Over the weekend, I watched a YouTube tarot reader, who talked about how there are often people who practice meditation and then immediately storm into their day, completely having left that mindfulness behind.
But meditation is meant to be carried into your daily life. The result of meditation should be mindfulness; it requires self-awareness, mental clarity, and intentionality. I would argue that mindfulness is, in fact, more important than meditation. Because if the meditation does not bring you mindfulness, then what’s the point?
So let’s take a look at how life itself is a meditation and mindfulness is a way of life, as well as thirteen ways to bring meditation out of your practice and into your daily life.
What Is Meditation?
There is no one single practice that encompasses everything meditation is or can be. We typically think of someone sitting cross-legged with their eyes closed, chanting “OM.” (As in the featured image above.)
Simply, meditation is the focused effort to bring your attention to the present moment, over and over again. It can include clearing the mind, going through a mantra a number of times, or focusing on releasing tension in the body.
There are also different configurations for your body during meditation, like seated meditation, mudras of the hands, chanting syllables, or even walking meditation.
The Benefits of Meditation
We all know there are numerous benefits to a regular meditation practice. In fact, there have been studies on the impact of meditation on all sorts of things, including stress, high blood pressure, substance abuse, insomnia, cancer, weight-control, and ADHD.
Making Meditation a Way of Life
Being present (mindful) in your life is the ultimate goal of meditation. It can help you be less judgmental, help you communicate, and help you understand the motivations of others and respond more calmly to stressful situations.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a deep awareness that extends beyond our typical mind’s focus for any given day or event. It includes an intentional awareness of one’s thoughts, feelings, desires, bodily sensations, and environment.
Because the goal of mindfulness is that awareness, it often comes with less “gut reactions” and more calm responses to things in our lives that may be stressful or anxiety-inducing.
13 Daily Mindful Activities for Meditation
When I took an online mindfulness retreat with Plum Village, I learned just how many aspects of our lives meditation can (and should) encompass. Here are thirteen activities most of us do every day that you can bring more mindfulness into.
1. Brushing Your Teeth
If life itself is a meditation, then start with your teeth. Thich Nhat Hanh, the founder of Plum Village (mentioned above) and Buddhist Zen Master, has always used tooth-brushing as an example of an ideal time to practice mindfulness.
So many of us go through our teeth-brushing as quickly as possible, but that isn’t mindfulness. Instead, try repeating this gatha(from Stepping Into Freedom) to yourself as you brush your teeth:
Brushing my teeth and rinsing my mouth,
I vow to speak purely and lovingly
When my mouth is fragrant with right speech,
a flower blooms in the garden of my heart.
2. Getting Dressed
Putting our clothes on in the morning is another example of something we all do every day, and we don’t think much about.
You might toss your clothes all over the room trying to find the perfect outfit, or you may blindly throw on whatever is clean. Wherever you are on that spectrum, slow down. Be gentle with your clothes and put them on intentionally and with kindness to your body.
Here’s another gatha from Thich Nhat Hanh:
Putting on these clothes,
I am grateful to those who made them
and to the materials from which they were made.
I wish everyone could have enough to wear.
3. Making Your Bed
When you make your bed intentionally, you are caring for the place where you sleep, for your blankets and pillows. Mindfulness is a deep expression of gratitude, and you can always write your own gatha in the moment or in advance.
As I make my bed this morning,
I am thankful I have somewhere to sleep,
a home I wake to every day,
and those around me who make my life better.
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The shower is an excellent place to practice your new belief that mindfulness is a way of life, and there are several ways to use your shower to implement your meditation.
The first is simply to go about your shower calmly with gratitude. You might choose to repeat a mantra or gatha, or you may choose silence. But singing or allowing our minds to go wherever they want is not part of that mindfulness, so be intentional!
Second, I would challenge you to take cold showers. Not only are they excellent for your immune system and metabolism, but they are also an exercise in being mindful. When we shower in cold water, we must mindfully resist the “flinch” to move away from the cold. We must surrender to the experience.
Keep these two practices in mind when you take your next shower.
When it comes to meditation and your way of life, intentional or mindful walking is the perfect way to practice.
Thich Nhat Hanh, called Thay (teacher) by his students, was a huge supporter and practicer of the method of walking meditation. It is best to do this practice with athletic shoes or bare feet so that you may feel the ground. (I love barefoot shoes.) As you walk, you do so slowly and silently, feeling each step under your feet.
Here is part of a poem written by Thay about Walking Meditation:
Then we learn
that there is no peace walk;
that peace is the walk;
that there is no happiness walk;
that happiness is the walk.
