I really liked this section about cultivating mindful awareness from Awakening the Buddha Within: Eight Steps to Enlightenment: Tibetan Wisdom for the Western World by Lama Surya Das.
Mingling Dharma with Your Daily Life
When I lived in my teacher’s monastery in Nepal, the most traditional lamas had thick, handwritten books of power words or phrases known as mantras. These books included a mantralike benediction for every single activity. There was a mantra for walking through a door or eating a meal, just as there was a mantra for using the toilet. These mantras were significantly more than mere words or empty rituals performed mechanically by rote. They were used to bring a practice of mindfulness, meditation, and gratitude into everything that was done. Many Western families grow up with a tradition of saying grace before meals. In Buddhism, a moment of mindfulness is like a “grace”; these moments can consecrate every activity, waking each of us up to the sacredness of what we do, as we do it. In this way, we recognize everything we do as a spiritual activity.
Here are some ways that we can cultivate mindful awareness and bring meditation, calm, and clarity into our daily activities:
- Breathe and smile. Relax. Take a moment to let go, and just be. Enjoy it.
- Do standing meditation, while waiting in line for a movie or bus or train. Just stand there, breathe, and awaken.
- Whenever you sit down or stand up, stop and appreciate a moment of change, of freedom.
- Whenever you cross a threshold, go through a doorway, or enter a room, see it as entering a temple and do so reverently.
- Walk barefoot in the grass or on a thick carpet and feel fully each sensation with your toes and soles.
- Walk on the edge of a beach, where the water meets the sand, with your eyes closed, feeling your way along, totally vigilant and attentive.
- Walk slowly upon crunchy snow or autumn leaves, attending to the crackle of each step.
- Sing, chant, or pray till you totally forget and lose yourself; then stop and drop into a moment of inexpressible isness, completely beyond concepts, stories, and strategies.
- Experience simple, repetitive work like sewing, embroidering, or even washing dishes as meditation in action, focusing totally on the moment in hand and nothing else.
- Try doing manual labor in a sacred manner, just doing what you are doing as if it is the ultimate divine service, for it is.
- When eating, chew each mouthful fifty or one hundred times, getting the most out of the food as well as being further nourished by the richness of the moment.
- Try chewing one single raisin for several minutes and experiencing everything you can about it.
- Before speaking, notice what motivates your words.
- Set a beeper on your watch or alarm clock to ring every hour on the hour, reminding you to wake up and appreciate the miracle of every moment. Call yourself by name and say, “Wake up!”
- Recognize the Buddha-light shining in everyone and everything and treat others accordingly.
- Enjoy the indescribable joy and peace of meditation.