The widespread misunderstanding is that I as a mindfulness trainer should be an example of inner peace and a beacon of serenity. Of course this is not always the case. I get lost in the mind clutter all the time. But a couple of things have changed since I practice meditation. I have learned to listen to my feelings and bodily sensations and I have made it a habit to return to the present moment and relax into that moment quite a view times a day.
Sometimes we can have big and spectacular insights, real kensho experiences. But on other occasions we can have really simple insights that put a smile on your face. I took me four years of meditation where I practiced really hard to have no thoughs to realize that I unexpectedly had learned something else. After those years I did not master the Mind of Emptiness (and I still haven’t) but I had become quite good at starting all over again without the slightest complaint. I a non-physical way I have become quite flexible, it is much easier to fail, take a deep breathe and start again. Every moment is a new beginning. Doesn’t that make you smile? Can you feel the weight drop off? That’s what the relief did to me.
Random simple stuff I do wholeheartedly (when I don’t forget):
It feel it is nice to get out of bed and stumble into the shower and let the warm water wake me up in the morning. Just feel the water. Breathe. Be aware of your body. Appreciate the fact that you are alive. I find it quite easy to surrender to this moment because my mind has started rattling yet.
2. Having my protein shake as a breakfast ritual
So now you know, I’m kind of a jock and have protein shakes for breakfast. But I especially love the ritual. Putting all the healthy ingedients in the blender, exactly the right amounts. Then I sit down and breathe. I consciously drink my shake. I give my body all the nutrients it needs, fueling it for the next four hours.Make routines into rituals. Routines we go trough unconsciously, rituals are filled with awareness. Every routine that becomes a ritual becomes a meditation. Perfecting the ritual is part of the joy.
3. Washing hands
Kind of the same as showering. Only I wash (or rinse) my hands many times a day. Be aware of the sensation of the water flowing over your skin, if only for a few seconds. Be aware of yourself paying attention to every part of your hands. Ground your feet on the floor.
4. My posture when I sit down
It is not that my posture is always perfect, especially not when I type. But when I sit down at least I start by assuming an upright position. By consciously taking an upright position and straightening your back and taking a couple of breathes you feel a sense of calmness and nobleness. Well, I do. And you can try it.
5. My posture when walking outside
In zen practice we have walking meditation and sitting meditation. I like to practice walking also when I’m outside and/or not on retreat. Make sure your belly button is tucked in. Pull your shoulders back slightly, that gives you the feeling of opening the heart. Your back is straight, your eyes soft and open, your body relaxed. You will feel strong, receptive and open to the world.
6. Feeling the ground when I walk
A friend told me about an African co-worker who wore shoes for the first time when he was 10 or 12. The man said: “It was as if my feet were blindfolded”. When we walk on bare foot we are very aware of the surface. But if you pay attention you can also feel a lot with your shoes on. I like to walk as if I’m blindfolded and let myself be amazed by the information my feet give me.
7. Grounding myself when I stand in line somewhere
Just connect with your feet when you stand in line at the super market. Visualize your energy (or roots) going into the earth as deep as you can. Release all your negative energy into the earth. It’s cool. It makes a tedious experience into a healing one. When you are as impatient as me this little practice is a necessity of life in surviving city life.
8. Truly tasting my food and not reading while eating
One part of the mindfulness course is practicing to be very mindfull when eating. This has become a second nature for me. I used to love to read the newspaper during breakfast but nowadays I feel it’s disturbing. When you eat just eat. Don’t read, don’t watch tv. You are nurturing your body. Adding awareness to how you taste, chew and swallow will inevitably lead to awareness about what you are actually putting on your mouth. It feels great and it will do good to your body and the environment in many ways.
9. Appreciating nature
We see miracles around us all the time. An apple, a bird in the sky. Just notice that. Notice the different shades of green in tha park. No matter how shitty you feel, nature always is amazing. We are all expressions of nature, we are part of this dance of life and death. Isn’t that beautiful?
10. Appreciating small things
I take care of a miniature parrot. It weighs only 47 grams and has so much character. It leaves perfect tiny gown feathers that I have to clean up but it’s amazing how complete that little bird is. The lady at the fish shop is sad because she lost her husband. I read funny human stuff on Facebook. Life is everywhere and it is all very real. Feel free to open up to life.
11. Being silent in the sauna
Being silent in the sauna gives me great pleasure. Just letting the heat come over me over a work out and not partaking in some unnecessary chit chat feels like some kind of reward, as if I give both my mind and body a gift at the same time.
12. Making an effort to find the best latte and sip it down slow
Maybe the easiest way of improving your quality of life is improving the quality of your coffee, depending on the quality of the coffee in your neighbourhood. But I like places where people take pride in their product, the ingedients and their effort. Labour is love transformed into matter and I just love love that is transformed into a latte. That latte deserves a deep breathe, an invisible bow (it’s between me and the latte) and a real slow sipping. Life is good.