditate from executives to employees, doctors to patients, teachers to students, parents to children, and people of all walks of life in between.

It’s no secret that the benefits of meditation aren’t permanent. Meditation is a practice, something which needs to be practiced regularly, if not daily, to gain consistent or continuous benefits from the practice.

And yet I’ve found that, in both my research and personal practice and teaching experience, very few meditators are able to stick to a consistent meditation practice. In fact, most drop off altogether because of their challenge with sticking to a consistent practice.

For years, I struggled to stick to a consistent meditation practice. I had experienced the beauty and benefit of the practice early on and knew what it did for me, and yet, I just couldn’t bring myself to stick to this thing which I knew was good for me (forget "good", let me speak truthfully: life changing). Something always got in the way, but rarely could I pinpoint it.

It took years before I was able to really deconstruct the central challenges that stood in the way of us and sticking to a consistent meditation practice and create a daily practice of my own.

However, I can now happily say that I’ve meditated consistently for years and enjoy the fruits of that practice, from greater peace and balance in my daily life to improved patience with my family (among other things).

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Next week, I’ll be sharing a free video series on this very topic. It will show you how to find the time to practice, how to stick to a consistent daily practice, and how to overcome the challenges we’re faced with in everyday life to live more mindfully and meditatively.

If you’d like to be notified when the first video goes live, click below:

Here are 11 effective ways I’ve found to help make meditation a daily habit:

11 Ways to Make Meditation a Daily Habit

1. Keep It Short and Sweet

It’s a common misconception that you have to meditate for some great length of time, such as 20 or 30 minutes. The truth is, even 5 minutes of meditation is highly effective and all you need to begin establishing meditation as a consistent practice.

The reality is, when trying to adopt a new habit or make some sort of positive change, we need give ourselves every advantage possible. A whole host of things will attempt to keep us from making that activity or behavior a regular part of our lives and we’ll give ourselves every excuse as to why we can’t do it, so you need to make the activity as simple, easy, and convenient as humanly possible.

By meditating for, say, 5 minutes for the first few weeks of your practice, you’ll have established a strong foundation with which to build from. You can then begin to increase your sessions from there to 10, 15, 20 minutes and longer (whatever you choose).

2. Set a Regular Meditation Time

This is a simple and, for the most part, easy point (the setting of it is easy, sticking to it often isn’t), but I’ve found that it’s something most people don’t consider when attempting to make meditation a daily habit.

Virtually all of the most important activities in your life are scheduled. Think about it: meal time, work, time with family, important meetings and errands, time out with friends, kids activities, and just about everything else is scheduled.

In order to make something a part of your life long-term, you need to make it a part of your schedule.

3. Be Mindful in Daily Life (Don’t Restrict Your Practice to the Cushion)

It’s easy at first to get the idea that you can only meditate while sitting in a specific way, with your eyes closed, on a cushion. However, you can practice mindfulness anywhere, while doing anything, and at any time.

You can be mindful:

- In a waiting room - In your car (driving and stopped) - While cleaning - In the restroom (yep) - At your office desk - During breakfast, lunch, and dinner - While taking out the trash - While walking to your car - While grocery shopping

Also, it’s important to note that you don’t need some specific environment or set up to practice mindfulness. Sure, these things can help, but they're not necessary.

First, you don’t have to do something more slowly to do it mindfully. In the beginning, this may be beneficial or even necessary to learn the practice, but once you get the hang of it you can walk at your normal pace mindfully.

Secondly, you can practice mindfulness in a crowded area. The only caveat to that is the voices need to be indiscernible. By that I mean if you can clearly make out a conversation nearby you’ll be likely to lose your concentration. If you can’t make out the words, the jumbled sound creates a consistent backdrop, which is easy to concentrate amid.

4. Meditate for (at least) 11 Days Straight

We all know (or at least believe) it’s best to do something consistently for a long stretch of time, because then you’re more likely to make it a habit or a more “automatic” behavior. However, exactly how that affects meditation practice hasn’t always been so clear.

Coach.me, the goal-tracking app, reviewed data from users who participated in a meditation course and found that meditators who practiced for just 11 days were over 90% more likely to continue in their practice from the 12th day and on.

So, create a streak of at least 11 days straight and you’ll give yourself a strong advantage to making meditation a regular part of your life.

5. Do What You Can

The reality is, if you want to stick to a consistent meditation practice, you need to be flexible.

Somedays, things will come up and block you from either meditating during your regular scheduled session, or, from meditating as long as you usually do.

When this happens, just adapt and roll with it. If you’re short on time (actually short on time, not just convincing yourself you are), meditate for 5-10 minutes instead of your usual 20 minute session.

Whatever you do, the most important thing is that you get yourself on the cushion, even if for only a few minutes. That’s a huge part of creating a consistent meditation practice.

6. Make Friends with Your Critical Mind

Something interesting happens when we start meditating: we come face-to-face with the mind. However, for most of us, it’s not a joyous occasion (at least at first). That’s because, for most of us, all we find is utter chaos.

And as a result of coming face-to-face with the chaos of our mind, we learn that we’re naturally very, very critical of ourselves.

In failing to consistently hold concentration on the breath- because our mind is a crazy unrelenting monkey- we think, “Im not cut out for meditation”, “I can’t meditate”, and “I’m not doing it right”. However, what we don’t know when we’re by ourselves meditating on our cushion is:

  1. Everyone goes through this and you’re not adverse to meditation.
  2. This is perfectly natural. Being with the mind as it is, without judgment, is what the practice is all about (whether that’s chaos or calm) and it’s how the practice is supposed to be.

More than being at peace, mindfulness meditation is about being with the mind in whatever state that might be. One day you might feel relative peace, another day might be sheer chaos.

However, your approach to both meditation sessions is the same: be with the mind mindfully and nonjudgmentally, fully accepting of whatever thoughts, feelings, and sensations arise.

This is how, with time, you learn to make friends with your critical mind.

7. Remember Why You Practice

When it comes down to it, motivation is mostly just a measure of how aware we are of our reasons for taking a particular action (and the emotional intensity of those reasons).

Make no mistake, motivation is a critical part of sticking to a daily meditation practice. By identifying clearly what drew you to meditation as well as what meditation practice has done (or is doing) for you, you’ll be far more motivated to continue sitting in meditation.

Get clear on why you meditate and make sure those reasons are emotionally compelling. Once you’ve done this, keep these reasons top-of-mind to begin to draw that mental connection between your practice and these compelling reasons.

This is absolutely one of the most powerful things you can do to stick to a more consistent meditation practice.

8. Let Go of Expectations (Just Sit)

Most of us go into meditation practice with certain expectations. We want to levitate by one year, achieve nirvana and self-combust, or become enlightened and live off the dew of a single ginko leaf and the energy of the universe (yes, that’s a Kung Fu Panda reference- they’re my kid's favorite movies).

Jokes aside, often these expectations are attached to our reasons for practicing. However, they don’t have to be and aren’t the same thing. One can be utilized positively while the other is generally a hindrance to practice.

Expectations are dangerous because it causes us to judge our meditation sessions and gauge whether or not we’re “progressing” at the speed, or in the way, we believe we should be progressing at.

This is the worst approach to take with meditation practice because it amplifies the already difficult to handle critical mind and makes it seemingly insurmountable, at least until you let go of those expectations. And really, it’s against the practice of "accepting the moment for what it is” entirely.

You may have come to meditation practice for a reason, but it doesn’t mean you need to expect anything in particular, in a particular amount, or in a particular amount of time in connection with that reason.

It may take practice, but you can cultivate a “no expectations” state of mind when sitting in meditation (and outside your meditation practice) by allowing yourself to relax and sit with whatever comes to you, openly accepting the meditation session as it is, and letting go of the desire for anything more than what is now in this moment.

9. Make It a Way of Life

Meditation isn’t a prescription you pick up and use to cure some condition, henceforth being freed from said condition and no longer in need of meditation.

Meditation helps us cultivate important qualities such as peace, balance, and a sense of space and work through many big challenges, which gives the practice a real sense of progression. However, the journey never really ends because you need to continue to meditate to maintain those various qualities and benefits.

Instead of looking at meditation as some new positive habit you want to adopt to help cure something such as stress or anxiety, to make meditation a consistent daily practice and maintain these benefits you need throw out the idea of an “end point” and just decide to make meditation a part of your life long-term.

By the way, doing so really helps remove expectations. This is because, by shifting your mindset for the long-term, you stop thinking so much about “when am I going to get to X point?” and can simply enjoy your practice more.

Meditation is a beautiful practice, one which comes with numerous significant and potentially life-changing benefits, so make it part of your life and simply sit enjoying this beautiful practice.

10. Be Accountable

Accountability is key to creating any new habit and meditation is no different.

Accountability comes in two forms:

  1. Accountability to yourself
  2. Accountability to others (single person, group, or both)

In the case of meditation, accountability to yourself can be done via a simple session tracking sheet in Microsoft Excel, Google Docs, or some similar program or even a simple sheet of paper.

Accountability to others can be a simple line of communication between two or more people over email or in person that each person reports to daily to confirm whether they meditated or not.

Why is accountability such an effective tool for sticking to new habits?

Accountability works off of the basic set of pain and pleasure motivators which control many of our actions in our daily life already. By either being accountable to yourself or (especially) accountable to others, a pleasurable feeling develops in connection with the idea of completing the task and a painful feeling in connection with the idea of not completing the task.

This alone can sometimes be all that’s needed to help someone develop a new habit because the potential for pain is such a strong emotional motivator.

11. Don't Forget- Have Fun

This might seem like a simple or rather obvious tip, however, it seems like a lot of people eventually forget that you should enjoy your practice.

This is an important part of the Buddha's advice for walking the path of awakening (whatever you personally consider that to be). That is, walking the journey in an easeful and joy-filled way.

If at any point you feel your practice has become a chore, you can be sure you'll drop off soon afterward. It's just the way that it works.

You should enjoy your practice, for the most part. If you get to a point where you do feel like your practice has become difficult or cumbersome, and not because you're sitting through an internal challenge but rather because you've just gotten bored or tired of it in some way, switch it up and try something unique like mindful walking, mindful driving, or mindful cleaning (assuming your core practice is sitting in meditation) or an entirely different meditation technique like loving-kindness meditation.

If you're feeling brave or up to the challenge, this boredom or frustration is also something beneficial to sit with. When you feel it arise, sit down and notice the feeling, and whatever arises along with it, a few times before getting up. Doing so will help you bring clarity to what's going on.

Conclusion

The challenges that face us in sticking to a daily meditation practice consistently are numerous and varied. However, we also have numerous tools which we can utilize to work through these challenges.

With the proper motivation and the right tools in hand, you can make meditation a daily habit.

Next week, I’ll be sharing a free video series on this very topic. It will show you how to find the time to practice, how to stick to a consistent daily practice, and how to overcome the challenges we’re faced with in everyday life to live more mindfully and meditatively.

If you’d like to be notified when the first video goes live, click below:

101 Inspiring Mindfulness Quotes to Live By

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"Living 24 hours with mindfulness is more worthwhile than living 100 years without it."

- The Buddha

Mindfulness practice, at its foundation, is simple and straightforward (at least, the how, actually doing the practice can be another story).

However, the practice of mindfulness is really our whole life. It's mindfulness practice which allows us to become more awake to our life as a whole and uncover countless insights that have a real and significant impact on the quality of our day-to-day life.

For this reason, mindfulness practice touches every aspect of our life. It includes what goes on within us, from the story we tell ourselves in our day-to-day life with thoughts and imaginations and the myriad of feelings we experience such as fear, anger, and sadness to the sensations we feel in the body and how the mind and body are really interconnected as one whole, sensations affecting the mind and thoughts and feelings affecting the body.

However, it goes much further than that. It can change our relationship with loved ones for the positive, improving our patience and priming us for greater understanding, compassion, and loving-kindness.

Years ago, mindfulness and meditation practice changed my life in real and significant ways and it continues to do so today (some of which are associated with what I mentioned above).

The words below might seem like simply enjoyable blurbs either confirming your life's experiences or beliefs or insightful reading which can open your mind to a new idea. And they are exactly that.

However, the quotes below, for those sincerely interested in mindfulness and meditation practice, can even help show you how to practice (or, at least, improve your practice or clear up a misconception).

For that reason, everyone should find something of value.

101 Inspiring Mindfulness Quotes to Live By

The below quotes are categorized mostly for ease of reading and enjoyment. Keep in mind that some of these quotes are related to mindfulness and mindfulness practice itself and others to the insights you can discover as a result of it.

Categories include: Mindfulness Practice (quotes associated with the practice itself), Insights (as in, insights which mindfulness practice can lead to and are associated with), The Peace and Miracle of This Moment, The Movie of Our Life (the way we "add" to the reality of our life with thoughts and feelings), Stress, Anxiety, and Challenge, and Making Friends with Yourself and Being with Others.

Enjoy these 101 inspiring mindfulness quotes...

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Mindfulness Practice

“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.”

- Sylvia Boorstein

“The only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step that you are taking at this moment. That’s all there ever is.”

- Eckhart Tolle

“Meditation is to be aware of what is going on: in your body, in your feelings, in your mind, and in the world.”

- Thich Nhat Hanh

“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).”

- James Baraz

“Mindfulness practice means that we commit fully in each moment to be present; inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness, with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness, and equanimity right here and right now.”

- Jon Kabat-Zinn

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; live the actual moment. Only this moment is life.”

- Thich Nhat Hanh

“We might begin by scanning our body . . . and then asking, "What is happening?" We might also ask, "What wants my attention right now?" or, "What is asking for acceptance?”

- Tara Brach

“Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment. We also gain immediate access to our own powerful inner resources for insight, transformation, and healing.”

- Jon Kabat-Zinn

“Being mindful means that we suspend judgment for a time, set aside our immediate goals for the future, and take in the present moment as it is rather than as we would like it to be.”

- Mark Williams

“Each step along the Buddha’s path to happiness requires practising mindfulness until it becomes part of your daily life.”

- Henepola Gunaratana

“Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.”

- Sharon Salzberg

“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”

- Thich Nhat Hanh

“Every time we become aware of a thought, as opposed to being lost in a thought, we experience that opening of the mind.”

- Joseph Goldstein

“Concentration is a cornerstone of mindfulness practice. Your mindfulness will only be as robust as the capacity of your mind to be calm and stable. Without calmness, the mirror of mindfulness will have an agitated and choppy surface and will not be able to reflect things with any accuracy."

- Jon Kabat-Zinn

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor."

- Thich Nhat Hanh

“The greatest communication is usually how we are rather than what we say.”

- Joseph Goldstein

“Meditation is essentially training our attention so that we can be more aware— not only of our own inner workings but also of what’s happening around us in the here & now.”

- Sharon Salzberg

“Wherever you are, be there totally.”

- Eckhart Tolle

“The idea has come to me that what I want now to do is to saturate every atom. I mean to eliminate all waste, deadness, superfluity: to give the moment whole; whatever it includes. Say that the moment is a combination of thought; sensation; the voice of the sea. Waste, deadness, come from the inclusion of things that don't belong to the moment; this appalling narrative business of the realist: getting on from lunch to dinner: it is false, unreal, merely conventional.”

- Virginia Woolf

“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.”

- Jon Kabat-Zinn

“What you are looking for is what is looking.”

- Joseph Goldstein

“Do every act of your life as though it were the last act of your life.”

- Marcus Aurelius

“If you miss the present moment, you miss your appointment with life. That is very serious!”

- Thich Nhat Hanh

“Meditate … do not delay, lest you later regret it.”

- The Buddha

“Mindful and creative, a child who has neither a past, nor examples to follow, nor value judgments, simply lives, speaks and plays in freedom.”

- Arnaud Desjardins

“Flow with whatever may happen and let your mind be free: Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate.”

- Chuang

“You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

- Jon Kabat-Zinn

“When you do something, you should burn yourself up completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.”

- Shunryu Suzuki

“Practice is this life, and realization is this life, and this life is revealed right here and now.”

- Maezumi Roshi

"Emotion arises at the place where mind & body meet. It is the body's reaction to mind."

- Eckhart Tolle

"Use every distraction as an object of meditation and they cease to be distractions."

- Mingyur Rinpoche

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Insights

“Now is the future that you promised yourself last year, last month, last week. Now is the only moment you’ll ever really have. Mindfulness is about waking up to this.”

- Mark Williams

“Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it. What is wrong is seeking it outside when it is inside.”

- Ramana Maharshi

“Ardently do today what must be done. Who knows? Tomorrow, death comes.”

- The Buddha

“Wanting to reform the world without discovering one’s true self is like trying to cover the world with leather to avoid the pain of walking on stones and thorns. It is much simpler to wear shoes.”

- Ramana Maharshi

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”

- Thích Nhat Hanh

“As I noticed feelings and thoughts appear and disappear, it became increasingly clear that they were just coming and going on their own. . . . There was no sense of a self owning them.”

- Tara Brach

“Meditation is the only intentional, systematic human activity which at bottom is about not trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else, but simply to realize where you already are.”

- Jon Kabat-Zinn

“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.”

- Carl Jung

“Knowledge does not mean mastering a great quantity of different information, but understanding the nature of mind. This knowledge can penetrate each one of our thoughts and illuminate each one of our perceptions.”

- Matthieu Ricard

“Awareness is the greatest agent for change.”

- Eckhart Tolle

“Perhaps ultimately, spiritual simply means experiencing wholeness and interconnectedness directly, a seeing that individuality and the totality are interwoven, that nothing is separate or extraneous. If you see in this way, then everything becomes spiritual in its deepest sense. Doing science is spiritual. So is washing the dishes.”

- Jon Kabat-Zinn

"Reality is only an agreement - today is always today."

- Zen Proverb

“Feelings, whether of compassion or irritation, should be welcomed, recognized, and treated on an absolutely equal basis; because both are ourselves. The tangerine I am eating is me. The mustard greens I am planting are me. I plant with all my heart and mind. I clean this teapot with the kind of attention I would have were I giving the baby Buddha or Jesus a bath. Nothing should be treated more carefully than anything else. In mindfulness, compassion, irritation, mustard green plant, and teapot are all sacred.”

- Thich Nhat Hanh

"The significance is hiding in the insignificant. Appreciate everything."

- Eckhart Tolle

“As long as we have practiced neither concentration nor mindfulness, the ego takes itself for granted and remains its usual normal size, as big as the people around one will allow.”

- Ayya Khema

“Throughout this life, you can never be certain of living long enough to take another breath.”

- Huang Po

“Be happy in the moment, that's enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”

- Mother Teresa

“If you live the sacred and despise the ordinary, you are still bobbing in the ocean of delusion.”

- Linji Yixuan

“We have only now, only this single eternal moment opening and unfolding before us, day and night.”

- Jack Kornfield

“Perfection of character is this: to live each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, without apathy, without pretense.”

- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

“Guilt, regret, resentment, sadness & all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past & not enough presence.”

- Eckhart Tolle

“It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth – and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up – that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.”

- Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

“Mindfulness, the Root of Happiness”

- Joseph Goldstein

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The Peace and Miracle of this Moment

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking out new landscapes but in having new eyes."

- Marcel Proust

“I’m here to tell you that the path to peace is right there, when you want to get away.”

- Pema Chödrön

“Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child - our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”

- Thich Nhat Hanh

“This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”

- Alan Watts

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”

- Thich Nhat Hanh

“Pure awareness transcends thinking. It allows you to step outside the chattering negative self-talk and your reactive impulses and emotions. It allows you to look at the world once again with open eyes. And when you do so, a sense of wonder and quiet contentment begins to reappear in your life.”

- Mark Williams

“The only way to live is by accepting each minute as an unrepeatable miracle.”

- Tara Brach

“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.”

- Henry Miller

“Today, you can decide to walk in freedom. You can choose to walk differently. You can walk as a free person, enjoying every step.”

- Thich Nhat Hanh

“In today’s rush, we all think too much — seek too much — want too much — and forget about the joy of just being.”

- Eckhart Tolle

"Each morning we’re born again

of yesterday nothing remains

what’s left began today."

- Palladas

“Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day, in all the small uncaring ways.”

- Stephen Vincent Benet

“The art of living… is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging to the past on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.”

- Alan Watts

“What would it be like if I could accept life--accept this moment--exactly as it is?”

- Tara Brach

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The Movie of Our Life

“What is it about our expectations, plans, or ideas that hold such sway over us? It is as if we've written a script for a play of our lives that runs about a month ahead of actual life; if reality varies from what we've created in our minds we disengage or pout.”

- Holly Sprink

“Everything is created twice, first in the mind and then in reality.”

- Robin S. Sharma

“Mindfulness, also called wise attention, helps us see what we’re adding to our experiences, not only during meditation sessions but also elsewhere.”

- Sharon Salzberg

"The fundamental cause of grasping and rejecting, the source of all our pain, relies upon taking things –all our mental projections– as real."

- Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche

“We use mindfulness to observe the way we cling to pleasant experiences & push away unpleasant ones.”

- Sharon Salzberg

“It’s not about approving or liking, but just being able to allow the world to be the way it is without resenting, hating, or judging it.”

- Buddhism Now

“My experience is that many things are not as bad as I thought they would be.”

- Mary Doria Russell

“Suffering usually relates to wanting things to be different than they are.”

- Allan Lokos

“To diminish the suffering of pain, we need to make a crucial distinction between the pain of pain, and the pain we create by our thoughts about the pain. Fear, anger, guilt, loneliness and helplessness are all mental and emotional responses that can intensify pain.”

- Howard Cutler

"No one has ever been angry at another human being we're only angry at our story of them."

- Byron Katie

“When you are present, you can allow the mind to be as it is without getting entangled in it.”

- Eckhart Tolle

"We cannot be present and run our story-line at the same time."

- Pema Chödrön

"Every problem perceived to be 'out there' is really nothing more than a misperception within your own thinking."

- Byron Katie

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Stress, Anxiety, and Challenge

“Few of us ever live in the present. We are forever anticipating what is to come or remembering what has gone.”

- Louis L'Amour

“We withdraw from our experience of the present moment. We pull away from the raw feelings of fear and shame by incessantly telling ourselves stories about what is happening in our life.”

- Tara Brach

“The standard way of reducing stress in our culture is to put as much energy as possible into trying to arrive at a moment that matches our preferences. This ensures that we feel some level of stress until we get there (assuming we ever will) and worse, it makes the present moment into an unacceptable place to be.”

- David Cain

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”

- Amit Ray

“Pain is not wrong. Reacting to pain as wrong initiates the trance of unworthiness. The moment we believe something is wrong, our world shrinks and we lose ourselves in the effort to combat the pain.”

- Tara Brach

“We must be willing to encounter darkness and despair when they come up and face them, over and over again if need be, without running away or numbing ourselves in the thousands of ways we conjure up to avoid the unavoidable.”

- Jon Kabat-Zinn

“We do so much, we run so quickly, the situation is difficult, and many people say, "Don't just sit there, do something." But doing more things may make the situation worse. So you should say, "Don't just do something, sit there." Sit there, stop, be yourself first, and begin from there.”

- Thich Nhat Hanh

"If you aren't in the moment, you are either looking forward to uncertainty, or back to pain and regret."

- Jim Carrey

“Stepping out of the busyness, stopping our endless pursuit of getting somewhere else, is perhaps the most beautiful offering we can make to our spirit.”

- Tara Brach

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Making Friends with Yourself and Being with Others

“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”

- Pema Chodron

“All beings want to be happy, yet so very few know how. It is out of ignorance that any of us cause suffering, for ourselves or for others”

- Sharon Salzberg

“The energy of mindfulness has the element of friendship and loving kindness in it.”

- Thich Nhat Hanh

“By learning to allow different types of discomfort to simply stay in the room with you, without your scrambling for a button to push (real or metaphorical), you make discomfort matter less.

The pool of things you’re afraid of shrinks. It becomes a lot less important to control circumstances, because you know you can handle moments of uncertainty or awkwardness or disappointment without an escape plan.”

- David Cain

“Look at other people and ask yourself if you are really seeing them or just your thoughts about them.”

- Jon Kabat-Zinn

“We often have very little empathy for our own thoughts and feelings and frequently try to suppress them by dismissing them as weaknesses.”

- Mark Williams

“Essentially, meditation allows us to live in ways that are less automatic. This necessarily means less time spent worrying, ruminating, and trying to control things we can’t control. It means we become less vulnerable to the throes of the fear-driven, older parts of our brains, and freer to use our newer and more sophisticated mental abilities: patience, compassion, acceptance and reason.”

- David Cain

"Acknowledging the pain and the suffering that take place inside you, and allowing the feelings, will take time, but this new way of handling these feelings will change the way you relate to you and to the outside world.”

- Kelly Martin

“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”

- Thich Nhat Hanh

"Somehow I always seem to forget the most powerful tool I have in my parenting arsenal: myself. My presence.”

- Carla Naumburg

Begin Your Adventure into Mindfulness

I hope you enjoyed this list of some of my favorite quotes on mindfulness practice and the insights that come with it. Now, it's time to move from idea to application and begin (or take further) your own mindfulness practice.

By signing up to the Buddhaimonia newsletter you can get a free high-quality eBook download of my first book, The Little Book of Mindfulness.

For those interested in learning the practice of mindfulness for themselves, The Little Book of Mindfulness will teach you everything you need to get started in a simple, clear, and straightforward way.

10 Easy Ways to Start Being Mindful Today

10 EASY WAYS TO START BEING MINDFUL TODAY via Buddhaimonia
10 EASY WAYS TO START BEING MINDFUL TODAY via Buddhaimonia

Over the past 30 years, the practice of mindfulness meditation (mostly a secularized version originating from Jon Kabat-Zinn's Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program) has spread throughout the West.

Today millions of people all around the world are discovering the power of mindfulness through the practice of formal meditation. However, mindfulness practice extends beyond just sitting on the meditation cushion.

Mindfulness practice doesn't stop at being mindful of the breath. In just the same way that we are mindful of physical sensations in the body along with thoughts and emotions in the mind while we meditate, we can become mindful of feelings, thoughts, and emotions throughout our everyday life.

Activities such as walking, cleaning, and driving can be transformed from mundane autopilot activities to moments in our day where we stop the habitual rushing around (even if only for a moment) and come alive to the beauty and peace of that moment.

All it takes to begin living a more mindful life is to do a few minor activities mindfully more often. The result starts out small, but quickly these little moments of mindfulness practice can spread into the rest of your life in the same way that the effects of a consistent sitting meditation practice spread into the rest of your life (provided it's with a consistent effort) and positively affect everything you do.

Below are 10 easy ways to start being more mindful in your daily life. My suggestion? Pick 1-2 of these to work on at first. By focusing in on a few small moments each day you'll be more likely to follow through and develop mindfulness into a daily practice throughout your life.

Living more mindfully isn't easy. So, by focusing in on a few small moments each day, you'll be more likely to follow through and develop mindfulness into a daily practice throughout your life.

10 Easy Ways to Start Being Mindful Today

1. Cleaning

Cleaning might sound like an odd one, but the repetitive nature of essentially all types of cleaning makes them perfectly suited for mindfulness practice.

Whether it's sweeping or mopping the floor, wiping windows or countertops, or washing dishes the time you already use for cleaning can become an ideal opportunity to wake up and experience the greater peace and balance that mindfulness practice allows us to cultivate.

Learn how to clean mindfully:

Guided Meditation: Click here to listen to the Zen for Everyday Life podcast, guided meditation episode 23: Mindful Cleaning.

2. Walking

Opportunities to practice mindful walking are numerous in daily life. By walking, I'm specifically referring to the short walks we do throughout each day. Namely:

  • Walking to and from your car to work and home
  • Walking to take out the trash
  • Walking to grab the mail
  • Walking through the store
  • Any other short walks such as this

These are all opportune times to practice mindful walking in daily life. My advice: Pick 2 of these and set up a cue for each.

What is a cue? A cue, as I'm referring to it, is something that helps you remember to do something else. A specific example is pairing up walking to your car in the morning with being mindful.

Setting this up as a scheduled practice gets you to associate walking to your car with being mindful. Pretty soon, you'll notice yourself walking mindfully more often elsewhere because of the paired association.

Another example would be putting a piece of paper that says "Be Mindful" somewhere prominent that you'll pass by every day, like on the back door of your room or office, so that each time you pass by it you're reminded to be mindful.

Learn how to walk mindfully:

  1. The Beginner's Guide to Walking Meditation
  2. Guided Meditation: Click here to listen to the Zen for Everyday Life podcast, guided meditation episode 21: Mindful Walking / Walking Meditation.

3. Notice Breathing

You don't need to sit down on a meditation cushion and adopt a specific posture to bring yourself into a meditative state. Being mindful of the breath is as easy as turning your attention to it, no matter what you're doing.

Whether you're sitting in a lobby, waiting to be called at the Dr.'s office, sitting in your car at a red light, or taking your lunch break at work you can stop, turn your attention to your breathing, and be mindful for even a few short seconds.

Making it a habit to use small moments in your day as opportunities for mindfulness practice, such as the abovementioned, is a great way to bring a little more balance into your daily life.

Learn how to breathe mindfully in everyday life:

  1. Short Guide (just want to get to the practice): How to Practice Mindfulness: The Quick and Easy Guide to Learning Mindfulness Meditation
  2. Longer Guide (want more background, instruction, and detail):How to Meditate for Beginners
  3. Guided Meditation: Click here to listen to the Zen for Everyday Life podcast, guided meditation episode 7: Going Home.

4. A Mindful Check-in

A mindful check-in is a simple practice which involves checking in with your physical body for a few moments.

As opposed to noticing your breathing, this practice is about becoming aware of the entire physical body as a whole- aches and pains, fatigue or wakefulness, hot or coldness, specific sensations (including the breath), and anything else that arises.

Our body is constantly sending messages to the mind and vice versa, so developing the habit to check in with your body regularly can be infinitely rewarding on so many different levels, both physical and mental.

Use the below guided meditation to learn how to scan through the body mindfully, then do a shortened version of the practice for a minute or two at a time a few times a day (you can set a reminder on your smartphone) or whenever you find yourself with a minute to spare.

Learn how to be with the body mindfully:

Guided Meditation: Click here to listen to the Zen for Everyday Life podcast, guided meditation episode 25: Mindfulness of Body / Mindfulness Body Scan.

5. Drinking

Eating is one of the major activities of daily life, so it goes without saying that if you can eat a little more mindfully it can make a noticeable difference in the quality of your day-to-day life.

However, many will find eating an entire meal mindfully to be difficult in the beginning (especially with kids!). For that reason, I'm focusing here on simply having a mindful drink of coffee or tea in the morning.

The simple act of drinking a cup of tea or coffee slowly and mindfully when you first wake up in the morning is one of my favorite practices and I've found it helps me center and calm myself  as well as many meditative practices.

Plus, this is something so many already do and enjoy doing (mostly with coffee) that it fits perfectly with the flow of their day. Maybe that's you. If not, I'd suggest at least giving it a try.

Learn how to drink mindfully:

  1. Complete Guide to Tea Meditation: How to Find Peace and De-Stress with a Simple Tea Meditation
  2. More on Mindful Eating: 20 Mindful Eating Tips That Will Transform Your Relationship with Food

6. Listening

When was the last time you really listened when someone was talking? I mean drop everything, complete focus, eye contact listening?

Most of us will have a hard time remembering the last time we really listened to someone (especially someone we see every day of our life) with our full attention. That's what this point is all about.

Mindful communication is different from mindfulness practice in that it's much less meditative than other points on this list (more going on, harder to latch on and concentrate on one point for longer periods), but it's still powerful.

To listen mindfully means to listen in a way that you're fully present for the other person, hearing everything they say and paying attention to your own reaction to the other person's words in the form of your thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations.

Learn how to listen mindfully:

Practice Instruction: Click here to read The Mindfulness Survival Guide (Section: Nurturing and Healing Relationships, Mindful Listening)

7. Stop and Notice (Just Being)

This is simply the practice of stopping what you're doing and noticing what's going on around you and within the body and mind.

It's about being with the entire moment as it is internally and externally (and really, making no distinction between the two as separate things).

In some ways, it's an advanced practice which builds on practices such as mindful breathing and the mindful check-in. Keep that in mind and start with some of the earlier practices first if you're new to mindfulness practice, mindful breathing being the major recommendation or walking if you find yourself feeling unable to sit still for even 5 minutes at a time.

I call this the practice of "Just Being", which refers to just being with the moment fully and openly, accepting everything that comes equally and letting it be.

Learn how to just be:

Guided Meditation: Click here to listen to the Zen for Everyday Life podcast, guided meditation episode 13: Just Being.

8. Notice Mental Activity

I separate this as its own point because, like the mindful check-in, you can occasionally focus in on the mind and check-in to see what's going on in a more pointed and specific way.

As opposed to allowing things to come to you, you direct your attention to what's going on in your mind right now.

This is a useful technique for when you're especially puzzled or confused about something (or a combination of things) and feel like you need to find a resolution quickly.

Focusing in on your mental activity and shining the light of mindfulness on it can help bring clarity where there was once fog. Formal meditation practice can do this as well, but we don't always have time to sit for long stretches in formal meditation.

9. Notice Zoning Out / Autopilot

This point is about noticing the lack of mindfulness or awareness. Specifically, moments where you space out / zone out or go into autopilot mode (like driving home from work like you've done 1,000 times before).

This is only possible by becoming aware of this moment in the first place, so it's more the decision, once having "woken up", to acknowledge when you were mindless. This is very helpful because it helps you to draw a contrast between mindfulness or wakefulness and mindlessness, allowing you to see more clearly that you're practicing correctly.

As we go about our day, much of the time we're running on autopilot. However, occasionally, the lights come on and we realize we've been going about the last 2 hours like a drone and have a moment of "waking up" (often a change of scenery like leaving a building compels this change in us).

We often end up checking back in to autopilot mode shortly thereafter. However, you can stop this pattern (at least for a little bit at first) by reminding yourself to be mindful during those short moments of waking up and use it as an opportunity to become mindful of what's going on in your body and mind as you go about that moment of your day.

When you wake up, notice what you were just doing that sent you into autopilot and also make a note of what took you out of autopilot mode (again, like a change of scenery).

10. Notice as You Go

As opposed to being mindful of what's going on internally, within the body or mind, noticing as you go is about taking a moment as you go about your day to appreciate whatever is around you in the external world- flowers, trees, the blue sky, any form of natural beauty typically works best- and to be mindful of that for a minute or two.

Keep in mind, what you notice doesn't have to be beautiful or appealing. What's important is simply that you notice what's going on around you.

Simple things like this might seem like they wouldn't make much of a difference, but when developed into a habitual activity they make a real difference in the quality of your daily life.

_____________________________________

There are so many ways you can start being mindful in your everyday life. However you choose to do so, keep it simple and just go with the 2-3 that really fit your life.

By doing it this way, you give yourself the greatest chance of making mindfulness more of a way of life and experiencing the beauty of the practice.

How to Reaffirm Your Meditation Practice and Get Back Up When You Fail

HOW TO REAFFIRM YOUR MEDITATION PRACTICE AND GET BACK UP WHEN YOU FAIL via Buddhaimonia

When you commit to meditation practice, you begin on the path towards self-discovery.

And along this path you'll experience dozens of "little defeats" or adversities. Anyone that's ever worked to do something (anything) has encountered them. It's simply part of the process towards personal and spiritual growth.

Those little defeats don't point to your own inability, though. In fact, they serve as guideposts indicating that you're about to push beyond your current state to something "greater".

Your meditation practice, as well as your goals in the practice, will be unique to you. However, everyone encounters essentially the same types of adversities, or little defeats, along the way that threaten to undermine your efforts: the psychological barrier that convinces us we're being unproductive if we choose to meditate instead of work, the constant busyness that clouds our mind and leaves us asking, "what happened?" at the end of each day, and the fear that we're not practicing properly.

No matter which applies to you, eventually, you're going to lose focus. These adversities and the resulting loss of focus are a natural part of the process (of doing anything, really), so you'll need to know how to get passed them to be able to maintain a consistent practice that brings you calm and clarity.

A loss of focus could last a few hours, days, even months or worst of all if left untreated could lead you to quit on your meditation practice altogether. It's because of this that when these little defeats occur, it's important to treat them with a great sense of urgency.

Act like a fire just broke out in your home and unless you put it out now it will cause serious damage. This fire exists inside of your mind, it's a fire ready to burn any motivation and desire you have directed at continuing your meditation practice.

In these situations, you must reaffirm your practice. No matter what happened you need to get up, dust yourself off and refocus.

When I say reaffirm your practice, I'm referring to techniques that reestablish your focus, get you back on track with your daily practice in general and sometimes even further strengthen your commitment to it. There are two techniques you can use to reaffirm your meditation practice:

  1. Remember Why - First, with your thoughts, by reminding yourself of the reasons why you practice and why it's important to you.
  2. Get Back to Basics -  Secondly, with your actions, by returning to the fundamental activities that make up the core of your meditation practice.

Remember Why

Ultimately, your reasons are your driving force. Nothing will ever help you as clearly defining your reasons, or "why's", and keeping them in front of you often. You need to be really clear about why you practice.

This might sound counterintuitive because we're told to let go of attachments and craving in meditation practice. However, the reality is we all come to the practice for some specific reason.

This also may change over time, but if we identify this clearly we can use it as a catalyst in the beginning to create a more consistent practice. The reasons why we practice are natural and ignoring them will only do more harm over time.

