Meditation is not confined to the traditional method of shutting off the outside world. We can apply the principle of meditation – focused and extended concentration – to our daily lives. So if you are having difficulty finding the time or the inclination to meditate in the traditional sense, the following method may be an alternative.
Have you ever been so engrossed in something it has your complete attention? This is the aim of this exercise. To illustrate the point, have you ever noticed the intense concentration of a champion sports person prior to a race, serve, goal or golf shot? They are grounded and absorbed in their chosen activity. They may not meditate daily but when they strap on their sports shoes they have one intention in mind. Their intention is to be the best they can be and their focus does not waver. They are in the zone. The likes of Einstein, Picasso and Steve Jobs all shared this ability. It is called Mindfulness.
Mistakes are made when we are preoccupied. Mindfulness brings a unity of body and mind to the present moment. It puts us in the zone and the beauty of it is Mindfulness can be practised any time anywhere.
The best way to get started with this technique is to apply the following principles to any simple mundane physical task – washing up, ironing, driving etc. Initially pick a time when you are alone with little to distract you. Breathe deeply and relax. Your aim is to focus your attention on your actions within each moment. Engage all your senses so that you are fully engrossed in your actions. Feel the iron, steering wheel or wash cloth in your hand. Observe what is going on. Listen to the sounds associated with your task such as the water sloshing, the steam hissing, or the tyres on the road. Observe the thoughts that come and let them go. Do not engage in a running mental commentary about your actions; purely immerse yourself in your actions to the exclusion of everything else.
Starting with a short task such as cleaning your teeth can be helpful. You’ll quickly learn how hard it is to maintain concentration on what you are doing. This is quite normal, taming the ever thinking mind of its preoccupations is not easy. With practice though you will find your attention span increases relatively quickly. You will also become aware of a pervading alertness and calmness during and after your practice.
As you feel more comfortable with this practice you can introduce it to any area of your life. It’s the flexibility of Mindfulness that I find so appealing. For example applying it at work will make you more productive, creative and calm and give you a deeper attention to detail. Try it when you sit down to a quiet meal. Take a few moments to make sure you are relaxed and your body is adequately supported. Chew each portion slowly; savour every morsel including the taste and texture, the aroma and the visual differences of your food. Absorb yourself in the whole experience. Your digestive system will be grateful.
I personally love to enjoy Mindfulness when walking on the beach or in a natural environment. The experience never fails to enhance my appreciation for the beauty of our landscape. Every time you apply Mindfulness to a chosen activity you rise above the ever chattering mind and come that step closer to living your life in the zone. On its own and particularly when combined with daily formal meditation this practice will prove beneficial in no time.