6. Conversations with Others
If there’s any time in the world that needs more mindfulness and consideration, it is our interactions with others. Bringing our meditation into conversations can be challenging, particularly if the other person is not full of mindfulness.
We are at risk of picking up on their energy and adopting it as our own, and that’s a natural part of being human. But we must be practiced enough in meditation, and we must hold true to our own inner peace so that the other person might adopt our energy.
Mindful eating is another way you can take your meditation into practical life. Again, like showering, there are multiple ways to be mindful about your eating.
You may want to participate in moderate consumption. This means being aware of the amounts of food you are eating, portion size.
You could also consider what kinds of food you are consuming. Things like sugar, fried foods, junk, and even meat, might be under scrutiny for the kinds of food you think are mindful to put in your body. Start with vegetables, fruits, grains, oils, and nuts and seeds, but make sure you get enough protein.
Lastly, no matter what you eat, or how much you eat, doing so in a slow, intentional manner is not only mindful, it’s healthier for you. Most people are in such a hurry nowadays that we don’t properly chew our food. But slow, mindful eating can help you eat better and eat less.
8. Screen Time
If life itself is a meditation, then screen time is chaos incarnate.
Our phones and computers, social media especially, thrive on eating at our attention. The more time we spend scrolling through Facebook, totally numb, the more money the platform makes. This is also why Facebook feeds are known to churn out highly controversial and potentially factually incorrect information… just to keep you on the site.
When you participate in social media, do so mindfully. Set a timer. Go on to interact with a specific person or to ask a specific question. And when someone says something triggering, take a deep breath and close the app.
Screen time, not just social media, has another negative effect – blue light that affects our ability to sleep. There are blue light blocking glasses (like the ones I reviewed here) that can help negate those effects, but it is even more effective to just put down your phone and turn off the TV at least an hour before bed.
I admit, shopping is an life activity that I am not always mindful of. Shopping is easier in modern times, with Amazon Prime and all kinds of grocery services. More and more retailers are offering free shipping, and there are plenty of sales throughout the year, from Black Friday to Amazon Prime days in July.
Whether you’re shopping online or in person, here are some mindful tips to consider.
- The more you shop online, the more packaging and waste that gets created (and potentially not recycled)
- The more money you spend, the more you’re giving away your own currency flow and feeding back into giant corporations that may or may not have the best interests of the earth and its creatures at heart
- When we bring something into our home, it could be bringing chemicals or might not have been ethically produced.
The list goes on. Please be mindful when you shop.
This is actually an area that is getting more traction: mindfulness at work. More workplaces are offering mental health services, exercise rooms, healthier lunch options, and quiet spaces.
But if you don’t work at a place that offers these things, then you might need to bring your meditation to work with you. Practice a few deep breaths when things get tense or difficult at work. Practice your meditation in the break room during lunch. And make sure you always treat others with intentional and calm words.
11. Playing with your kids
Gentle parenting is another mindful way of life on the upswing. If we treat our coworkers with calm, intentional words, then we certainly need to do so with our kids.
When you play with your kids, it is a great opportunity to teach them about kindness, using their words to communicate what they want, and listening to others. It is also an opportunity for us to model those things to them.
Children imitate what they see, so if you are calm and mindful toward them, they will learn to develop those skills as well.
Choosing to read a physical copy of a book is one of the best, most mindful activities we can do during the day. There is no blue light or battery life to worry about. Books can be in any condition – new, gently loved, falling apart – and they still offer solace, love, comfort, and beauty.
Do so in whatever environment you like. Silence is helpful, but not necessary.
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If life itself is a meditation, then we must be sure to clean with mindfulness. As they say, chop wood, carry water. This means that no matter where you are in life – man, woman, young, old, happy, or angry – we all have daily tasks that we must carry out for our lives.
Although cleaning may be a less-than-loved activity for many people, when we do it mindfully, it becomes more bearable.
Here is another last gatha from Thich Nhat Hanh about washing the dishes. This site has quite a few gathas (more than the ones listed here) about mindfulness in daily activities and as our way of life.
Washing the dishes
is like bathing a baby Buddha.
The profane is the sacred.
Everyday mind is Buddha’s mind.
Yes, life itself is a meditation. Mindfulness is meant to be a way of life, and that intentionality can help you slow down and can enhance your life satisfaction.
You don’t have to do all of these at once. Even just beginning with mindfulness while brushing your teeth is a huge step into a larger world – one of gentleness and intention.
What do you think about meditation and mindfulness as a way of life?
Put a comment in the box below – I’d love to hear from you!