If you're clear about why you practice meditation you can come back to those reasons at any point you feel yourself losing focus and reaffirm your practice. By doing so, you bring the intensity level of your focus back up to 100% (near that, or even beyond). And as I mentioned above, at times reaffirming your regular meditation and meditation practice can actually strengthen your commitment to it.

Let's go over some examples. Your reasons, or your why's, could be:

  • My meditation practice is my peace, it keeps me calm and centered.
  • My meditation practice helps me better manage my stress and anxiety.
  • My meditation practice helps me calm my overactive mind and keep my life balanced.
  • I practice mindfulness and meditation to develop wisdom and move through the challenges of everyday life more skillfully.

These are just some examples. Your reasons might be something else altogether different. Take a moment and ask yourself: "what are my reasons? Why do I want this?".

Action Step: Take a moment to ask yourself: "Why do I practice meditation?".

Don't make it complicated, just find your top 1-3 most compelling reasons and write them down in a few prominent places so that you'll see them a few times a day.

This could be in your smartphone's notepad, on a physical piece of paper you keep in your pocket, your restroom, or your office for example. The purpose for doing this is to keep those reasons front & center in your mind. This is most important. Never forget what your meditation practice means to you.

Get Back to Basics

In Zen Buddhism, reaffirming one's practice isn't just important, it's vital. Few understand the importance of reaffirming one's practice as well as Zen Buddhists. In Zen Buddhism, practitioners reaffirm their commitment on a regular basis.

In fact, each and every moment is an opportunity to strengthen their practice and reaffirm their commitment. At the heart of Buddhism is a sort of peeling away of the illusions that are all around us centered around the illusion of an individual self.

Many of these concepts are difficult to come to terms with and even more difficult to live by. Not only that, much of it is opposite of that which we've been raised to believe to where you have to constantly remind yourself of what your practice means and why you do it.

The fundamental activities of Zen Buddhism- meditation practice and being mindful in all other daily activities, are treated in much the same way as the fundamentals of a sport for an athlete or sales principles for a salesman are, they're treated as the absolute most important thing of all.

Zen Buddhism puts its primary focus on the practice itself. A Zen Buddhist would appreciate my old bosses mantra of "keep the main thing the main thing" because they, in fact, follow the same principle.

This is what it means to focus on the basics or fundamentals. To get back to basics means to get back to the fundamental activities that make up what you do, the most important effort, when you become distracted or lose focus.

You've likely heard the saying "back to basics" at some point in your life. This isn't just some empty cliché. It's easy to get so enveloped in something that we lose our original way. When this happens we become less effective, less productive and more likely to quit on our goals or our practice altogether. To fix this you'll need to get back to the fundamentals of your activity.

Getting back to basics means returning to the fundamental activities that make up what you do, generally after having become distracted by something less important or intentionally veering off in another (less effective) direction.

This principle should be paired with keeping a keen eye on your actions. Which, essentially, is what accountability is for. By learning to pay close attention to what's happening both within and around you- the very essence of meditation practice- you'll be able to notice when you begin to slip. And then by keeping the largest part of your focus on the fundamental activities of your meditation practice you make that job a much simpler task.

This helps improve your focus and makes you more consistent, effective and overall productive. If this strategy sounds overly simple, that's because it is. It's simple and effective.

However, this principle isn't just used to get yourself back on track. It can be used to keep you from ever losing focus in the first place, or at least to help you catch yourself before you slip for too long.

Professional sports teams are incredibly good at not losing sight of the fundamentals in the first place. They stress the basic activities of their game and drill them relentlessly, practicing them more than anything else.

They understand the importance of not losing sight of the most fundamental aspects of their practice which are always the most important activities and what you should invest the largest portion of your time into.

What are those activities in meditation practice? Sitting in meditation is always the primary activity. Outside of that, and depending on how serious and dedicated your practice is, this may include doing certain key activities mindfully and meditatively such as walking, eating, and driving.

Also, sometimes, we can become attached to things like going to our local center or using an app to the point where we depend on them to continue our practice. But when we lose those things we lose our practice. When this happens, getting back to basics- just the practice itself in its pure form, us sitting on our cushion following our breathing (or whatever you practice is)- is exactly what we need to do.

Some Final Words

The reality is, it takes a long-term dedication to follow the practice of meditation with any success. You'll fall off from time to time, or if nothing else stumble, no matter how committed you are. So when it does happen, reaffirm your practice and get back to basics.

Other resources to help you along your meditation practice:

  1. Complete beginner's guide: How to Meditate for Beginners
  2. Not sure where to start technique-wise?: 5 Easy Meditation Techniques for Beginners (and How to Know Where to Start)
  3. Some of my best tips for beginning with the practice of meditation: 50 Awesome Meditation Tips for Beginners

How Keeping a Mindful Journal Can Bring You Calm and Clarity

TheLittleJournalofMindfulness-HowKeepingaJournalCanEnhanceYourMindfulnessPractice2.jpg

For a little over one year, I kept a journal. At the time, I had been practicing mindfulness for a while and figured keeping a journal could be a helpful daily exercise towards my practice and life in general.

I already knew the power of writing. The way that writing from the heart, allowing everything to flow out of you as it will from thought or feeling to pen and then paper, can help calm the mind and bring clarity wasn't foreign to me.

However, a journal was the opportunity to do that on an almost moment-to-moment basis. Sometimes, I'd recap the day at the end of the day. Other times, I'd jot down sentences as I was thinking or feeling something throughout the day.

No matter how I did my journal for that day, a journal allowed me to start a dialogue within myself about what was going on within and around me. It helped bring clarity where there was none. In this way, it served as very much an extension of my mindfulness practice.

A journal might not be for everyone. However, whether you think it will be a worthwhile exercise or not I suggest you give it a try at least once.

So then, how do you do it? The rest of this post will detail the obvious questions of what kind of journal you should or can use and how to write in your mindful journal.

Ways You Can Keep Your Mindful Journal

There are essentially three different ways you can keep a journal of any kind: with a program on your desktop or laptop computer, an app on your smartphone, or a physical notebook. Below are my suggestions for each category:

1. Mobile + Desktop/Laptop Combo: Evernote

Evernote Logo

Evernote is my "digital" journal of choice for a number of reasons. I use it for a lot of things including all of my research, note taking, and much of my writing, so I'm a little biased.

However, Evernote's ability to easily and clearly structure notes by date, it's smooth syncing across various devices such as your smartphone and desktop/laptop, while always keeping them safe and secure on the cloud means you have essentially everything you'd need in a digital journal.

2. App: Day One

Day-one-Journal-App

Day One is a journal app I used for quite a while. I love its simple interface and ability to add pictures in a really beautiful way. I feel that adds a lot to the journal and allows you to capture memories in a really nice way.

Day One has a lot of nice features, so if you're interested in keeping a simple journal on your smartphone or tablet, this is my first suggestion.

3. Physical journal: Evernote Notebook

evernote-moleskine-smart-notebook_nzefft

This is especially suited for those who prefer paper and pen. If you have no particular preference, this is what I suggest you use as physically writing on paper allows you to connect better with what you're writing and it's the easiest to take with you and jot down things on the fly.

My suggestion? Get the Evernote notebook. With the Evernote notebook, you can take notes in a nice physical journal while simultaneously providing the functionality to take a quick pic with your smartphone that uploads that journal page as it's own Evernote note, allowing you to archive journal entries forever in a safe secondary place online.

How and What to Write in Your Mindful Journal

Ultimately, there is no specific way you're supposed to write in a mindful journal. However, without some sort of example we can see and make use of, we're much less likely to take action.

There are three ways I've kept a journal before that I'd suggest you try out. The first is my main suggestion for an individual technique because it's generally the most enjoyable and allows you to look back on your day and see your progress in little areas, which is really motivating.

However, my main suggestion overall is to dabble in each of the three. Try them out at first and even after you do, switch off here and there whenever you feel like until you come to a method and routine that is most comfortable to you.

A journal is a very personal thing and writing in a journal a very personal exercise, so you need to find what works best for you. Here are three methods I've used for enhancing my mindfulness practice through keeping a mindful journal:

1. Reflection

The Reflection method is simply about writing down the events of the day. You can either do this by writing down 3-5 things that happened that day (a set list of things), or simply writing out a few paragraphs.

The nice thing about writing it down as a list of things is you can choose to fill it in as you go about your day. You may or may not prefer this.

The Reflection method is nice also because it allows you to really let everything out for a few minutes each day. For a few minutes each you, you can do a sort of "brain/heart dump" and just let everything flow out of you unfiltered. This can often lead to some really interesting and helpful insights. Plus, the act of doing so in itself is very refreshing.

2. 3 Mindful Moments

The "3 Mindful Moments" method is simply about writing down 3 moments in the day where you noticed yourself being mindful. As your practice expands, feel free to increase this to 5 or more. However, it's mostly used in the beginning as an aid to bringing mindfulness into your daily life.

This method is interesting because it can be a nice aid to your mindfulness practice itself, accentuating the moments in which you were mindful. As a result, you'll think, "hey, I was a little mindful today!" when you might otherwise have thought you failed, giving you the motivation to keep practicing. Every little step, every little bit of progress, makes a big difference towards developing the practice and that's the intention of this method.

3. Recurring Themes

The Recurring Themes method is all about identifying the inner dialogue. You don't necessarily write something down the first time you notice it (any thought, feeling, or even sensation if you think it might be in connection with some other thought or feeling, which oftentimes can happen), rather, you write down those thoughts, feelings, and sensations which you notice continually keep arising.

An example of this would be doubting your ability to complete a project or to do a good enough job on it. As you go about your day, particularly when you think about the project, approach the time to work on it, are working on it, and afterward, you're likely to notice certain thoughts and feelings arise.

As you notice the recurring themes, write them down in one central place. Come back when you notice it again and begin to bring definition to this once vague and foggy internal dialogue and negative self-talk. Bringing this level of clarity to some aspect of your negative self-talk and internal dialogue can have a very healing effect.

Start Your Mindful Journal

No matter what type of journal you decide to use and how you decide to write in your journal, keeping a mindful journal can be a very calming and clarifying practice that goes hand-in-hand with the rest of your meditation and mindfulness practice.

5 Easy Meditation Techniques for Beginners (and How to Know Where to Start)

5 Easy Meditation Techniques for Beginners via Buddhaimonia

Years ago, meditation and mindfulness practice changed my life in ways I had never imagined were possible.

I'm not talking about increased productivity, the ability to make more money in my business, or some sort of mind-altering evolution, though. These are all things we chase in hopes of feeding our ego so that we can solve the "real" problem- that we feel a "void" within ourselves and we think we need something to "fill it up".

What mindfulness and meditation did do for me was teach me how to become friends with myself and handle the inner dialogue that brings us down, show me how to more skillfully manage the challenges of everyday life including my once heavy stress and anxiety, give me the ability to tap into a deep sense of joy through cultivating a sense of gratitude and appreciation for life, and come in touch with a basic sense of peace that's beyond the ebbs and flows of daily life.

Mindfulness is the first form of meditation I suggest someone start with because it's the most fundamental of meditation practices and easy to learn (although not always easy to practice, particularly in the beginning). In a basic sense, it's really just us becoming more aware, more present, in our daily life. However, when done with a sense of intent focus in a ritualized manner, any discursive mindfulness practice can become a deeply nourishing form of meditation.

You can do anything in mindfulness. And it's because you can do anything in mindfulness that it’s those things which we do most often, each and every day, that make up the core mindfulness practices: breathing, walking, eating, and really anything else to do with the body.

However, there’s more to it than that. These foundational exercises also happen to be some of the best mindfulness and meditation techniques for beginners as well. They're simple, straightforward and relatively easy to learn and each has its own unique property which means there is a practice that fits essentially every type of beginner.

There are different ways to enter the "way" or path of mindfulness practice. Each of us brings to the practice a different set of life experiences, quirks, and preferences and these influence which practice we're better suited for. Aside from just introducing each meditation and mindfulness practice, I'll be explaining certain advantages each practice has and why you might be especially suited for that particular practice more than another.

Ultimately, my advice is to develop your practice to where each and every one of these mindfulness practices is a part of your daily life. However, in the beginning, you have to start somewhere.

When you’re first starting out, there are generally four exercises more than anything that you should focus on (plus a bonus fifth that I'll mention at the end). My advice? Pick one and stick to it for a week or two.

Get the hang of what it feels like to be mindful. That’s the most important thing in the beginning. Get the feeling of the practice and get used to practicing mindfulness in general, at least, to some degree. Once you do that, you can expand to a second mindfulness practice and so on.

What you’ll quickly notice is that by keeping it simple and focusing on a few basic everyday activities you’ll bring mindfulness and the practice of meditation into your life more quickly and effectively. Here are five great meditation techniques for beginners of all kinds:

5 Easy Meditation Techniques for Beginners (and How to Know Where to Start)

5 Easy Meditation Techniques for Beginners via Buddhaimonia

1. Mindful Breathing

This is the most common and basic of mindfulness and meditation techniques as a whole. The breath holds much significance within meditation practice and mindful breathing is the practice the Buddha suggested starting with.

How to Know If You Should Start Here:

For the reasons mentioned above, mindful breathing is the practice most start with. It's simple, easy to learn and the breath is a perfect point of concentration for meditative practice. This is the practice I'd suggest everyone begin with unless you find that one of the other 4 following practices calls to you more.

An important side note: Don't necessarily take your initial difficulty with the practice as a sign that this particular mindfulness practice isn't suited for you.

I say this because, in the beginning, most everyone feels as though their minds are in chaos. I felt as though I was crawling out of my skin in the beginning when trying to sit in meditation. It will likely be so bad that you question whether you're even doing the practice of not.

However, any effort made to stop and follow the breath mindfully (or any mindfulness practice, for that matter) will work towards calming the mind, and with time, you'll notice a distinct difference.

Where to Start:

The resources below (and the resources listed in this section for each proceeding meditation practice) will help you get started. Most mindfulness and meditation practices listed in this post have both a written guide and a downloadable guided meditation for you to make use of so that you can effectively learn the practice:

5 Easy Meditation Techniques for Beginners via Buddhaimonia

2. Mindful Walking / Walking Meditation

Mindful walking, also referred to as walking meditation, is one of the most common of all meditative practices. In Zen, the practice of kinhin ("walking meditation" in Japanese) goes hand-in-hand with the practice of zazen ("sitting/seated meditation" in Japanese), with practitioners typically doing a session of kinhin following zazen.

How to Know If You Should Start Here:

Mindful walking is a great beginner practice if you're either always on the go or find yourself especially restless while trying to sit in meditation.

That isn't to say you should avoid sitting, but rather that starting with the practice of walking meditation for a week or two can be more effective at first, afterward adding in a regular sitting meditation practice. Then, continuing with the practice of walking meditation regularly, especially when you find it particularly difficult to sit in meditation.

Where to Start:

5 Easy Meditation Techniques for Beginners via Buddhaimonia

3. Mindfulness of Body / Mindfulness Body Scan

If you take a skim through, you'll notice the 4 mindfulness practices listed in this post all deal with being mindful of the body in some way. They all do essentially fall within the Buddha's first "foundation of mindfulness", which is mindfulness of body, but this is referring to a specific practice that has to do with coming in touch with your entire body via the sensations you're feeling at that given moment in time.

Mindfulness of body, also called a mindful / mindfulness body scan, is the practice of "scanning" the body with your awareness and noticing various sensations such as warmth, heaviness, pain, movement, and moisture. Really, it's the practice of noticing what's going on in the body- how and what the body is communicating.

How to Know If You Should Start Here:

Mindfulness of body is a great practice for anyone who experiences chronic pain of any kind. It's a great practice in general, though, because most of us live out our lives without ever really coming in touch with our physical body in an intimate way. Rather, we move about our life as though our body is just a transportation system for our head.

A mindful body scan is also a great practice for anyone who has trouble sleeping. Doing the complete practice right before bed really helps improve the quality of one's sleep.

Where to Start:

5 Easy Meditation Techniques for Beginners via Buddhaimonia

4. Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is another core mindfulness practice. In Zen centers and monasteries, meals are eaten mindfully and in total silence, becoming its own kind of meditation practice in itself.

However, the practice of mindful eating, like the other mindfulness practices mentioned thus far, is very simple and straightforward and essentially revolves around the act of chewing and experiencing the food in front of you with all of your being.

How to Know If You Should Start Here:

If you find yourself having difficulty getting a feel for the practice in the beginning, specifically if you're practicing and you just can't tell if you're being mindful or not, mindful eating may be the perfect practice for you to start with.

The flavors, textures, and smells of the food we eat are all opportunities to help us better connect with the practice. In the beginning, this is especially helpful due to our ability is very subtle and it can be difficult to know if you're doing the practice "right".

Start, or shift over, here if you're having said difficulty while attempting to practice mindful breathing or another practice. Once you get the hang of it, you can add to your practice and begin sitting daily as well.

Where to Start:

5 Easy Meditation Techniques for Beginners via Buddhaimonia

5. Loving-kindness Meditation (with a Switch Up)

This isn't a specifically mindfulness-related practice, so I'm cheating a bit here. However, the traditional practice of loving-kindness meditation has a very much mindful aspect to it that's worth mentioning and it's a great meditation practice in general (one of the most valuable, I believe).

From my guide How to Practice Loving-kindness Meditation:

The practice of loving-kindness, or metta/maitri (Pali/Sanskrit for love or kindness), meditation is a meditation practice which has been passed down since the time of the Buddha over 2500 years ago.

Loving-kindness meditation, or “LKM” for short, is about opening up the heart and cultivating love and compassion for ourselves and others.

How to Know If You Should Start Here:

So, why did I choose to include this unique meditation practice? There are a few reasons. First, it's one of the foundational meditation practices as taught by the Buddha and it has a completely different flavor which many would simply prefer to start with.

The cultivation of loving-kindness and compassion for others is, in many ways, a spiritual path all in itself which includes such notable teachers as the Buddha (a great modern day example of this path is the Dalai Lama. Another great teacher to look into is Sharon Salzberg, I love her "Street Loving-Kindness" practice), the late Indian guru Maharaji, and even Jesus Christ.

It's worth mentioning then that the unifying factors in most of the world's religious traditions is in the preaching of love for all beings. Some come to the practice of meditation looking to deepen their own spiritual practice. For that reason alone, it's worth mentioning.

More than that, though, loving-kindness meditation is a beautiful practice that opens up the world and your connection with other living beings in a way that few things can.

An important note: Some find it difficult and awkward in the beginning to start the practice of loving-kindness meditation by cultivating love for themselves. This is remedied by switching things up and rather beginning with the second stage, a beloved/respected person, then moving to yourself and on from the third stage like normal. I mention this in each of the guides below, however, I wanted to mention it again here for good measure as it's an important point to "getting" the practice if you're a beginner to meditation.

