Practicing mindfulness and developing a daily meditation practice in our modern fast-paced and plugged-in world can be pretty difficult.
I struggled with this for a long time, trying to figure out ways to be mindful throughout more of my day and stop the habitual rushing around I had done for years.
There's the complexity of modern life, the habitual patterns we're trying to get ourselves out of, and the constant distractions that try to pull us away.
Even if you see amazing results from your mindfulness meditation practice, it can still be difficult to resist these forces. I went through this myself repeatedly and often got so frustrated I just felt like stopping.
I knew it didn't make sense, I'd discovered a sense of peace and happiness from my practice that I hadn't felt by doing anything else in my life, but I just couldn't get myself to practice consistently.
I knew there had to be a way to make it work. It took a while to figure it out, and while it's difficult no matter what you do, I've figured out many different tips and tricks that can help you get there with way less effort and fuss than I had to go through.
7 Ways to Live More Mindfully in the Busy, Fast-Paced, and Plugged In Modern World
When it comes to making meditation, and being mindful in your daily life, a habit, there's various factors you have to consider. Don't ever think you've tried everything because there's so much you can do to improve your practice and deepen the sense of peace and harmony within you, even if you run a typical 9-5 and have loads of responsibility.
Here's 7 tips and tricks you can use to live more mindfully in the present moment within our crazy and complicated modern world:
1. Make driving a time for meditation
If there's one place we'd almost never think of being present, it's driving. I don't mean you don't pay attention (even then a lot of us drive half-awake...), I mean more driving without being present of your own mind and body.
Driving meditation is a really great practice that can help transform something we usually only do to get from place to place (or one event in our life to the next) into something you look forward to and find peace and joy in doing. It's a great way to put a "stop" to your day (while you're going?...) and become present again.
It's pretty difficult to give yourself the excuse that you can't practice mindful driving, because no matter how fast the car is going, you can still be mindful of your foot pressing and releasing the pedal and your hands turning the steering wheel.
And that's exactly how you practice:
1. Allow your awareness to remain relatively "open" - While you're driving, there will be multiple objects that will "pull" your attention away. Know that this is just how it is, and allow your awareness to "open up" and accept these various things into your field of awareness (the street signs, traffic) on a regular basis, acknowledging them and then shifting back to your object of meditation.
2. Concentrate on your hands or feet - While driving, you can shift between being mindful of your hands on the steering wheel, making little "micro" turns to keep the car centered, as well as of your foot on the pedal, moving up and down constantly.
Each are constant movements, which make them great targets to use as anchors while being mindful (just as you use your breathing while practicing mindful breathing, or your steps during mindful walking).
3. Acknowledge openly - As always, you're being mindful, so acknowledge anything that arises within your mind while being mindful nonjudgmentally. Just be, and watch silently for what arises.
It's so easy to practice driving meditation, and when you're driving, what better to do?
2. Give yourself more time to get from place to place
Most of us are accustomed to rushing around, and that environment makes it difficult to practice mindfulness throughout your daily life.
From now on, leave between 5-20 minutes early (depending on the distance of the destination) so that you can take your time and drive, walk, and do anything you have to do more mindfully.
To take it a step further, give yourself more time to get ready as well if there's any prep needed before you leave.
Now you might be saying, "Well that doesn't work, that will take more of my time." If that's your answer, I'd suggest reanalyzing your priorities altogether.
Of course, this won't always be possible, but most of the time it's no problem to do so. I do a lot each day and, provided I plan accordingly, I'm almost never in a position where I have to rush around to get everything done.
It's just a mindset, something we convince ourselves is necessary, but really isn't.
Give yourself more time to prep and travel and find more time to breathe and be mindful.
3. Reduce intentional distractions
This might not directly seem like the kind of thing that will help you live more mindfully, but it leads to great benefits in your mindfulness meditation practice as well as throughout your entire life.
Why? Distractions keep your mind wandering when out of practice, which can make it more difficult to remember to practice in the first place. These distractions will only hurt your practice.
And because your mind will offer enough distractions to your concentration on your object of meditation (your breath, steps, etc.) you really don't need more distractions clouding your mind.
There are many different kinds of distractions, but what's most important to focus on here are those intentional distractions which will pull your mind away such as T.V., social networks (Facebook, Twitter namely), etc. By intentional, I mean those things which can distract us that we intentionally keep around because we enjoy them.
A lot of times you'll see it comes down to evaluating your priorities, and this is just the same. Reduce distractions, remember to be mindful more often, and find greater peace.
A lot of times, we know what the right thing to do is but we just don't make any effort to do it. It's really about making the choice to nourish your mind and body or to keep on trying to "fill" yourself with temporary pleasures that will damage you in the long run.
4. Place reminders EVERYWHERE
On the other side of reducing distractions and keeping the mind clear of negative influences are cold hard reminders.
