“…it is often more difficult to remember to be mindful than to be mindful itself.”
― Donald Rothberg, The Engaged Spiritual Life: A Buddhist Approach to Transforming Ourselves and the World
I find this quote helpful and true. The call to be mindful is quite loud. The benefits are known and shared in mainstream media. But knowing and acting are not the same. So how can you remember to be mindful?
3 tips to remember to be mindful
- Have a daily meditation practice. Meditation is the practice that trains your busy mind. Meditation develops the neural pathways that you use when you are mindful. Meditation trains the mind to be aware of your thoughts and your feelings. When you sit and follow your breath interruptions are constant. Your mind shoots about through memories and plans, reviewing the past and projecting into the future. Each time you notice the thoughts you return to the breath. I have had conversations with people who believe that because their mind is so busy that they are ‘no good’ at meditating. I point out that they are brilliant, because they noticed. It is the meditation practice that prepares you to be mindful in other arenas of life.
- Pay attention to your sensations. The first foundation of mindfulness (from the original Mindfulness Sutra) is to be aware of your sensations. Your five senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste are an opportunity to return to the moment. Each one can be used as an anchor to root you in the moment. In Mindful Photography you use what you can see as your anchor. In mindful walking you use the touch of your feet on the floor. Each sensation can be used in place of the breath. Each can bring you into the present.
- Use a mindful bell app. If you are a smartphone user there are several mindful bell apps. These can be set to ring a bell, either in a regular pattern or in a random manner. When the bell sounds you practice and become aware of your breathing or your sensations.
Be gentle with yourself. Be compassionate for the journey towards mindfulness. It is a practice, a lifetime commitment. In any practice you have permission to make mistakes, to learn and attend to the practice. You fall over. You get back up. The falling over and the getting up are both part of the practice.
Patience is your watchword. Patience for the experience. Patience for the judgements that pop into your mind. Patience is a core part of the practice.