Where to Start:

Choose Your Path

No matter where you start, provided you pick the practice that best fits you, you should be able to notice the benefits of daily meditation and mindfulness practice within a short period of time.

There's no telling where your practice will take you, it's different for everyone, but beginning on the path to living a more mindful and meditative life is a critical step towards cultivating a life of greater peace, happiness, and freedom.

How to Do a Mindful Retreat (in Your Own Backyard)

How to Do a Mindful Retreat (in Your Own Backyard) via Buddhaimonia

I can't speak for elsewhere, but in the West, we're pretty bad at resting our mind and body (hence, our interest in meditation). Whether it's a moment to ourselves at home simply enjoying a cup of coffee or tea or a full-blown vacation trip, most of us need to feel productive, otherwise, we believe we're wasting our time.

This can appear in obvious ways, like filling a moment of silence with the need to read something online, check Facebook, review our work, or update our schedule instead of simply enjoying that moment of silence. Or, it can appear in a more subtle way, such as in filling the itinerary for a vacation so that you can, "get the most done" when it's supposedly time for rest and relaxation. The result? You get home more exhausted than when you left and you have no idea why.

Whatever we're doing, we need to feel productive for fear of wasting time. Unfortunately, most of us don't know how to turn this impulse off. However, even if you aren't guilty of this, the likelihood is you still don't take enough time for yourself. By that I mean spending time by turning off all devices, quieting the chatter of our everyday life and resting in a place that allows the mind to settle.

Enter the meditation retreat: an event designed to allow you to step away from the normal environment of your daily life and into a place optimally designed for quieting the mind and turning inward.

A meditation retreat, which can last anywhere from one day to more than a full week (really any length of time), is an event dedicated to mindfulness and meditation practice where practitioners will meditate for several hours each day (and in the case of most Zen sesshins- Zen meditation retreats- nearly the entire day) and more often than not in complete and total silence from beginning to end, bringing together various elements to create the perfect environment for deep and nourishing meditation and mindfulness practice.

Meditation retreats aren't anything new, although they have become more popular since various Buddhist traditions came to the West due to the high number of lay practitioners (for those unfamiliar, that essentially refers to a practitioner who isn't a residing monk or nun in a monastery but rather lives a "normal" life), but they're still something most people have never heard of.

A meditation retreat (of some kind) is something I suggest everyone try once, if not make a recurring part of your life. The environment that a meditation retreat provides allows a deepening of one's life and practice like nothing else can. Really, when broken down to its essence, a meditation retreat is really just a structured time of more intense mindfulness practice.

However, a meditation retreat requires a lot of time from your schedule (and often money from your pocket), so it may not be suitable for everyone. Plus, if you're just starting out in your mindfulness & meditation practice such a retreat may seem a little daunting.

I have children who make it pretty difficult to step away for an extended period of time to attend something like a meditation retreat, so lately, I've been thinking of a way that I could recreate one in my own backyard so to speak, in my own home, in so giving me the ability to hold "mini-meditation retreats" for myself or a small few by recreating much of the same elements of a meditation retreat.

If you're interested in deepening your mindfulness practice, even if you're just starting out, and bringing a new level of peace and joy into your life as a whole, I'd suggest trying out this "mini-retreat" for yourself:

How to Do a Mindful Retreat (in Your Own Backyard)

A meditation retreat has a few key elements to it:

  1. Disconnecting - It may be important to you to keep contact open in case of an emergency, but otherwise you're unplugged.
  2. Stepping away - Away from the normal environment of your everyday life so that you can remove yourself from the thought patterns and mental clutter of your life.
  3. Meditating (a lot) - This is the centerpiece of the retreat and is what you'll be doing the majority of the time.
  4. Living mindfully - Everything done from beginning to end of a mindfulness meditation retreat of this kind is done in mindfulness.
  5. Community - Meditation retreats are done in a group setting. This holds a lot of benefits.

There are a few other elements to a typical meditation retreat, but these are the major points. Recreating a meditation retreat requires recreating as many of these elements as possible, which is what I'll outline below.

Supplies

There isn't much in the way of supplies that you'll need for the retreat, but here are a few keys that are pretty much a must:

  1. Meditation cushion - Please don't attempt to meditate this much without maximum comfort, you'll regret it later!
  2. A dedicated area - Know in advance where you'll be "retreating" to. My suggestion is that if you're doing this in your home you centralize yourself to one room, the room you're least familiar with (or outside in your backyard, if you have one).
  3. Meal-planner - It's OK to cook during your retreat, enough time is scheduled in for it and cooking mindfully can be a nice practice, but you don't want to be sitting around thinking about what you're going to eat. Pre-plan your meals and make sure you have all of the ingredients in your home or wherever you're staying.
  4. Work schedule - In the same way, you should pre-decide what work you'll be doing during the mindful work period and gather the tools you'll need it. You'll want to remove as much of this type of effort from the retreat as possible, so plan ahead of time so that everything is set up for you.
  5. Talk material - Later in the schedule summary you'll hear me mention a two-hour block where I suggest listening to talks from teachers you follow, whether videos on YouTube/elsewhere or podcasts/audiobook chapters in audio format. Decide on this material in advance and have it ready to go beforehand. If you need to touch your computer to get to this material, remove as many distractions as possible (have an empty browser open with just YouTube/other sites you need to visit, etc., or iTunes already open on the podcast page, etc.).

As you can see, most of these points have to do with the general idea of pre-planning the retreat as much as possible so that you can focus on acting with mindfulness during the length of the retreat.

Mindful Retreat Schedule

This mindful retreat is ideally done over the course of a weekend. It can be scheduled for a 3-day weekend, or even just done on a single Saturday or Sunday, so my suggestion is 1-3 days over the weekend so it fits conveniently into most people's schedules (making the necessary adjustments to fit your personal schedule if it differs).

There are truly countless ways you can do this, so I'll just be giving a few examples which you can then take and make your own. Feel free to adjust these as you see fit. Here is a mock schedule for each day of a 2-day weekend retreat:

Full Day

6:30 A.M. - Wake Up 7:00 A.M - Morning Meditation (45 minutes sitting, 15 minutes walking) 8:00 A.M - Mindful Breakfast (1 hour) 9:00 A.M - Mindful Work (1 hour) 10:00 A.M. - Retreat Session (2 hours) 12:00 A.M - Mindful Lunch (1 hour) 1:00 P.M. - Rest Period (1 hour) 2:00 P.M. - Afternoon Meditation (45 minutes sitting, 15 minutes walking) 3:00 P.M. - Talk Session (2 hours) 5:00 P.M. - Mindful Dinner (1 hour) 6:00 P.M. - Tea Meditation (1 hour) 7:00 P.M. - Evening Meditation (45 minutes sitting, 15 minutes walking) 8:30 P.M. - Lights Out

Half-Day

7:00 A.M - Morning Meditation (45 minutes sitting, 15 minutes walking) 8:00 A.M - Mindful Breakfast (1 hour) 9:00 A.M - Mindful Work (1 hour) 10:00 A.M. - Morning Meditation 2 (45 minutes sitting, 15 minutes walking) 11:00 A.M. - Rest Period (1 hour) 12:00 A.M - Mindful Lunch (1 hour) 1:00 P.M. - Afternoon Meditation (45 minutes sitting, 15 minutes walking)

A few notes:

  1. You could do this by yourself or with a few friends. It works either way, but will be more beneficial with a few people to make a small group.
  2. Retreats are typically done silently, so if you're doing this retreat with a few others commit to doing the retreat in silence.
  3. You could start in the afternoon/evening on Friday with a modified half-day schedule so that you can get 2 1/2 days in over the weekend. Although, if you work that following Monday, you may want that half day to do laundry and get your things ready for the week.

A Short Summary

Upon waking up, with a short period to allow yourself to get going, immediately begin with a meditation session. After each sitting session you'll do a short session of walking meditation (kinhin in Zen, read this guide on walking meditation for further instruction and listen to this guided meditation), which is the perfect practice to follow sitting meditation with. This can be done in the same place as you sat in meditation or you could walk outside if you meditated indoors.

Each meal is eaten with mindfulness from beginning to end. You can use this mindful eating guide to help guide you through the practice. This includes your mindful breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the evening, this is followed by a tea meditation.

Once breakfast is over, there is a session of mindful work (samu in Zen), which for the sake of this mini-mindful retreat will likely be cleaning or some sort of house work. This cleaning is done completely in mindfulness from beginning to end just as with your meals. You can use this mindful cleaning guided meditation to help guide you through the practice.

After mindful work, I placed a "Retreat Session" on the schedule for the next two hours. This mostly depends on if you're doing this with a few others or not. It can be some sort of mindful group activity if you're doing the retreat with a few friends or simply be an extended meditation session if you're doing the retreat by yourself (or with the group, if you prefer as well).

Next is lunch (see what I wrote above for breakfast) followed by a one-hour rest period. It's up to you what you decide to do during this rest period. However, refrain from plugging into anything during this time and rather focus on resting the body.

After the rest period follows the afternoon meditation and a "talk session". I'd suggest pre-planning a set of audio or video talks that fit the tone and theme of the retreat for those two hours. This is a nice time to bring perspective to the retreat and help deepen the experience. You can simply gather a few podcast episodes and/or videos on YouTube from reputable teachers you appreciate and schedule those ahead of time. Simply turn them on during this time and allow yourself to sink into their messages, paying close attention to their talks from beginning to end.

And finally, you'll finish with a mindful dinner, tea meditation following dinner (read this guide for help guiding you through the tea meditation practice) and then an evening meditation session before resting for the night.

Living the Retreat

The day might seem a little intense, but that's part of the point- a meditation retreat is intense spiritual practice. It's a time to turn inward and simply be with yourself fully, even if what arises is uncomfortable.

A meditation retreat such as this is one of the best things you can do to help bring more mindfulness into your everyday life, showing you what it takes to truly live each moment with mindfulness and in a state of deep nourishment.

The great thing is, even if you frequent meditation retreats, knowing how to create your own retreat environment in your home allows you to support your mindfulness practice and well-being in a way that nothing else can. To unplug and turn inward in a focused way to what's going on in the mind and body is infinitely valuable for your well-being. In this way, you're prioritizing your mindfulness practice in much the same way that monks and nuns living in a monastery prioritize their own spiritual practice.

And if you're just starting out and the full day schedule feels a little intense right now, you can opt to use the half-day schedule and simply do a single half day on a Saturday or Sunday. Even that single half day will have a profound effect, especially if you're just starting out in your practice.

No matter how you decide to do your own mindful retreat, whether it's alone or in a small group and over a weekend or a half-day, even scheduling one once every month or two or three, you'll be able to experience the true power of meditation and mindfulness practice in your own backyard.

How to Wake Up Through Play (and the Wisdom of Bill Murray)

HOW TO WAKE UP THROUGH PLAY (And the Wisdom of Bill Murray) via Buddhaimonia.com
“This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”

– Alan Watts

What is work? What is play? Have you ever wondered what the difference is? And what's the value in questioning this in the first place?

Generally, play is reserved for activities which have no greater meaning or purpose and work for activities which contribute to some greater goal or agenda (actions which do have a greater meaning or purpose). However, even that's a misconception.

"Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”

- Fred Rogers

I got an email from ABC Mouse recently, an online learning program we use for our oldest son, and it had that quote at the top of the email. This misconception of play not having worth exists not just for children, but for adults too.

We think that as adults we have to live seriously. We think that our work and responsibilities are serious business. But we've forgotten the value of play. Or, more specifically, living with the perspective of play.

When we're children, play is all we do. Even when we're in the midst of sincere pursuits (as serious or sincere as a pursuit can be for a child) such as playing sports we still do so in the spirit of play.

However, we get older and start chasing a sense of meaning and purpose because we feel the illusory void within our heart and mind more heavily, and as a result, begin to search for a way to fill it up. This leads us to forget about play and become immersed in "serious" pursuits that require more "work" and less "play time". At least, that's what we think.

However, this void is just that- it's an illusion- and so nothing we do will fill it up. "Are you saying then that this search for meaning and purpose is also an illusion?" Yes, I am.

Before you jump on me and write me off as wrong, consider it for a moment. Consider the fact that Eastern wisdom traditions have no such conversation about a search for meaning and purpose.

This is due to what I already mentioned- it's just another shade of the illusory void that exists within us, most notably perpetuated by the ego, which we in the West suffer from most significantly (although no culture escapes it completely). This is the same void I've spoken about before which causes us to search for a medium to fill us up or "cure" us in the way of intimate love through sex and relationships as well as through wealth, power, and fame/attention.

If you grew up in the West, you may have a hard time dealing with an idea such as this, I know I would have years ago. However, we have to let go of this desire for meaning and purpose if we ever hope to realize true peace, happiness, and freedom.

"What is the meaning of life?" is a question that so interests people because they want to have that underlying uncertainty, that void, filled within themselves. But if you let go of this and allow yourself to live without the need to fulfill some greater sense of meaning then the world opens up and this feeling of voidness, ironically, begins to disappear and the complimentary feeling of fulfillment and wholeness takes its place. This, perhaps, more than anything, is the purpose of spiritual practice.

You don't need a sense of meaning or purpose to be fulfilled, happy, and at peace. True freedom isn't bound by anything, including the necessity to fulfill this illusory sense of meaning or purpose. To embrace play is to embrace this truth in action and to embody it.

To embrace the spirit or perspective of life as sincere play as opposed to serious work is in itself to let go and live without attachment. To act more spontaneously, more honestly, in each moment and to allow ourselves to adventure from time to time- even if it's nowhere but within our mind- is to live a little more freely from the conditioning which binds us and causes us to suffer in various ways.

At the heart of this is spirit, or shift in perspective, of play is both the simple shift in heightened mindful awareness that occurs when we change pattern and act more spontaneously, more openly and playfully, becoming a little less detached to the conditioning that directs us and experiencing a little bit of freedom...

...and the compassion that's generated through releasing the ego (in whatever small way letting go of our need for meaning and purpose does for us, allowing us to look upon others more often) that cultivates in us the desire to alleviate the suffering of others.

Compassion can be a guiding force here. Play is built upon connection, so it's in compassion that we can be guided to play through connection and therein not only nourish our own well-being but simultaneously, and perhaps most intimately, connect with and nourish the well-being of others.

Both the words "work" and "play" notate some form of action, therefore, it's really just that they're different types of action. Or, more clearly, action which can be taken from two opposite perspectives. This is why I say that play is very much a perspective which can be taken while still going about our lives in much the same way (or at least following through on the same daily actions & responsibilities).

That brings me to my point (did you see this coming?): we need to play more and work less.

However, as you may have realized by now, I'm not merely telling you we should all start leaving work early to go to an amusement park (not that it's a bad idea!). I'm saying we need to change the perspective with which we act from in each moment. The perspective we take in our life as a whole. It's this perspective, this understanding, which is the key, not any specific change to your daily actions (although there will be a change, however subtle).

However, understanding what this may look like in everyday life is difficult without clear examples. Unfortunately, explaining this is also very difficult. But, lucky for us, we have an incredible living example of this in one of my favorite actors of all time: Bill Murray.

The Wisdom of Bill Murray

To find an example of what it might look like to live with this spirit of sincere play, you don't have to look very far. Few people exemplify living with this spirit of play as actor Bill Murray does.

For years, I've admired the work and life of Murray without much knowledge as to why. "He's Bill Murray!", I'd say to myself and friends. Like most people, by the time I was an adult I had seen a number of his films such as Groundhog Day and Grinched, but it wasn't until Lost in Translation that I became a big fan (and continued to be through his proceeding films).

The spirit of open and free-spirited adventure which he lived with and injected into the film was what I loved most about the movie, but it wasn't until years after I began practicing meditation and Zen as a whole that I identified that.

However, little did I know, he was essentially playing himself throughout the movie. About a year ago, I ran into an interview Rolling Stone did with Murray centered around his reputation for spontaneous encounters that made me appreciate his living example even more. The article gave countless examples of this spirit of spontaneous and adventurous play in action, such as the time Bill caught a cab one night in Oakland:

"Facing a long drive across the bay to Sausalito, he started talking with his cabbie and discovered that his driver was a frustrated saxophone player: He never had enough time to practice, because he was driving a taxi 14 hours a day. Murray told the cabbie to pull over and get his horn out of the trunk; the cabbie could play it in the back seat while Murray drove...

...But his eyes light up as he remembers the sound of the cab's trunk opening: "This is gonna be a good one," he thought. "We're both going to dig the shit out of this." Then he decided to "go all the way" and asked the back-seat saxophonist if he was hungry. The cabbie knew a great late-night BBQ place, but worried that it was in a sketchy neighborhood. "I was like, 'Relax, you got the horn,'" says Murray. So around 2:15 a.m., Bill Murray ate Oakland barbecue while his cab driver blew on the saxophone for an astonished crowd. "It was awesome," Murray says. "I think we'd all do that."

And this:

"Like all of Murray's best film work, it originates in his stress-free mentality. "Someone told me some secrets early on about living," Murray tells a crowd of Canadian film fans celebrating "Bill Murray Day" that same weekend. "You can do the very best you can when you're very, very relaxed." He says that's why he got into acting: "I realized the more fun I had, the better I did." On the set, the pleasure he takes in performing doesn't end when the camera stops rolling.

"It was sometimes challenging to get Bill to come to set," Melfi says, "not because he's a diva but because we couldn't find him." He would wander away, or hop on a scooter, or drop by an Army recruiting center. The movie hired a production assistant just to follow Murray around, but he was always able to lose her.

Murray's St. Vincent co-star Melissa McCarthy confides, "Bill literally throws banana peels in front of people." I assume she's using "literally" to mean "metaphorically," as many people do, but it turns out to be true: Once during a break in filming when the lights were getting reset, Murray tossed banana peels in the paths of passing crew members. "Not to make them slip," McCarthy clarifies, "but for the look on their face when they're like, ‘Is that really a banana peel in front of me?'"

But is this just Bill Murray the comedian acting from his comedic roots, albeit in a rather unique and entertaining way? Not quite, although to separate any of this into different "levels" would be a mistake. Rather, while these are entertaining and sometimes comedic, within that Murray is acting from a place of deeper understanding.

Murray understands both the importance of awareness in a general sense as well as seemingly being in touch with the basic suffering we experience through our common challenges and difficulties and this wisdom shines through in his everyday actions. Those who have practiced mindfulness or meditation for some time (or who have read Buddhaimonia) will notice more than one interesting comment in the following quotes:

"Bill's whole life is in the moment," says Ted Melfi, who directed Murray in the new movie St. Vincent. "He doesn't care about what just happened. He doesn't think about what's going to happen. He doesn't even book round-trip tickets. Bill buys one-ways and then decides when he wants to go home."