In the beginning of your mindfulness meditation practice, you'll find it very difficult to remember to be mindful throughout any given day because of how much we fill our heads up with, so simple reminders work like a charm.
These can come in many forms, probably the easiest and most accessible being phone reminders. I'd suggest using a unique sound for the reminder that you don't use for anything else, that way you begin to associate the sound specifically with remembering to be mindful throughout your day.
Set the reminder to go off every 1-2 hours at first, later reducing the time in between if you'd like. It's simply a reminder: be mindful. You don't even have to practice mindful breathing or anything. don't make it seem any more difficult in your mind than you need to.
If you make it a simple reminder, you'll naturally be led in the direction of being mindful for a minute or two at least after the reminder goes off. Doing so will help establish your practice and make mindfulness a habit.
5. Arrive, wherever you go
Arriving is a technique where you become present as you're about to enter a new area and allow your mind to fully "arrive" at that location once you've entered.
The reason arriving can help you live more mindfully is because it's not a lengthy or continuous practice you have to do, it's simply the quick and habitual act of becoming fully present as you leave one area and enter another.
And by doing so each time you enter a new place (whether that's inside work, home, the store, or even when walking outside from somewhere else), you'll not only remind yourself constantly throughout the day to be mindful (and if you've practiced for some time you know simply remembering to be mindful throughout your busy day is one of the greatest challenges) but by reminding yourself throughout each day you'll naturally end up actually being mindful more often. It's always two-fold with mindfulness and reminders.
When you arrive somewhere fully with body and mind you become present, and you'll then often continue to be mindful for at least a few minutes after that.
Then, on top of that, simply reminding yourself more often throughout each day means you stay aware of your practice more often and remember to practice at other random times outside of when you're "arriving".
To practice arriving:
1. Leave - As you walk up to a door or entry way, become present to the fact that you're leaving this area that you're walking in.
2. Enter - Now be mindful as you place your hands on the door knob/handle and open the door/walk through the doorway. Know that you're leaving this area and entering the other.
3. Arrive - Once you've stepped in, be mindful of the fact that you've just left the previous area and are now fully in this new area. Know that you've arrived and are present for whatever may come.
Arriving is a great practice because it makes sure that each new place you step into you arrive in a mindful state, and that's a great foundation for any mindfulness practice and your life.
6. Be mindful when you connect with others
I've gotten a lot of questions from people with regards to how they can continue their mindfulness meditation practice when at work, especially after going on a meditation retreat or taking a vacation to meditate and "be with" themselves to reflect on their life and really wanting to make some big changes. This is one of my best tips for doing just that.
Communicating mindfully isn't an easy task, and it takes some work in your mindfulness practice first, but I have a quick tip that will help you bring your mindfulness practice into your workspace, especially if you constantly communicate with others in person (as most of us do).
It's simply this: when you're having a conversation with another person, become mindful of the feelings arising in your body.
Be mindful as you walk up to them/they walk up to you, as they're talking, and as you're talking to them.
See if there's tenseness, if your heart races, if you feel excitement, or if you have a heavy sinking feeling in your heart or stomach.
We've built up ideas about the certain people we communicate with regularly in our lives (as well as certain types of people- prejudices, biases, etc.), and focusing in on that with your mindfulness can not only help improve your practice while being at work, it can help uncover hidden bias and attitudes you have for another so that you can transform them.
We all develop biases, prejudices, and certain attitudes naturally because of feedback and ideas we've been fed in the modern world and throughout our specific life experiences, so it's nothing to kick yourself over. And through your mindfulness practice, you can change that.
Adopting this practice can make work seem like play, because now you know there's a way for you to be able to practice while at work.
There's so much more you can do, but start with this and see how it deepens your practice!
7. Get the Mindfulness Bell app
For ANYONE that sits at a computer for a large part of their day working, this app is AWESOME.
Seriously, I use it every day and it's a great way to bring mindful breathing into your day, pause your work to collect yourself and to reunite mind and body as one. This is essentially another form of reminder but one so especially important for those of us who sit at computers for work that I felt compelled to separate it. Plus, it's about practicing mindful breathing in itself, so it's more than just a reminder.
You can set the timer to go off however often you want. I have it set to go off every 30 minutes, but I suggest starting at every 1-2 hours. No need to rush, the most important thing is to establish it as a habit first.
Another important tip: each time the bell sounds, PRACTICE. Don't get into the habit of letting the bell sound and then saying to yourself, "in just a minute, after I do this last thing".
This is an easy excuse to make, one I've made for myself many times before, so make sure to be sincere in your practice from the get-go and bring your attention inward to your breath, for what lasts about 30 seconds, until the last bell goes quiet.
You can get the mindfulness bell app for desktop free here (Google Chrome Extension and Firefox Add-On. There's also an Android app download on the same page).
You can get a different, but still effective, mindfulness bell app from the Apple App Store here.