One thing I’ve learned over the past 2 ½ years of meditating is this: It’s easy to be mindful when we’re sitting and doing our formal practice, but it is tremendously difficult to be mindful when we are living our normal everyday lives. The question is, how can we incorporate mindfulness into our lives; away from the cushion and into the real world?
This last week has been insanely busy for me and my wife. As many of you know, we have decided to move to Vancouver and with that, comes a lot of work, research and daily tasks to complete before we can make our final trip up North.
It’s funny how life reminds you of important lessons precisely when you need them. A few days ago, per the recommendation of my therapist, I listened to a beautiful commencement speech by David Foster Wallace called “This is Water.” If you haven’t heard of this speech by now, I highly recommend that you pop over to YouTube and search for this video. It’s a classic!
In it, David Wallace reminds the soon-to-be graduates that life is not so much about what you do, but rather, how you choose to think. In his commencement, David argues that without observing the state of one’s mind, you will simply float through life aimlessly and without a sense of purpose.
In those everyday adult-like tasks, we have an opportunity to choose how we want to experience the moment and choose how we want to think. This is where true knowledge plays out in our everyday existence because without it, we run the risk of living a life full of suffering.
“By way of example, let's say it's an average adult day, and you get up in the morning, go to your challenging, white-collar, college-graduate job, and you work hard for eight or ten hours, and at the end of the day you're tired and somewhat stressed and all you want is to go home and have a good supper and maybe unwind for an hour, and then hit the sack early because, of course, you have to get up the next day and do it all again. But then you remember there's no food at home. You haven't had time to shop this week because of your challenging job, and so now after work you have to get in your car and drive to the supermarket…”
“…And many more dreary, annoying, seemingly meaningless routines besides. But that is not the point. The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing is gonna come in. Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don't make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I'm gonna be pissed and miserable every time I have to shop.”
--David Foster Wallace “This is Water”
So, with Mr. Wallace’s voice in my head, I have tried to approach each task with a sense of mindfulness and consciousness. After reading David’s speech, I’ve learned that these daily errands provide me with an opportunity to be more present while I move from one activity to the next. Whether that’s waiting in line at the grocery store, filling out a 10 page application to get a temporary work permits in Canada or applying for jobs, I can infuse mindfulness into these activities and thus, make them more tolerable and perhaps even enjoyable…
So with that, I invite to you to take a moment to be where you are the next time you’re standing in line at the grocery store or when your kids are screaming in the backseat of the car. Instead of thinking about what you have to do next, what happened at work, when your kids will stop screaming, or anything else, try and see if you can focus on your breath and the external stimulus around you.
You may notice an instant sense of ease and relaxation, as opposed to the anxiety and agitation that pervade many of our daily lives. These small moments of mindfulness can make a bigger impact than you think, so give it a try!!
Shoot us a comment and tell us your story of mindfulness in uncommon places!!! We would absolutely love to hear it!
The great thing about mindfulness is that you can take it with you, so I implore you to incorporate mindfulness into your life, away from your formal practice. After all, we practice mindfulness to be mindful throughout the day, not just when we’re on the cushion…
Thank you as always up for reading! We appreciate all of you who choose to read these blogs and for being stewards of mindfulness in our community.
Until next time,
Many many blessings