...Doing a Q&A at a Toronto movie theater, Murray is asked, "How does it feel to be Bill Murray?" – and he takes the extremely meta query seriously, asking the audience to consider the sensation of self-awareness. "There's a wonderful sense of well-being that begins to circulate . . . up and down your spine," Murray says. "And you feel something that makes you almost want to smile. So what's it like to be me? Ask yourself, ‘What's it like to be me?' The only way we'll ever know what it's like to be you is if you work your best at being you as often as you can, and keep reminding yourself that's where home is." As the audience applauds, Bill Murray smiles inscrutably, alone in a crowded room, safe at home."

And I'll finish with this:

"My hope, always, is that it's going to wake me up. I'm only connected for seconds, minutes a day, sometimes. And suddenly, you go, ‘Holy cow, I've been asleep for two days. I've been doing things, but I'm just out.' If I see someone who's out cold on their feet, I'm going to try to wake that person up. It's what I'd want someone to do for me. Wake me the hell up and come back to the planet."

The last quote is most significant as Murray seems to express both a deep understanding of the importance of awareness, or presence, as well as an understanding of the shared suffering we all experience throughout life's challenges as well as compassion and the desire to alleviate that suffering.

So, in one swift motion, Murray gives the perfect example of play in action and expresses an understanding of the "purpose" of play, most notably through connection- spontaneous compassion in action.

Go Play

Ultimately, what does it mean to play? To try new things or simply to be adventurous without letting the inner dialogue, the critical mind, hold us back from acting spontaneously. Play is intuitive. If we listen, we will know.

Perhaps, to spontaneously and creatively answer the call of compassion is the clearest and most immediate way we have to begin living with this spirit of play.

My best advice? Begin flexing the muscle of spontaneous action by doing something unexpected when you see someone "down on their luck" so to speak. Often, a simple gesture such as this can completely reset our darkened perspective and refresh our spirit.

_______________________

*Notes:

  1. For those interested in another good example of living with this sense of adventurous play, my suggestion would be to study His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama is a bit of a different example, as he is "tied down" with the heavy responsibility of being a guiding example and advocate for the Tibetan people (and peace at large), therein he has less freedom to act on this perspective. But, perhaps because of that he serves as a perfect example because despite the heavy responsibility which hangs over his shoulders he still finds a way to live with this sense of play and spontaneous deep compassion in various ways. I've learned quite a bit from him and highly suggest looking to him for far more than just an example of this spirit of play in action.
  2. For the original Rolling Stone article visit: rollingstone.com/movies/features/being-bill-murray

My New Book, This Moment, is Now Available for Pre-Order! (Coming February 29th)

This Moment Pre-order post (1)

It's been more than 6 months in the making, but my new book, This Moment: How to Live Fully and Freely in the Present Moment, is almost here!

The book is now available for pre-order at ThisMomentBook.com and pre-orders have already begun rolling in. I couldn't be more excited to bring the book to you, it turned out far better than I had originally imagined.

The book is huge, roughly 50% larger than my last book, Zen for Everyday Life, which was big in itself. In the book, I cover every important principle I've found from a combination of my study of the world's wisdom traditions, life, writing and working with so many of you here on Buddhaimonia, and through my personal practice. I leave no stone unturned and no question unanswered, at least as best as I feel I can answer right now.

In it, I cover what I consider to be the four major principles for the realization of "it". That is, what we all want- peace, freedom, happiness. However you choose to describe it, they're all different shades of the same thing.

The basis for the book is the realization that there was more at play to the path of living peace and happiness than just mindfulness. As my practice began to develop, and as I continued to write here and talk with so many of you, I noticed certain key principles emerge that were just as important as mindfulness. It was then that I began piecing together this more "complete" practice for walking the path to peace and happiness.

The book will be officially released on February 29th (next Monday, as of the day this post will go live), but you can pre-order it now by going to ThisMomentBook.com. You can also check out the different editions (including eBook, paperback, and you can even get the audiobook, plus a lot of cool bonus material to take the book even further), learn more about the book, and get 2 free sample chapters there as well.

Thank you to everyone who has supported the book so far, I deeply appreciate it! Be on the lookout for This Moment February 29th!

Pre-order This Moment today

10 Essential Keys to Mindful Living

10 Essential Keys to Mindful Living

More than anything else, my focus for this year is to live a more mindful life.

Ultimately, mindful living is a simple task: do more things with mindfulness. There's nothing more to it. But, just because something is simple doesn't mean that it's easy. It's anything but that.

I talk about this from time to time, but to live even a little more mindfully creates a significant difference in the quality of your everyday life. If you can to get to a point where you're living even 5% of your life mindfully, you'll likely see a complete transformation of your daily life from stressed, anxious, and discontent to calm, peaceful, and happy.

But even that 5% can be very difficult to achieve, especially considering the adverse conditions of the modern world which mostly come in the form of myriad distractions to our mindfulness practice and general effort to live less mindlessly and more awake to ourselves in each moment.

There are many intangibles, and one or two tangible factors, which I've found to be essential to the overall practice of mindful living.

Mindful living comes with a laundry list of significant benefits. But, really, when it gets down to it, it's all about being happier and more at peace.

And that's what mindfulness allows us to do, to wake up to our lives and live intentionally, taking the reigns and living consciously as opposed to being swayed this way and that by our conditioning and habitual patterns. These patterns run very deep, and they affect everything that we do, so mindfulness practice is essential to realizing true peace and happiness.

I hope these 10 essential keys to mindful living help you live a more mindful life, filled with greater peace, happiness, and the skillfulness to navigate life's challenges.

10 Essential Keys for Mindful Living

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1. Prioritize mindful living

This is one of those points I mention time and time again because it really is that important.

What does it mean to prioritize your practice of mindful living? In a nutshell, this refers to treating it with a certain level of importance.

Oftentimes, we make a decision to do something, such as workout regularly, and end up falling off of our goal because we didn't treat it with the same level of importance as the other things in our life.

The reality is, each of the activities and responsibilities which make up our life exist on a scale. Depending on the importance of the activity, it may rest higher or lower on this scale.

When we add something new to this scale, unless we consciously make the effort to do the opposite, it gets placed at the bottom and is therefore much more likely to get pushed aside for other things.

By prioritizing your practice of mindful living, you're saying, "This is something important to me. I value my well-being, and this is an important key in my effort to take care of myself and live a happier and more peaceful life. This is as important as anything else."

You can learn more about important intangible factors such as this, and a step-by-step in-depth mindful living program, by checking out my book Zen for Everyday Life.

2. Harness motivation

Motivation is one of those things which can either help or hurt you, and it all comes down to whether or not you've been able to identify what your true motivation is in the first place.

Why do you practice? Why do you push your practice aside? Gaining clarity about this allows you to change the script and replace it with something more compelling towards your practice and away from those things which are less beneficial. Oftentimes, just being really clear about why exactly you practice and how those other things are less beneficial is enough to truly harness motivation towards supporting your mindfulness practice.

Oftentimes, just being really clear about why exactly you practice and how those other things are less beneficial is enough to truly harness motivation towards supporting your mindfulness practice.

By identifying your motivation to practice, as well as your motivation to brush off practice and put it aside for other things, you can construct your daily life in a way that promotes your practice and demotes other activities which are less beneficial. For this reason, understanding your motivation can be an important tool in making mindful living more habitual.

Interestingly enough, it's mindfulness which allows us to bring clarity to these motivating factors, so if you know how to practice mindfulness you already have the key to "activating" this asset to your practice so to speak.

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3. Have patience

This is one of those points that's definitely easier said than done, but simply becoming aware of it is often very helpful.

The reality is that most of us approach our mindfulness practice with the expectation to gain or feel something by some certain amount of time, and when we don't arrive there in the amount of time we originally expected, we end up discouraging ourselves from the very practice which is supposed to help us.

Meditation and mindfulness practice move along their own timetables. And sure, the more dedicated our practice the more we can affect this, but we still have no way of making accurate expectations.

No matter how hard we practice, we still never know how long something is going to take. We don't know when something or other will happen, so we must be patient and allow it to unfold as it will.

This can be difficult at first, but ultimately it helps us quite a bit because it begins to train us in the art of letting go and living naturally, allowing things to unfold as they will. And this will be a beneficial skill for the rest of our lives.

4. Open yourself fully to the practice of making friends with yourself

Meditation and mindfulness practice, in many ways, is the practice of making friends with yourself. By this, I mean learning about yourself intimately and training yourself to become your friend as opposed to your critical enemy, something almost all of us can relate to being at least at some point in our lives.

Most of us are ruled by an internal dialogue that is mean and hurtful and very damaging to our self-esteem and mental well-being. This internal dialogue is one of the primary things which our practice of mindful living allows us to work through, slowly identifying the footprint of the critical ego and allowing us to fully accept and heal these wounds with compassion and loving-kindness one-by-one.

By opening yourself to the process, and practice, of making friends with yourself, you're proclaiming that you're ready to face every part of yourself, even the deepest and darkest parts. It won't be easy either way, but by identifying ahead of time that this will be a part of your mindful living practice

It won't be easy either way, but by identifying ahead of time that this will be a part of your mindful living practice and accepting that fact you open the gateway to a much more easeful path through the process of making friends with yourself and finding peace with this internal dialogue.

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5. Consume mindfully

As important as anything else is creating an environment conducive to mindful living (and peace and happiness), and one of the major ways to do that is through mindful consumption.

Mindful consumption is the practice of reviewing your life and identifying which are harmful and which are helpful factors, then rearranging your life in a way that promotes your well-being. This includes everything from the people you choose to surround yourself with to your habits with electronic devices such as your smartphone and T.V.

If you expect to create a strong mindful living practice without working through some of these areas which may be continually harming your well-being, you'll just detract from your practice and keep hurting yourself in the long run.

It's important to create an environment that is conducive to not just a more mindful life but greater peace and happiness in general. After all, isn't that the point? If something in our life doesn't promote our physical or mental well-being or that of our loved ones, it probably needs to go.

Ultimately, you'll be the judge of this, but by making this a priority, you'll put yourself in a position to live an overall healthier and more mindful life.

Learn more about mindful consumption and creating an environment conducive to greater peace and happiness here: ZfEL Episode #3.

6. Practice easeful discipline

Discipline is as important in a daily mindfulness and meditation practice as in anything else in life, but it's important to go about it the right way.

Don't approach your mindfulness practice from the perspective of an athlete or someone trying to push themselves to their limit. Mindfulness practice, and navigating the challenges of everyday life in general, needs to be done in an easeful and joyful way.

Your practice should, typically, be very enjoyable and feel very easy. This isn't a hard or fast rule, though. Sometimes, meditation and mindfulness practice can be quite difficult.

Both require us to face the darkest parts of ourselves, and as a result, sometimes our meditation and mindfulness practice can be quite difficult. But, in general, your practice should be enjoyable and refreshing.

Depending on the challenges you bring to your practice, this may be difficult for you. But know that this is more a state of mind to bring to your practice and something to remind yourself of from time to time more than anything else, so it can be developed over time.

7. Cultivate loving-kindness

As I just mentioned, mindfulness practice can be difficult. Both to make a way of life, a more habitual activity, and simply the practice in itself at times when we're forced to face uncomfortable parts of ourselves.

For this reason, the quality of loving-kindness is absolutely essential. With loving-kindness, we change from being overly critical and harmful to ourselves to being kind and compassionate when we experience these dark patches. It's this kindness and compassion which transforms everything and they're essential parts of a successful meditation practice of any kind, including mindfulness.

It's this kindness and compassion which transforms everything and they're essential parts of a successful meditation practice of any kind, including mindfulness.

You can learn more about the role loving-kindness plays in mindfulness practice by listening to ZfEL episode #16: How to Heal the Wounds in Our Heart with Mindfulness and Loving-Kindness.

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8. Find a mindful community

A community is one of those things which you can get away without having if you really need to, but which without you'll be greatly hindering your ability to stay consistent, create a thriving practice, and even just to stick to the practice in the first place.

A community of like-minded individuals, even one you only get to meet once every 2-4 weeks, is priceless and will not only help you stick to your practice but will help you develop your practice further in less time (that's not the point, but still worth mentioning).

Without a community of other mindful practitioners, you're alone in your practice and have no one which you can communicate with regarding your challenges.

Even simply for this reason it's highly valuable, but there's also an accountability factor which makes a community a powerful tool in helping develop your mindfulness practice into a daily habit (or, in other words, a way of life).

There are many ways to go about finding a community, including simply searching Google for mindfulness meditation classes in your area, but here are a few links to certain practice groups which you may find helpful:

  1. Wake Up – Get Involved!
  2. The Mindfulness Bell – Sangha Directory
  3. Shambhala Directory
  4. Plumline: Plum Village Google+ Digital Groups

9. Create a Zen space at home

A Zen space is my fancy term for a dedicated meditation space. This is the one real tangible item on this list, but it's no less important than anything else.

To create a dedicated meditation space in your home, a space which you've decided as being a place for meditation and mindfulness and nothing else, is a sign of having prioritized your practice.

A space such as this encourages your practice because it creates a place you can go to find peace at any time of day (provided you're at home). It's a dedicated place with all potential distractions removed. This encourages your meditation and mindfulness practice on multiple levels.

If you'd like to learn more about creating a Zen space, read How to Create a Zen Space.

And for more information on creating a home meditation practice:

  1. Read: 5 Tools to Help You Start Your Home Meditation Practice
  2. Listen: How to Create a Home Meditation Practice

10. Follow the path of least resistance

The path of least resistance is a simple principle which I've used time and time again to help me develop and strengthen both my home meditation practice and my daily practice of mindful living.

The basic idea is this: we naturally do the thing which is easiest to do at any given moment, unless we make an intentional push to act in some other way. Which is difficult, if not impossible, to do consistently.

So what do you do? Are we just destined to push aside our meditation practice for the siren song of the lazy boy and primetime T.V.? Is it always going to be an uphill battle against the habit of mindlessness? Not if you utilize this knowledge.

The path of least resistance has different applications whether we're talking about sitting meditation practice or the overall practice of mindful living, but in all cases the same general idea applies: make it as easy to practice as possible and more difficult to do those other things which distract you from your practice. Or, in other words, encourage an environment conducive to mindfulness and discourage mindless activities.

Learn more about the path of least resistance: 5 Steps to Making Meditation a Daily Habit.

The Complete Moment-to-Moment Guide to Mindful Living

Years ago, the practice of mindfulness changed my life dramatically. I went from being stressed out and disconnected from the world around me to being more at peace and present in my day-to-day life.

Much of this post was adapted from my second book, Zen for Everyday Life, which is the most complete moment-to-moment mindfulness practice guide I've written to date. I provide freely dozens of posts, guides, and podcast episodes here for you which can be used to begin, progress, and further deepen a daily mindfulness practice like what was discussed in this post (which you're welcome to explore). However, Zen for Everyday Life thoughtfully organizes much of it into one place in a clear and simple way for you to implement effectively.

If you're interested in effectively bringing more mindfulness into your daily life to relieve stress, realize greater peace, and become more present in your day-to-day life, then Zen for Everyday Life will guide you.

Join the This Moment Book Launch Team and Receive 4 Exclusive Benefits

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I'd like to ask for your help.

Self-publishing a book is a lot of work and there are so many moving parts. This is definitely more than I can do all by myself. At least, if I want the book to have as much impact as I know it can have.

As we're approaching the launch of my new book, This Moment: How to Live Fully and Freely in the Present Moment, I've decided to try something different. I'm inviting 100 of my readers to join me in creating a special "This Moment Book Launch Team." It's a peer group of people who are willing help get the word out about the book.

Team Member Benefits

As a This Moment Book Launch Team member, you will get:

  1. A free, digital review copy of the book in advance of the publication date (PDF).
  2. Exclusive access to me in a Private Facebook Group.
  3. A special 30-minute live group session with me prior to the launch of the book.
  4. A 25% off annual membership discount on my soon-to-be-released Mindful Way program. This monthly membership program will give you everything you need to make mindfulness a way of life and help you stay consistent in your practice moving forward.

Team Member Requirements

As a member of the This Moment Book Launch Team you:

  • Write a brief book review testimonial for use on the blog and official book page.
  • Help spread the word about the book in any way you can, to your friends, family and beyond, starting the week of February 15th to the February 29th release date.
  • Share ideas and brainstorm additional ways we might further help bring the message to an even greater audience. All ideas are welcome.

That’s it! The 100 team members will be selected next week upon which emails will go out to everyone that applied (and those accepted will be given the link to the Private Facebook Group).

Team Member Sign Up

UPDATE: Thank you for taking an interest in supporting the book. Team sign-ups are now closed. If you signed up to the This Moment Book Launch Team, look for an email from me on Friday, Feb. 12th.

Thank you again for the support. This is a book which I'm standing behind with all of my being, so it's amazing to know I won't be alone.

Peace, Matt

Free Guided Meditations for Greater Peace and Clarity

Free Guided Meditations

Sometimes, I wonder what the Buddha would have thought about guided meditations.

I think he would have approved of them as useful tools for the beginner learning the ways of meditation, or even for someone experienced that's simply going through a difficult challenge and needs a voice to guide them to a place of greater calmness and clarity of mind.

In any case, more than anything else, it matters what you think. What you feel. What works for you. And that's why I, and why so many others, enjoy guided meditations.

Guided meditations are more than just words on a page (as much as I enjoy writing). The sound of the teacher or speaker in your ear guiding you through the meditation is the closest thing to having a real teacher right there with you as you can get without actually having one there.

My podcast, Zen for Everyday Life, features two weekly episodes. One is a talk discussing similar topics like those I discuss on the blog. The second is a free guided meditation on everything from classic mindfulness meditation forms such as the Zen form of zazen, to loving-kindness, to Thich Nhat Hanh's practice of Going Home, as well as new and unique free guided meditations that I've created such as Healing Through Understanding and Just Being.

Below is a neatly compiled list of the best free guided meditations from the Zen for Everyday Life podcast. Check back here regularly for new guided meditations.

Free Guided Meditations for Greater Peace and Clarity

*Click the corresponding link to go to the guided meditation page. Right click the big yellow download button and click "Save file as..." to download the file to your computer or simply hit Play to listen on the page.

  1. Breath As Life - The basic mindfulness practice of mindful breathing. This is a 1-click free download separate from the podcast. Nothing, not even an email, is required to download this. All you need to do is click the link. Enjoy.
  2. Going Home - This guided mindfulness meditation is on Thich Nhat Hanh's classic mindful breathing practice. This is the simplest of practices and is really what mindful breathing is all about- going home to yourself with mindfulness.
  3. Zazen (Zen sitting meditation) - This a guided meditation for the classic Zen form of mindfulness meditation. It's basically mindful breathing in a very free manner (as opposed to Vipassana, which is more active).
  4. Minful Refresh - This is a guided morning meditation for starting your day off fresh each day with a simple mindfulness practice. This, to date, is one of the most popular guided meditations I've done and a personal favorite.
  5. Just Being - Just Being is very close to the Zen practice of "just sitting" or shikantaza. It's the practice of accepting everything openly as it is with mindfulness and just being in this moment. Another community + personal favorite.
  6. Healing Through Understanding - This is a very active guided meditation and it's all about opening the mind after a difficult conflict with another person.
  7. A Mindful WelcomeA Mindful Welcome is about the fundamental shift from “hostile enemy” to “welcoming friend” we must make to begin the path of healing emotionally.
  8. Mindful Wisdom (@42:16 in the episode)- Mindful Wisdom is a moment-to-moment mindfulness and contemplative practice I created for unlocking your own intuitive wisdom. What would the Buddha do?
  9. Mindfulness of Body (@40:10 in the episode) - The traditional mindfulness of body meditation.
  10. Loving-Kindness - Loving-kindness meditation is the traditional Buddhist meditation practice of cultivating positive feelings and well-wishes for all beings.
  11. Mindful Walking / Walking Meditation (Formal Practice) - The formal practice of walking meditation typically done immediately following a session of sitting meditation in many Buddhist circles.
  12. Mindful Cleaning - A powerful mindfulness practice that takes a typically boring and mundane activity and turns it into something nourishing and delightful.
  13. Mindful Driving - A powerful mindfulness practice for turning a typically mindless autopilot activity into an opportunity for peace and mindfulness. 
  14. Mindful Breathing (Basic Mindfulness Meditation) - The fundamental practice of mindful breathing. When you hear “mindfulness meditation” (which typically refers to the secular practice of mindfulness) this is the practice that’s being referred to.
  15. Mindful Walking (Informal Everyday Practice) - The “everyday” informal practice of mindful walking. 
  16. Mindful Eating - If you’re looking for a way to live your everyday life more mindfully and even meditatively, this is a great practice which serves as one of the core mindfulness exercises.
  17. Being in Your Meditation Space - A special guided meditation from my course Meditation for Everyday Life which is designed to help you "settle" into your designated meditation space and cultivate it into a place of solace.
  18. Mindful Smiling - This guided meditation is all about using the power of intention and the natural effect of smiling with mindfulness.
  19. Rise with the Sun (a Guided Morning Meditation) - Rise with the Sun is about taking inventory before the day gets started so that you’re on solid ground and can handle the challenges of your day with more poise and clarity.

And remember to subscribe to the Zen for Everyday Life podcast for new weekly talks & guided meditations:

Healing Through Understanding: A Simple Compassion Meditation for Healing and Clarity

Healing Through Understanding: A Simple Compassion Understanding for Healing and Clarity

Each day, we’re presented with challenges associated when interacting with other people.

It’s inevitable, there’s no way to get around it: when two people come together there’s always a chance for conflict to arise.

But each day you also have a choice: to let it go on affecting you in the same way and causing you stress, anxiety, anger, and resentment or to do something about it.

I know, people tell you to "let it go" all the time, but it's not exactly that easy. So what exactly are you supposed to do?

Imagine that the conflict is like someone holding on to your wrist. It's very hard to immediately pull away when someone is holding your wrist, you generally need to turn your hand around in some way that becomes uncomfortable for them so that their grip loosens. From there, you can easily pull away.

Most times when we hold on to things it's very much like this. If you can find a way to change your perspective, to alter your angle, you can see things in a new way. And seeing things in this new way allows you to more easily loosen the "grip" of the thing you're clinging to.

Emotions like anger and resentment are difficult to let go of, because we develop the desire to harm others so that we can "get back" at them. But if we can develop a new perspective, one in which we see the person and the situation more clearly, we'll be able to let go of that anger and resentment and find peace.

That’s why I created Healing Through Understanding, a simple compassion meditation. I came up with this form of compassion meditation a long time ago and it's helped me on countless occasions.

Sometimes I call this a compassion meditation exercise, and sometimes the understanding meditation exercise, because that's what compassion, as well as love (and any relationship), is all about: understanding.

At the heart of the Healing Through Understanding compassion meditation lies 2 points:

1. There's a reason behind every action (we all suffer- we all have challenges and difficulties) 2. Everyone is basically good

When it comes down to it, this exercise is really about working with these two points.

Whether it's a friend, loved one, or colleague, the Healing Through Understanding compassion meditation can transform the way you think of another person, help you cultivate compassion and loving-kindness for the person, and in doing so actually help heal the relationship itself as well as the pain you feel in connection with that person.

Let's get into the meditation...

Healing Through Understanding

Think of someone. This could be someone you hate, someone you generally dislike, or simply a friend or loved one whom you’ve only recently had an argument or conflict with.

Whoever they are, sit and meditate on this person. To do this, hold the person in your mind.

This, of course, isn’t possible in a literal sense because you don't know everything about the person (that's the key here), but you’re holding as much of the person you know- your perception of the person (this is what you've done with the person from the beginning, very important to realize this)- within your mind.

Simply be mindful of the various thoughts and feelings that arise while thinking of this person. Don’t judge anything that arises, simply observe it mindfully.

Once you have a decent picture of the person in your mind and you've given it at least a few minutes to develop while observing mindfully, do these three things:

1. See the picture. 

Realize that this very picture in your head, this perception, is what you’re drawing judgment based off of. Not off of the real person, but off of your interpretation of that person.

This is so important, because most of us make the mistake of assuming that what we see is the way it is. But the reality is, most of the time we only see a fragment of what truly is and what we do see is colored by our bias and attitudes.

2. Contemplate the cause. 

Now think of something which that person does or has done which you disapproved of and think of why they might have done or be doing said thing.

If the person said something hurtful to you, start throwing possibilities out there: maybe something is stressing them out and they don’t know how to deal with it, maybe they had a tragedy recently or were hurt and don’t know how to deal with the anger and sadness they’re feeling, or something else.

Whatever it is, start thinking of specific possibilities that could be making them act this way. Think of as many as you can.

3. See clearly.

Lastly, take a step back and review these many possibilities which you’ve brainstormed.

Realize that the reason for their hurtful behavior is two things: 1) not originating from or because of you, and 2) is because they suffer in some way

In other words, from something which they’re experiencing which they don’t know how to deal with.

Once you’ve done this, you’ll see that there’s not just more to the person than meets the eye but that they suffer just like you and I.

To be clear, you don't actually know why they're doing what they're doing. You're simply guessing. But keeping the 2 major points in mind, that we all suffer in some way and that we're all basically good, you know that it's something which exists beneath the surface.

So it's by taking the time to brainstorm what that thing might be which is causing suffering for them and leading them to lash out at others that you're able to let go of the anger and resentment within you and transform it into compassion and understanding.

Conflict usually involves one or more people causing hurt due to being overcome with anger, so if you can realize that the reason this person acted out with anger and aggression wasn’t because of you, but because of something deep within themselves that they’re hurting from, you can learn to cultivate a great amount of compassion for that person as well as alleviate your own feelings of anger and stress.

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This is a very healing exercise which can be done at any time of day and in any situation. I’m not sure if I use this literally every single day, but it's close to it.

We’re constantly placed into situations where we have to interact with others, even when just driving on the freeway (and boy is it nice to get cut-off by a dangerous driver with my kids in the car!), so this is an exercise you can use literally daily to cultivate compassion, loving-kindness, and a deeper understanding of others.

Healing Through Understanding guided compassion meditation

If you'd like to take the Healing Through Understanding compassion meditation further, I featured it as a guided meditation on the Zen for Everyday Life podcast recently.

You can listen, as well as download the MP3 straight to your computer, here:

Listen to ZfEL #15: Guided Compassion Meditation - Healing Through Understanding

Additional Resources for Exploring Compassion and Loving-Kindness Meditation

Here are a few resources for exploring more conflict resolution, compassion, and loving-kindness meditations and mindfulness techniques:

  1. How to Practice Loving-Kindness Meditation
  2. How to Overcome Daily Challenges with Loving-Kindness Meditation
  3. Love is the Way: The Universal Path to Peace, Happiness, and Enlightenment
  4. 3 Ways Intimate Love Keeps Us from Peace and Happiness and How to Transcend Through Self-Love
  5. Why Compassionate Acceptance Is Key to a Healthy Mindfulness Practice (and How to Do It)

20 Mindful Eating Tips That Will Transform Your Relationship with Food

20 Mindful Eating Tips

Every day, we lose ourselves in the patterns of daily life. Our habit energy pushes and pulls us to and fro and we're left with little opportunity for experiencing life in a way that we're fully present for this very moment.

Some daily activities lend themselves more to this state of autopilot than others. There are some things in our life which we do so often that we become like drones, doing them in a mindless and habitual manner day in and day out. Those activities include walking, driving, certain types of work, as well as eating (among others).

But these activities also lend themselves to mindfulness practice because while these patterns are attractive to the pull of habit energy, they're also the perfect thing to grab onto when we want to become fully present to our lives in any given moment.

Mindfulness is both the quality and the practice of becoming (and staying) fully present to our lives in this very moment. It's mindfulness which allows us to break these habitual patterns and make a change for a more present and wakeful life.

Eating perhaps lends itself to mindfulness practice more than any other activity. This is because we find the flavors we experience when we eat often both interesting and varied and the act of eating enjoyable. And so it's through the simple practice of mindful eating that we can become more awake to our lives and discover greater peace and joy in the process.

We can also, at times, develop bad habits in connection with food and the act of eating. These bad habits, some even considered disorders, can cause us a lot of suffering.

The practice of mindful eating can shine a light on our habitual patterns connected with eating and food itself. And in doing so, we can relieve much of the suffering we experience connected with the food on our plate.

The practice of mindful eating is simple. To eat mindfully, simply:

  1. Pause- Take a moment before eating to notice the aroma, visual appeal, and even texture of the food. Savor the various sensations which accompany your meal. This short moment will help your awareness open up so that you become more fully present to the act of eating.
  2. Eat mindfully- Be mindful of the lifting of your hand/fork/spoon and the act of chewing the food itself. Pay close attention to each flavor in your mouth and notice how the food feels and smells as you eat it. As your primary point of (light) concentration during mindful eating, be fully present for the act of chewing.
  3. Acknowledge thoughts, feelings, and sensations- When thoughts, feelings, or other sensations arise within your field of awareness, simply be mindful of them, acknowledging their presence, and then allow them to pass as if they were floating by on a cloud.
  4. Eat mindfully (again)- Then, bring your focus back to the act of chewing. You'll lose your mindfulness constantly in the beginning. Don't worry, this is normal for any form of mindfulness practice. Simply repeat the process from steps 2-4 and attempt to eat mindfully for as much of your meal as possible.

While eating with mindfulness remain open to any thought, feeling, or sensation that comes into your field of awareness and don’t attempt to push them away. Accept whatever arises openly and then bring your focus back.

The practice of mindful eating is simple, but there are many little tips and tricks you can take advantage of to help improve your ability to eat mindfully and to take your mindfulness practice further. Here are 20 mindful eating tips:

20 Mindful Eating Tips That Will Transform Your Relationship with Food

1. Give thanks

Many of us grew up in families (or knew someone who did) who prayed or gave thanks before meals, so this is one you're likely familiar with.

But whether or not you've ever done it yourself, you can take a cue from that and do your own little practice of gratitude at mealtime.

Just take a moment to appreciate the meal in front of you. Cultivate gratitude for it by thinking of the huge amount of work it must have taken to get all of the various ingredients together for you to enjoy this wonderful meal (really, when you think about it, it's pretty astonishing).

This practice isn't just good for your well-being, it helps you center your attention on the meal in front of you, so it's the perfect practice to start each meal off with.

2. Sit down

For some, this may sound obvious and a given. For others, this will be difficult!

Because mindfulness practice is about becoming fully present to our lives in the "now", in this case through the daily activity of eating, it's a bad idea to attempt to eat mindfully while being on the move walking (running?) or driving somewhere. Correction: it's not going to happen (at least successfully).

Part of mindfulness practice is about doing one thing at a time, so do yourself a favor and respect meal time. Sit down, relax, and become present to the meal in front of you.

3. Eat a little more slowly

There is a misconception that you have to do something slowly to do it with mindfulness.

That's not quite true, but it may be necessary at the beginning when you're just getting the hang of mindfulness practice. The reason for this is that to do something slowly helps us focus mentally on the activity at hand.

The more quickly we move the more difficult it is for our mind to keep up with our body, so slowing down is an increased opportunity for mindfulness.

4. Turn off the T.V. & Close your phone (and anything else)

At this point, this one should seem like a natural progression from the first few points.

We're trying to put our complete and undivided attention on the moment that we're eating- both on the act of eating and on whatever arises within that moment of eating- so any electronic devices within eyesight can serve as distractions from our mindfulness practice.

Turn off your T.V., close your phone, turn away or at least sit away from your desktop computer, and away from anything else that could potentially distract you while you're eating.

5. Put down your utensil

This is all about being fully present to each bite that you eat.

The way we usually eat, we take a bite and then immediately begin preparing another bite to eat as we're chewing the original bite. This is a subtle version of multi-tasking, a habit you're trying to undo with mindfulness practice.

What you'll notice very quickly, if you've just begun your mindfulness practice (or even if you've been practicing), is that we don't know how to properly focus on one activity. Some of the ways we multi-task are so subtle they're difficult to detect. Mindfulness practice begins to change that, albeit slowly.

The next time you eat, make it a point to be fully present for the bite in your mouth. Leave your utensil on the table and experience that bite fully with mindfulness.

6. Chew 30 times

In 5 Powerful Ways Mindful Eating Will Transform Your Relationship With Food, I talked about how Zen Buddhist monks and nuns chew each bite of food no less than 30 times:

They do this to help improve their practice of mindful eating, therein emphasizing the act of chewing, the focal point in mindful eating.

The way most of us eat, we chew just a few times and swallow what are still larger pieces. Not only do we throw down our meal quickly and not leave much time to be present or much less rest ourselves in peace and quiet, we're not very kind to our digestive systems.

By chewing each bite at least 30 times, we not only help promote mindfulness practice, but we're kinder to our body and our mind as a result.

When you first practice this it can be difficult to fight the impulse to swallow your food, but with practice, it will become easier. It's definitely worth making the effort.

7. Eat in silence

Aside from chewing each bite 30 times, Zen monastics also eat each meal in silence.

The reason for this is that silence itself, as blank and empty as it might seem when we think about it in our heads, in reality, is very nourishing.

Explaining why is difficult, but any form of activity, even a simple conversation, brings additional activity to the mind. And this activity, when constant and unrelenting as it so often is for us in our everyday lives, perpetuates a greater sense of chaos and confusion (however subtle).

This is OK for a time, but eventually, and regularly, we need a break. Silence allows us to go home to ourselves more easily, which is really what mindfulness allows us to do more than anything else. For this reason, it's the perfect complement to mindfulness practice.

8. Take a moment to breathe

From time to time, you can stop eating and take a moment to become mindful of your breath.

You can either simply be mindful of the quality of your breathing right now or take 3 purposefully deep and mindful breaths. If you're new to mindfulness practice, I'd suggest simply paying attention to the breath as it is.

This simple but powerful mindfulness practice will help recenter your focus as several minutes of doing the same thing can often lead to mindlessness and falling asleep (literally).

9. Switch hands

This might feel a little awkward, but by switching hands, you'll compel yourself to eat with greater mindfulness because of the extra work your brain needs to do to keep up.

This is a really simple mindful eating tip that can help you in the beginning of your mindful eating practice.

10. Be a food critic

This is one of my favorite mindful eating tips on this list and one that can completely put you into the right state of mind in an instant, so it's really helpful.

Act like you're a food critic (whether your meal is fine dining or leftovers) and eat slowly and carefully while paying attention to every little flavor that arises while eating. Pay attention to every little sensation you feel as a result of each individual bite.

Of course, stop short of the damming restaurant review. That won't be very helpful to you in your practice.

There's really nothing more to it than that. That simple state of mind can often be all you need to bring more mindfulness and attentiveness to meal time.

11. Notice certain cues

While eating, certain sensations will arise such as the feeling of hunger, satisfaction, fullness, and sometimes overfullness! Be particularly on the look out for these cues.

By doing this, you make it easier to notice the other things which arise while being mindful and that will further sharpen your mindfulness and concentration.

12. Turn your fork upside down

This is an easy tip which helps keep you present while eating. The idea is as simple as it sounds. There are two ways to eat:

  1. Fork pointing up - Scooping motion, no need for accuracy. Laziness possible.
  2. Fork pointing down - Stabbing motion, accuracy, and attention necessary. Laziness not possible, for the most part.

That says it all: eating with your fork pointing down, with a stabbing motion to pick up your food, is the way to go (most of the time, at least) as it helps keep you more attentive and present while eating. And that helps your practice of mindful eating.

13. Change your utensil

This is another simple mindful eating tip which helps for much the same reason that switching hands and pointing your fork down helps.

By now you may have noticed that while you can do anything mindfully, mindfulness is improved greatly when we create the right environment for us to concentrate on our point of focus (in the case of mindful eating, that being the act of chewing, tasting, etc.).

The idea is simple: use a different utensil that makes it a bit more difficult to eat. This can be a variety of things, but the easiest and most accessible options would be chopsticks and a smaller spoon/fork.

Personally, chopsticks are very accessible and really help to improve my ability to stay present while eating. And they can be used to eat most things, so I'd suggest trying this out.

Of course, if you grew up using chopsticks this might not be the case for you. So, keep that in mind.

14. Eat food that takes work

This is obviously not something you can always take advantage of, but when possible eat a meal or snack that takes work to eat such as seeded grapes, pistachios, or an orange.

That little bit of work to avoid the seed, break the shell, or peel and separate the orange can not only mix up the act of eating and create more variety but help keep you attentive naturally.

Plus, we're talking about eating more whole foods, which is always a good thing.

15. Have a mindful drink

As I mentioned earlier, some activities are better suited for mindfulness practice than others. Drinking is one of those activities. Particularly something very hot or cold.

You could make a regular practice of drinking a cup of tea or coffee each day mindfully before your breakfast or another meal. This is a highly nourishing practice in itself that also serves to make you more mindful before your meal, so it's a win-win.

You can read how to practice a simple mindfulness tea (or substitute) meditation here.

16. See giver, receiver, and gift

May we with all beings realize the emptiness of the three wheels- giver, receiver, and gift.

Certain Zen practitioners chant the above simple phrase before every meal. The idea is to remind themselves that their meal was a gift and to see the true nature of life itself in the meal. Specifically, the oneness of giver, receiver, and gift.

By repeating this simple phrase, you can perpetuate a subtle shift in the way that you see the world. The shift from giver, receiver, and gift being separate to them being one constantly connected, interrelated, and even same entity.

Like looking deeply into the food that you eat (#18), this point doesn't just enhance mealtime and make it a more nourishing activity, but it helps us bring more mindfulness to the activity at hand by focusing the mind.

17. Cooking the Buddha

As I mention in this and the next point, the practice of mindful eating can extend beyond just the eating of the food. Cooking the Buddha is about cooking and preparing your food mindfully so as to deepen your relationship with the food and emphasize mindfulness.

I originally wrote about this in my book, Zen for Everyday Life:

When you cook or prepare food, as you gather your ingredients, lay them out, cut them up, and put them wherever they need to go (a pot, pan, stove), be mindful of exactly what you’re doing in that very moment. You’re not cooking food to be eaten, you’re simply cooking the food, and you’re doing it with all of your being.

18. Look deeply into your meal

In 5 Powerful Ways Mindful Eating Will Transform Your Relationship With Food, I talked about contemplating on the true nature of the food you're eating:

We can take mindful eating one step further by contemplating on the nature of the food in front of us.

Like taking a magnifying glass to something, contemplating on the true nature of our food is the practice of looking deeply into each individual piece of food on our plate and seeing not only where it comes from but also what it’s made up of.

Looking, or seeing, deeply is a simple exercise made popular by Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh which involves essentially picking an object, particularly a natural object such as a whole fruit, vegetable, or plant, and working backwards to the "origin" of the object and seeing all the countless factors or "ingredients" that allowed that piece of fruit to exist as it is in this moment.

This exercise can really deepen your experience with the food in front of you and turn each meal into a chance to nourish your well-being.

19. Change up what, or where, you eat

Another simple thing you can do is to simply change up what you eat, or where you eat, from time to time.

This is simple, but, changing up anything, from what you have for breakfast from cereal to fresh fruit to eating next to your bedroom window as opposed to your kitchen table, can help compel you to greater mindfulness.

This won't last forever, but often all you need is a little switch up to further promote your mindfulness practice and help make it more of a daily habit.

20. Designate a "mindful snack"

One thing I often talk about for those new to mindfulness practice is designating a single major everyday activity and focusing on that for a week or two (at least). Make it the one and only activity you place any focus on for that time.

The idea there is to develop mindfulness as a daily practice, and it works great in this case as well.

About 2 years ago I did this with watermelon juice. My wife makes incredible watermelon juice, so my sons and I would often request it- especially during the summer- to the point where we drank it every week. I decided that would be my "mindful food/snack" and so I simply focused on being mindful of that with regards to everything I ate and drank and nothing else (aside from my tea in the mornings).

That might sound like a weird thing to do this with, but I enjoyed it so much and the color and fragrance were so strong that when I drank it I'd naturally be compelled to some greater state of mindfulness, so I decided to use that to my advantage.

Preferably, do this with a snack you really enjoy and whose flavor and/or fragrance or visual appeal is strong so that it helps compel you to greater mindfulness. Do this for a week or two and you'll find yourself practicing mindful eating more often throughout each day. This is a powerful strategy and definitely one of my favorite mindful eating tips on this list.

It's Time to Eat (Mindfully)

No matter how you choose to bring the practice of mindful eating into your life, know that it's both highly nourishing and a simple and easy mindfulness practice to start with. And if you've practiced mindfulness for some time but just haven't given it a try yet? It's a powerful practice for bringing more mindfulness into your life.

I hope these 20 mindful eating tips help you not only live with more mindfulness but bring greater peace and happiness into your life as a result.

This Moment Book Preview: Table of Contents

thismoment800

*UPDATE: This Moment is now available! Learn more about the book and pick up a copy here:


This Moment is now less than a month away! I couldn't be more excited to bring it to you and I think you'll find it very practical for everyday application but also quite vast and far-reaching as far as the total material the book covers. If you haven't signed up to get new information for the book when it's available, you can go here and put in your name and email: ThisMomentBook.com.

I tried to keep the book at around 100 pages (I originally wanted it to be a shorter book), but so far it looks like I've missed my mark by about x2 that, so you can imagine just how much is included in the book. It might end up matching the size of Zen for Everyday Life. Which considering its size, is saying something.

As we're getting into the last few weeks before release, I wanted to give everyone a quick "sneak peek" into the contents of the book and what better way than with the table of contents?

So here it is, the table of contents for my upcoming book, This Moment: How to Live Fully and Freely in the Present Moment:

Table of Contents

PrefaceIntroduction

PART 1: Living Mindfully

    1. Mindfulness: The Ground of Peace
    2. Being Fully of This Moment
    3. Breath as Life
    4. Making Friends with Yourself
    5. Seeing Deeply and the Importance of Insight
    6. Making Mindfulness a Way of Life

PART 2: Living Simply

    1. This Moment
    2. 4-Fold Path to Peace
    3. Mindful Consumption & The Garden of Consciousness
    4. One-pointed Mind
    5. Easeful Discipline and Daily Practice

PART 3: Living Naturally

    1. Opening Yourself Fully to This Moment
    2. Living as if You’re Going to Die in This Moment
    3. Being Yourself in Every Moment
    4. Holding On, Letting Go, and Starting Anew
    5. Finding the Sacred in the Ordinary

PART 4: Living with Love

    1. Understanding True Love
    2. Mindfulness, The Basis for Understanding
    3. Understanding, The Basis for Love (& Compassion)
    4. Being Love
    5. The Great Shift (& Living Interbeing)
    6. Lighting Up the World with Great Compassion

Our Last Moment Thank You About the Author More from Matt Valentine

Keep in mind that this is still open for change. I've written a ton for the book and am being very specific with what I include in the book and what I don't for various reasons.

The good news is, that means I've got a ton of great supporting material which I'll be including as bonus audio and video lessons, meditations, and maybe even some guides that have to do with certain sections of the book. All really useful content that will help you take the material in the book that much further.

And as I mentioned earlier, go to ThisMomentBook.com to sign up for notifications if you want to know when new information is released!

Anyway, I hope you liked that little sneak peek and I can't wait to bring the book to you soon!

Peace,

Matt

Verses for Everyday Life: 20 Verses to Help You Cultivate Mindfulness and Find Greater Peace, Joy, and Freedom in the Present Moment

Verses for Everyday Life (1)

The Plum Village website describes gathas (the Sanskrit word for verses) as:

Gathas are short verses that help us practice mindfulness in our daily activities. A gatha can open and deepen our experience of simple acts which we often take for granted. When we focus our mind on a gatha, we return to ourselves and become more aware of each action. When the gatha ends, we continue our activity with heightened awareness.

I've spoken before about the power of verses to help compel us to a deeper and more mindful state (see: Zen Master Doc The's Book of Mindfulness) and how that positively affects the rest of our lives.

Because of this, I decided to create a free PDF filled with 20 of these such verses to help you cultivate more mindfulness and find greater peace, joy, and freedom in the present moment.

I wrote these verses with the intention of helping you live a more mindful life. The practice of mindfulness has transformed my life, but it's not easy to continue with a strong and consistent practice, so verses such as these used intelligently help greatly.

How can you use these verses? You can:

  • Create a pocket book of mindfulness, as I spoke about here.
  • Apply one to a wallpaper on your smartphone or desktop using Over: http://madewithover.com/(Apple), Phonto: http://www.phon.to/ (Android) or Canva: https://www.canva.com/ (Desktop computer).
  • Write one on a poster and place it in a prominent place such as your bedroom, bathroom, or office.

No matter how you choose to use them, these verses for everyday life can serve as powerful reminders to go home to yourself in the present moment.

And the best part? The PDF is completely free to newsletter subscribers. Just fill in your name and email below and you'll get the download link sent straight to your inbox:

10 Awesome Mindfulness Tips for Beginners

10 Awesome Mindfulness Tips for Beginners

So, you've read a magazine article, a blog post, or maybe had a conversation with someone about mindfulness. Maybe it's not the first time you've heard, read, or talked about it.

Now, you're interested in practicing mindfulness because you want to use it to improve your life in some way. Maybe you want to reduce your stress level, get rid of your anxiety altogether, or maybe you just want to learn how to make the most of your life as a whole.

But, where do you start? Basic how-to instruction is necessary, but that's not enough if you want to actually develop your mindfulness practice into a daily habit, or a way of life.

Being a dime-a-dozen nowadays and growing every minute, quality information can be difficult to identify when it comes to mindfulness. What should you listen to and what shouldn't you?

Many resources discuss mindfulness practice only as a form of sitting meditation. This greatly limits your practice.

In order to obtain a truly calm and clear mind and obtain the full benefits of mindfulness practice, you can’t just practice mindfulness as a form of sitting meditation.

You also need to be mindful while going about your everyday life. After all, what good is anything which isn’t actually useful to you in your everyday life?

One of the great things about mindfulness is that it's available to you in every moment. You can practice mindfulness right now this very second and touch seeds of peace and joy within yourself. You can directly and immediately create a positive impact on your daily life and in a number of ways.

In order to start you off on the right foot, I’ve organized a list of my best mindfulness tips for beginners just starting out on the path to living a more mindful life. These are all the things that I myself have found to be important, made the mistake of not doing, or both at the beginning of my own practice.

Following even one of these points can greatly improve your practice if you’re just starting out. I’d suggest following each mindfulness tip closely.

Keep in mind that the purpose of this post isn't to provide instruction on how to practice mindfulness itself, rather as I mentioned it's to give you a sort of jump start to make sure you start off in the right direction from the get-go. ________________________________________________

This post is adapted from my book, The Little Book of Mindfulness. It covers everything you need to know about mindfulness from A to Z. You can get it free by entering your name and email below:

________________________________________________

Here are 10 awesome mindfulness tips for beginners:

10 Awesome Mindfulness Tips for Beginners

1. Focus on developing concentration

Concentration is the anchor of mindfulness. If you imagine mindfulness as the ship, yourself as the ship captain who steers the ship and decides where to place the anchor, then concentration is the anchor and the object of your mindfulness, such as your breath or steps, is the anchor point.

Concentration is the constant partner to mindfulness. Think of it as the active force and mindfulness as the passive. When you consciously decide to focus on your breath and work to keep your focus on it, this is your concentration.

Think of mindfulness then as a field of vision that extends outward to cover everything in your perception. When your concentration wanders to a thought, sensation, or distraction and you're aware that you just became distracted this is your mindfulness. Mindfulness is the great observer.

In the beginning, you'll want to put all of your focus on developing your concentration. At the beginning of your practice, your mind will literally be all over the place. You’ll seem to have a new thought or some other distraction every few seconds.

This is perfectly normal. I went through the same thing at first. It took time to quiet my own mind as well as develop my concentration, but it was well worth it. Simply quieting the mind can bring you a great sense of peace and happiness.

Without developing your concentration, you won’t be able to practice very effectively. So it’s necessary, at first, to do so.

Once your concentration improves you’ll be able to put more focus into exercising mindfulness. You’ll start noticing why your mind strayed (was it a thought or feeling? What was the thought?), as opposed to simply noticing your mind stray and refocusing on your object of meditation.

2. Pick simple objects

At the beginning, you’re going to want to pick an easy object of meditation. Then once your skill improves you can pick more difficult objects. At first, I’d suggest practicing mindful breathing for a couple of weeks.

To practice mindful breathing, all you have to do is stop and be mindful of your breath. Whether you’re at your desk, at a stoplight, or in between places or sitting down for an extended meditation session. Just stop what you’re doing and follow your breath with mindfulness.

Focus your concentration on each exhale and inhale and let your mind quiet. If your mind seems a bit chaotic, don’t worry. This is perfectly normal and might last a few weeks before really beginning to calm down.

Mindful breathing is a major meditative practice of many spiritual traditions and has a number of benefits. In the beginning, sit for 10-15 minutes every morning and/or night and simply stop what you’re doing for 30-60 seconds every hour or two during your day to practice mindfulness of breath (you don’t have to sit to do this) and you’ll gradually begin to develop both your ability and establish mindfulness as a habit. Do this for at least 2-3 weeks before trying anything else.

After that, you can move on to mindful walking, eating, and many other nourishing practices. But continue to practice formal sitting meditation in the morning and/or night and mindful breathing throughout your day. These are great beginner practices and they’ll remain cornerstones of your mindfulness practice even as your skill improves.

The reason these are great beginner practices is because they don’t require a high level of skill. Walking meditation (or mindful walking) is an example of moving meditation, but it’s typically done in a slow manner to where it’s easy for a beginner to do. I’d still suggest sticking to mindful breathing for the first few weeks though before trying to practice walking meditation at all.

Don’t rush the process of developing mindfulness. You’ll gain nothing from doing so and only end up hurting your practice.

3. Sit often

Sitting meditation really is the cornerstone of all meditative practice. It was my first experience with mindfulness and I’d suggest it be your first experience with meditation as well. Adopting a daily practice of sitting meditation is very important.

There are various forms of meditation, and sitting meditation in particular, but because this post is centered on mindfulness practice what we’re talking about here is essentially mindful breathing while sitting in a quiet and distraction-free zone.

If you try to start practicing mindfulness without making sitting meditation a part of your daily practice then it will be much more difficult to get to a point where your mind becomes quiet. And later, sitting meditation will aid in your efforts to obtain a clear mind.

No matter how far a Zen monk, Yogi, or sage goes in their practice, they always sit and often twice a day (for 1-2 hours). Think of sitting meditation as your “practice” time to keep you sharp.

Every great athlete practices the fundamentals of their craft on a daily basis. No matter how good they become, they practice the fundamentals. For spiritual practice, this is sitting meditation.

4. Go easy on yourself

I've talked previously about the nonjudgmental aspect of mindfulness. Mindfulness is an open acceptance of everything, so those thoughts, feelings, and sensations that keep popping into your mind shouldn’t be labeled a bad thing. In fact, they aren’t a good thing or a bad thing.

Remember, mindfulness is just an observer. You shouldn’t be passing judgment, good or bad, on anything including disruptions to your concentration.

These distractions are normal. They’ll subside naturally, your mind will quiet over time, and it will bring you a great sense of peace. Don’t worry about that. You’ll know you’re practice is really successful not when these distractions subside but when you start becoming mindful of these distractions. No matter how many of them you have.

Don’t get frustrated if, at first, you can’t hold your concentration for more than a few seconds. This is perfectly normal. If you get frustrated just acknowledge the frustration in mindfulness and let it go. Know that these distractions will subside with practice and that your goal is primarily to develop your mindfulness.

When you develop the ability to shine the light of mindfulness on these distractions is when the real healing can begin. These disruptions are the things distorting your perception and keeping you from reality as it is, filled with peace, joy, and freedom. No matter what, just keep practicing. With time, you’ll see the fruits of your labor.

5. Prioritize mindfulness

You won’t get far in your practice of mindfulness if you don’t prioritize it. This goes for anything in life. This is because right from the beginning you’ll be clashing with old habits.

The more often we do something the more energy or “pull” it has. This is our habit energy. We all have this habit energy. What differs from one person to another is where we place this energy.

When you begin practicing mindfulness you’ll naturally be “pulled” in other directions constantly. This is your old habit energy attempting to pull you back to your old ways.

You can use the other mindfulness tips in this post, such as making sure to enjoy the process and to pick simple objects of mindfulness, but you’ll still need to prioritize your practice. This means, as with establishing any other new habit, you’ll have to fight with your old and likely less productive or positive ways.

But remember how energy works, the more time and effort you place into something the more pull it will have. Stick with it and gradually it will become easier until the point in which it takes almost no effort at all.

And the great thing about mindfulness is that you can do it while doing just about anything else. So it’s not so much choosing mindfulness over other things, it’s more of remembering to be mindful. At first, though, remember to keep it simple and choose simple objects of mindfulness.

6. Slow it down

We’re taught to move quickly, multitask, and ultimately be as productive as possible. This mentality is ingrained in us. It probably started during the industrial revolution, where we as a species became obsessed with speed and productivity. It was all about who could grow the fastest and claim the most land.

It was inevitable based on our development as a species, but this mindset has stayed with us to the present day and it’s completely against our true nature.

We’re so used to rushing around all day that a lot of times we never even realize there’s another way to live. We think that it’s “just how life is”. But it’s not. And of course, part of the point of mindfulness and meditation is to calm the mind.

But this job should be handled on both sides. While developing your practice of mindfulness you should also work to become aware of when you’re rushing around and when you’re not. And aside from helping to calm your mind, if you actively work on slowing down you’ll also find more opportunities to practice mindfulness. Due to this, it’s highly beneficial to analyze your daily schedule. You’ll find that opportunities to practice mindfulness are abundant in our daily lives.

Walking from point A to point B, sitting in a waiting room, driving to and from work, and just stopping for a moment to follow your breath anywhere and at any time. Slow it down and really start taking the time to enjoy the little moments with mindfulness.

7. Be patient

Mindfulness takes time and patience to develop. At first, it will be subtle. Unicorns won’t start flying through the air and celebration banners won’t drop from the sky. You’ll just feel….a little more alive. A little more present. That’s the best way I can describe it.

But with practice, you’ll notice your ability improve. You’ll feel more present and more alive. Of course, you’ll need to have some indicator that you’re practicing correctly.

The best advice I can give to make sure that you’re practicing correctly is to practice mindful breathing and sitting meditation often. These are the easiest ways to practice mindfulness and the method of mindful breathing, which you’ll do during both of those exercises, is the easiest way to tell when you lose your mindfulness.

Remember, mindfulness works like a muscle. The more you work it out, the stronger it gets. Make mindfulness a way of life so as to develop it into a powerful force for peace and happiness in your life.

8. Let go

When you begin your mindfulness practice (or if you have already) you’ll probably find it extraordinarily difficult not to become distracted. We covered this earlier, so it shouldn’t be of any surprise.

But something else will likely happen. You’ll have a hard time convincing yourself to let go of these distractions. Why is that? Well, we tend to blow everything in our mind out of proportion.

What that means is when we have a project due at school, a presentation at work, a big event with the family, or some personal business, we tend to mull over them in our heads repeatedly. “Did I remember to do that?” “Did I have them add that?” “What am I going to do about that?” “How is that going to work?” It’s an endless cycle of questions and answers.

When you begin your mindfulness practice you might have a very hard time convincing yourself to let go of these thoughts for even 10 minutes to sit down and meditate. But it’s so important.

You might think that you need to keep these things cycling through your brain constantly, otherwise, you’ll screw something up or just not do as good a job as you could or should, but that’s not the case. You only minimize your effectiveness in any given task by hounding over it and never giving your mind any rest.

You’d be surprised how refreshed and sharp your mind will be if you allow yourself to step away from something for even a single session of mindful breathing or walking meditation. So learn how to let go of these things and just follow your breath. Let go of everything. The more you practice the easier it will be to do this and the better you’ll feel.

9. Have fun

You’ve probably heard this one a million times before about a million other things, but that’s because it’s true. It’s not just true. It’s one of the most important points on this list. Why? Because when we enjoy something our drive to do that thing increases tenfold. Luckily, for the most part, this will come naturally when practicing mindfulness.

By the very act of practicing mindfulness, your monkey mind will begin to settle and you’ll feel an extraordinary sense of tranquility. When I first began my mindfulness practice I felt an amazing sense of peace that seemed to extend throughout the rest of my day. It was rough at first, I can’t say that it wasn’t difficult.

Your mind will likely be bouncing around uncontrollably for the first a couple of weeks, you’ll be pretty fidgety, and if you use a timer during sitting meditation you’ll find thoughts like “I wonder how much longer I have to go?” popping up regularly. But even so, you’ll find yourself feeling great after finishing a session. Even if it was just a few minutes long.

During this time, you really just have to push through the difficulty. But I don’t mean literally push or be forceful. I mean don't give up, keep chugging along. Just be mindful of whatever it is you’re being mindful of, in the beginning, this will be mostly your breath, and as thoughts arise gently acknowledge them and bring your concentration back to your breath.

This tough period won’t last long. Plus, you’ll still get a lot of joy from practicing during this time as well. Take the time to notice how mindfulness is affecting your mood and behavior. If you take the time to do this you’ll deepen your appreciation of your practice further and find even more drive to continue practicing.

But the real joy is in once your mind has begun to settle and you can just sit with little interruptions. When you can sit, stop, or walk and be mindful without feeling like you want to get up or like you have something you need to get to, you’ll know you’ve reached a real milestone.

I can’t describe this feeling to you. You just have to feel it for yourself. It’s one of the most beautiful and peaceful feelings you’ll ever feel in your life. In those moments everything is perfect just as it is and you feel like you could sit forever.

10. Don't accept the excuses you give yourself as to why mindfulness isn't for you. If you can't sit still, you need mindfulness the most.

Those who have the most difficulty sitting still are the ones who need mindfulness the most. If you’re constantly moving to the point where you can’t imagine yourself sitting still for more than a few minutes at a time then your mind is very, very busy. And the busier your mind, the more stressed and anxious it is as well.

Don't convince yourself that you can't practice mindfulness, especially mindful sitting/sitting meditation, because you have a hard time sitting. You need mindfulness the most.

If you do the work and just learn how to stop and follow your breath from time to time you’ll completely transform how you feel on a day to day basis. Those with the most difficulty sitting are typically the ones who end up appreciating the practice the most because they got the most meaning from it.

We often have to learn from experience in order to really appreciate something. If you experienced a chaotic mind then you’ll truly appreciate what your mind is like once you’ve found even a sliver of the peace you can feel from adopting the practice of mindfulness in your daily life.

Additional Resources

Interested in learning more about mindfulness or meditation in general? Here are a few posts to get you started:

  1. What is Mindfulness? A Guide to Mindfulness Meditation
  2. How to Practice Mindfulness: The Quick and Easy Guide to Learning Mindfulness Meditation
  3. The Mindfulness Survival Guide: 10 Powerful Mindfulness Techniques for Overcoming Life’s Challenges and Living Mindfully
  4. 6 Great Ways to Implement Mindfulness in the Workplace
  5. 50 Awesome Meditation Tips for Beginners

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This post is adapted from my book, The Little Book of Mindfulness. It covers everything you need to know about mindfulness from A to Z. You can get it free by entering your name and email below:

How to Practice Mindfulness: The Quick and Easy Guide to Learning Mindfulness Meditation

How-to-Practice-Mindfulness

What if you’re not interested in the “what” and the “why” and just want to know how to practice mindfulness meditation? The cool thing is, you don’t need to know anything else to practice mindfulness.

The what and the why are valuable and worth learning about, but mindfulness practice is a deeply personal experience and something you can only truly understand having practiced for yourself.

Well, I’ve got good news. If you want to know how to practice mindfulness in simple, clear, and straightforward language with no extra fluff- this is the only guide you need.

And if you want to learn more and really delve deeper into the practice? I’ll provide a whole suite of guides, resources, and guided meditations which you can utilize, all for free, at the end of this post as well.

How to Practice Mindfulness of Breath

Mindfulness is always mindfulness of something, so the instructions below will be on the most basic and fundamental of mindfulness practices: mindful breathing.

In the practice of mindfulness, you're very lightly and loosely concentrating on something while being mindful of everything which arises within your field of awareness (think: being clearly aware in an open and all-inclusive way).

Of course, that sounds nice, but the practice rarely looks so pretty in the beginning. It really looks like this:

Focused on the breath → 3 seconds later, lose concentration → "wake up" 2 minutes later ("what the heck happened?", return to the breath → 3 seconds later, lose concentration → wake up 1 minute later, return to the breath

Just know this is perfectly normal and that, with time, your mind will begin to quiet and become quite clear.

How to practice mindfulness: Mindful breathing

Mindful breathing can be done as a form of sitting meditation or just standing in your home, office, or outside in nature and for even a few seconds.

There are really no restrictions to the practice, but it's most often done as a form of sitting meditation for at least a few minutes at a time. That's how I suggest you do your first few mindfulness practice sessions.

Start by finding a quiet place, somewhere with the least possible distractions. Nowhere will be perfect, just find a decent spot.

Next, find a comfortable sitting position. To keep it simple, for now just sit on the floor in a cross-legged position or in a chair. Straighten your back and neck, place your hand in your lap, and look down 3-4 feet in front of you.

Now, either close your eyes or let your eyelids naturally fall so that they remain about 1/2 open. Keep in mind that eyes closed can make you more likely to fall asleep while meditating (a common problem), while eyes half-open may feel odd at first and distract you. For now, either is fine.

Then, follow these 4 simple steps to practice mindful breathing:

1. Become aware of your breath

Simply turn your attention to your breathing. Follow each in-breath and out-breath from beginning to end. Place a firm but soft focus on the breath.

Do not attempt to control your breath, simply observe it silently. Your silent observation will slowly begin to calm your breathing naturally. This may be easier said than done in the beginning but make your best effort.

2. Count each in-breath and out-breath

Inhale…one. Exhale….two. Count to 10 like this. If a thought distracts you, start the 10 count over from 1. When you get to 10, start over and attempt to count to 10 again. If you never do, don't worry,

Do this for as many weeks or months as it takes until you can count to 10 with little to no effort. Then count each inhale + exhale as one. Then, when that becomes easy, stop counting and simply follow your breath. Don’t rush this step, progress slowly.

3. Acknowledge thoughts, feelings, and sensations that arise

Understand in advance that various thoughts, feelings, and sensations will arise while being mindful and make you lose your concentration on the breath.

In the beginning, you'll likely be interrupted constantly and feel like you're doing something wrong. You're not and it really is that difficult for everyone, in the beginning, to stay concentrated on the breath.

4. Return to being mindful of the breath

This will be difficult at first, you’ll lose focus on your breath constantly. Stay focused, after a while your mind will begin to grow quieter.

That's it! That's all there is to it. The practice of mindfulness, in this case specifically mindful breathing, is simple and straightforward.

Just keep in mind that while the practice won't necessarily feel easy in the beginning, it will get better typically in a very short period of time (in a few weeks you should start noticing a calmer and quieter mind).

A Few Important Tips

Here are a few tips for getting off on the right foot:

  • In the beginning, it's about making meditation a daily habit. That means don't worry about how long you're practicing for. Practice mindful breathing for 1-3 minutes for the first 1, 2, even 3 weeks. Really, in the beginning, nothing more is necessary and even with that you'll notice a big difference in how you feel. After a while, you'll feel gradually able to sit down for longer and longer periods.
  • Practice x2 a day. To further develop your mindfulness meditation practice into a strong daily practice, sit twice a day (preferably morning + afternoon or night). Remember, you're meditating for just 1-3 minutes so there should be no reason you can't do it.
  • Your mind will feel like a jungle. Don't sweat it. I said this earlier, but I feel it's important enough to mention again. People often feel like they're doing something wrong, or like something's wrong with them. Nothing is wrong at all. It's perfectly natural to feel like you're jumping out of your skin, unable to focus on one point for more than even 3 seconds. This will quickly begin to change if you stick to a consistent daily practice.
  • Be gentle with yourself throughout the process. Don't go into mindfulness meditation thinking that it's easy. It often isn't. In the beginning, you're likely to not be able to notice clearly what is arising. You'll just know you've lost your mindfulness. At best, you'll know you were thinking about "something" but not know exactly what. But there is the possibility that some uncomfortable thoughts and feelings can arise while meditating. Be kind to yourself and know that whatever happens is totally natural and not a sign of any personal shortcoming.

Additional Resources

Whether you're interested in learning to develop a daily meditation practice or bringing the practice of mindfulness into your everyday life, I've got you covered:

Creating a home meditation practice:

  1. How to Meditate for Beginners
  2. ZfEL Ep. 8: How to Create a Home Meditation Practice
  3. 5 Steps to Making Meditation a Daily Habit
  4. 5 Tools to Help You Start Your Home Meditation Practice
  5. How to Create a Zen Space: Finding Peace by Creating a Personal Space That Nourishes Your Mind and Bod

Bringing mindfulness into your everyday life:

  1. ZfEL Ep. 6: How to Make Mindfulness a Way of Life: 7 Keys to Living a More Mindful Life
  2. How to Create a Mindful Morning Routine
  3. ZfEL Ep. 4: How to Design a Nightly Ritual that Nourishes and Brings Rest to the Mind and Body (Plus Mindfulness of Body Guided Meditation)
  4. 7 Ways to Live More Mindfully in the Busy, Fast-Paced, and Plugged In Modern World
  5. 5 Powerful Ways Mindful Eating Will Transform Your Relationship With Foo

Free guided meditations:

If you're really interested in learning how to practice mindfulness, text instruction isn't complete without an accompanying guided meditation. Luckily, I've got you covered there too:

Free Guided Meditations for Greater Peace and Clarity

Keep in mind that the above list is constantly growing. Each week I future a new guided meditation on the Zen for Everyday Life podcast. You can listen to the podcast on the blog here or on iTunes here.

No matter what brought you to the practice of mindfulness, I hope you discover the beauty of the practice and that it helps do for you what it did for me so many years ago.

How to Create a Mindful Morning Routine

How to Design a Mindful Morning Routine via Buddhaimonia
"'Hardest of all is to practice the Way at home, second in the crowd, and third in the pagoda.' It is only in an active and demanding situation that mindfulness really becomes a challenge!"

- Thich Nhat Hanh

This week is "starting fresh" week on the Buddhaimonia blog and podcast, and with it come a few things you can use to start fresh not just in the New Year, but in any moment of your life.

Every moment is an opportunity to start fresh, to become fully awake to our lives in the present moment and let go of the past. In fact, to become fully awake to the present moment with mindfulness is itself to let go of the past.

In every moment that we're mindful, we've decided to live our lives most fully and have chosen freedom instead of the chains of the past. And this doesn't have to be something specific like a relationship or difficult challenge, it can be anything.

But that can be easier said than done when we have so many responsibilities. And if it's not responsibilities getting us, it's just plain forgetfulness with all the potential distractions that exist around us in each moment.

One of the most beautiful and powerful tools I've found for helping me live with more mindfulness has been my morning routine. And indeed, I'm not alone in seeing the power of the early morning, as morning routines and early rising, in general, have become an entire topic on their own in the past several years.

The morning is a special time for us to be with ourselves, reflect within ourselves, and simply be present to the peaceful silence of the morning.

I've talked before about being an early riser, morning routines, and morning rituals. I do indeed take my morning routine seriously and find it a very important part of my day (I wake up at 3 A.M. daily), but everyone is different. So know that when I talk about morning routines and creating a mindful morning, I don't mean anything specific except for waking up in the morning and being fully present for a few simple activities to start your day off on the right foot.

You don't have to wake up super early or do anything specific, you could simply decide to wake up 30 minutes earlier and what you do in those 30 minutes would be your mindful morning routine.

Whatever you do, do it with mindfulness, fully present for the peace and quiet of the morning and find solace in the silence. Silence can be a very nourishing and empowering experience.

How to Create a Mindful Morning Routine That Nourishes Your Mind and Jump Starts Your Life

So, where do we start? How do we begin to take advantage of the power of the early morning to help us live a more mindful and deeply nourishing life? Here are 4 steps to creating a mindful morning routine:

1. Get enough quality sleep (have a nourishing nightly ritual)

First thing's first- before anything you need to decide on a time to wake up and have your sleep schedule down pat. Even if you're just waking up a few minutes earlier than normal, without proper planning it not only won't work out but you'll be lacking sleep in the process, and that will affect the entire rest of your day.

Before you can wake up early, you need to make sure you're getting good sleep and have a regular set bedtime and nightly ritual. Without these things in place, your morning routine goes from being nourishing to just being a headache and totally unsustainable. You're falling asleep more than you're mindful and that just defeats the purpose.

In ZfEL podcast episode #4: How to Design a Nightly Ritual That Nourishes the Mind and Brings Rest to the Body, I talked about designing a nightly ritual, or routine, that helps you improve the quality of your sleep, nourish your mind, and deepen your mindfulness practice in the process.

This nightly routine is exactly what you need to help support your mindful morning routine, so I'd check out ZfEL episode #4 and begin by creating your nourishing nightly ritual.

2. Wake up (at least a little) earlier

This one might sound obvious, but it's the most difficult point on this list to do and something I'd be doing you a disservice by passing over, especially since I have a complete guide to helping you become an early riser.

Again, remember that this doesn't have to be anything crazy. Just because I wake up at 3 doesn't mean it's what you should do. I don't do it just because, I do it because of the circumstances of my life (3 crazy kiddos) and everyone's circumstances are different. So decide what time you'd like to shoot for and work on it in 30-minute increments.

I moved down in 30-minute increments personally, only adding another 30 minutes on every couple of months, so it can be a slow and very long-term process depending on your goal.

It actually took me some 2 years to go from 7:30 to 4, so don't think you're messing up if you're having a hard time all of a sudden waking up an hour earlier, I never tried to do such an intense jump.

In about 2 months I'll be releasing a new (short) eBook on creating a mindful morning routine from start to finish and it will include a brand new and updated version of my How to Become an Early Riser guide.

Until then, check out the original: How to Become an Early Riser: The 12 Techniques I Used to Go from Being a Night Owl to Waking up at 4 AM Daily.

This guide includes literally everything I used to go from staying up until 1-2 A.M. on most days to waking up at 4 A.M. Lots of great information and really everything you need to begin waking up a little earlier each day.

3. Decide on your morning rituals

So, how do we decide what's a part of our mindful morning routine?

A morning routine is really just a collection of activities, usually referred to as morning rituals, and they can be anything from meditation to arts and crafts to your daily work. Anything can be done with mindfulness, so really anything can be included here. But there are certain things we're shooting for.

As I mentioned, it's best to keep it simple here as anything overly complicated will be difficult to stick to. When it comes down to it, it should just be 2-4 simple activities you do each day, preferably activities that promote mindfulness (anything can be done mindfully as I mentioned, but some activities lend themselves to greater mindfulness).

What kinds of activities are those? In my article, 7 Morning Rituals That Will Change Your Life, I talked about 7 different morning rituals which I did or thoroughly tested in the past. Many of those I still do daily, although not necessarily in the morning. Here are some examples:

  1. Meditate
  2. Drink tea (or coffee) mindfully
  3. Keep a journal
  4. Mindful walking or running outside
  5. Do something creative (write, draw, paint, create)
  6. Create something / Passion project

For more examples, read 7 Morning Rituals That Will Change Your Life.

Remember, the main idea to keep in mind is the question, "what do I want to accomplish with my morning routine?" A mindful morning routine is about nourishing the mind and finding a quiet moment of peace through the practice of mindfulness. But of course, there's many ways to do this and a productive morning routine can bring many other benefits as well.

Know what you want and decide what you'll do with your mindful morning routine based on that.

4. Be mindful - Give your best effort

So, you've planned out your morning, gotten your nightly routine down and begun improving the quality of your sleep, and have started waking up earlier.

The only thing left is to give your best effort to sticking with your morning routine, which will no doubt take a bit of work at first, and make the effort to be mindful during this special time in your morning. That's the main idea here, to be mindful throughout this entire time you have in the morning to yourself.

If you're waking up 30 minutes early and you've decided to sit and meditate for 15 minutes and then walk mindfully outside for another 15, then you're goal is to be mindful in every moment from the moment you wake up to the moment your routine ends and you have to get ready for the day.

Of course, you're making your best effort here. Being mindful for 30 minutes straight will feel impossible, but you're just giving your best effort. A morning routine done mostly mindfully is hugely beneficial and not to be underestimated in the scope of the rest of your life.

A mindful morning routine such as this has far-reaching effects. It literally will help you jump-start your day, each and every day, and as a result- your entire life.

A few tips for making the most of your mindful morning routine:

  1. Move slowly- It's a misconception that you have to do something slowly to do it in mindfulness, but that's mostly because slow + mindful is a very nourishing combination. I'd suggest that whatever you do (for the most part) you do it slowly, paying close attention to each and every little action. Work, if you choose to do some of that in the morning, is an obvious example of something you wouldn't do more slowly so there are exceptions.
  2. Appreciate the silence- You could always appreciate some good music in the morning, but my suggestion would be to bask in the silence. Silence is a very nourishing experience and no time is better for that then in the morning. And silence is another great complement to mindfulness practice.
  3. Change it up- You don't literally have to do the same thing each and every morning. From time to time I've experimented with many different morning rituals, if for no reason other than to try them out. This can really help keep things fresh and that makes it easier for you to stay in mindfulness.

Remember that this time you have in the morning is your time to start fresh. Each and every morning is a moment, an opportunity, to start fresh and begin anew.

No matter what happened the previous day, month, or year you can put your best foot forward and walk mindfully, live mindfully, fully awake to the beauty of the present moment.

Additional resources

Depending on what you'd like to do with your own mindful morning routine, your morning will differ. Here are a few resources to help you get started with some of my favorite mindful morning rituals:

  1. Meditation - How to Meditate for Beginners
  2. Mindful walking (outside or inside, really can do either but outside is amazing in the morning) - The Beginners Guide to Walking Meditation
  3. Tea meditation (substitute your drink of choice, this can be done with anything) - How to Find Peace and De-Stress with a Simple Tea Meditation
  4. Other morning rituals - 7 Morning Rituals That Will Change Your Life

Mindful morning mantra

To close, here's mindful morning mantra for starting fresh each day and making the most of your mindful morning routine:

As I open my eyes,

I awaken to the beauty and freshness of this moment,

A whole new 24-hours has been given to me,

I will live it mindfully,

Appreciating deeply every moment of it.

Keep an eye out...

This week's podcast episodes are How to Make a Fresh Start in Every Moment with Mindfulness and the guided meditation for this week is Mindful Refresh: A Guided Morning Meditation. If you liked this article, be sure to check them out:

How to Make a Fresh Start in Every Moment with Mindfulness

Mindful Refresh: A Guided Morning Meditation