Meditation is good, but you don’t practise it.
You’re too busy, or you have too many things to do, or you’re always in a hurry to get somewhere, or you’re too tired at the end of the day.
And even when you do sit down to try and empty your mind, you feel a massive sense of guilt about everything else you ought to be doing instead.
(Oddly enough, sitting still for 15 minutes feels like a giant waste of time, while 15 minutes spent on social media doesn’t…
…because one forces you to pay painful attention to the messed-up inside of your head, while the other lets you take refuge in comforting distraction.)
Whatever your reasons, it all boils down to one thing:
You don’t have time.
So here are three ways to remain mindful even when you’re on the go — quick check-ins that will bring you back to the present moment and allow you to centre yourself before your next activity.
You can use them in the fleeting moments you have throughout your day: in a car, on the toilet, having a meal, grabbing a drink from the water cooler, getting dressed, doing up your shoes, or even walking from one place to another.
A few seconds or minutes are all you really need. You can pick any of the three you want or swap between them from moment to moment.
Experiment. Have fun.
1) Pay Attention to the World Around You
I call this the monitoring mind. Make your mind like a hawk’s, watching, listening, becoming aware of movement and energy flowing around you.
Keep your eyes on the line of the horizon. It doesn’t matter if you can actually see the horizon; you know where it is. It’s directly in line with your eyes when you’re looking straight ahead.
This gives you the widest angle of sight and lets the world fill up your vision.
Years of bending over looking at keyboards, screens, and phones have given many of us a perpetual downward gaze. And that leads to hunching, which is bad for your spine.
It’s time to correct that bad habit. So look to the horizon!
Now: become aware of everything going on in the world around you. Who are the people around you? For that matter, who are the people behind you? Are they old, young, male, female, busy, calm, energetic, worn out? How are they moving, where are they going, what are they saying? What sounds can you hear? What can you smell? Without looking at a clock, what time of day is it? How do you know?
This kind of awareness brings you right back to the present moment and keeps your attention there. It also makes you more alert and observant.
2) Pay Attention to Your Body and Breath
Time for a posture check. How are you sitting or standing? Are you canted over to one side? Leaning forward or back? Contorted into awkward positions? Are you hunching or slouching? Aching anywhere? What hurts? How are your toes feeling? Are you waddling with your butt stuck out? Are your knees or feet pointing in towards each other, or are they angled straight ahead or slightly outward? Is your head tilted at odd angles? Are your shoulders tight and raised, or are they relaxed and lowered? What sensations can you feel on your skin? Are your clothes arranged comfortably, or have they gotten messed up? Check in with your body and see if you can move to a more balanced, comfortable position.
Now check your breathing. Are you breathing smoothly or jerkily? Have you been holding your breath (a sign of stress)? Are your breaths full or shallow? Are you breathing high into your chest, low into your belly, filling up your back? Does it become easier to breathe after you adjust your posture a little? What can you do to make your breathing smoother and easier?
Little observations like these allow you to bring your body back into balance, giving you a stronger, more comfortable basis for movement.
3) Pay Attention to Your Thoughts and Emotions
What’s on your mind right now? Any sticking points that you can’t move your mind past? Recurring thoughts, dreams, fantasies, fears? Are there any actions you’re trying to avoid? Are you on task or off topic? Have you had any insights you want to write down?
And how are you feeling emotionally? Happy? Joyful? Expansive and open to the world? Nursing a simmering resentment against someone? Furious? Outraged? Worried? Tense? Calm? Thoughtful? Fed up? Energetic? Focused? Pensive? Sad?
Simply take note of how you’re feeling, without trying to force yourself to feel a different way. That can wait till you need it.
Paying attention to your mental and emotional state makes you more self-aware, and that can help you to make better, wiser decisions.
The Right Spirit
Practising these things shouldn’t make you sleepy and sluggish. Instead, they should help you to enter into a state of relaxed alertness without unnecessary tension.
Imagine you’re like the string of a bow, ready to receive the arrow: not loose and lying in a heap, and not yet pulled back with force and tension; simply energized and ready for action.
That’s the right spirit. That’s what you want to be: ready for life, ready to go out and kick ass.
So simply be mindful in the tiny moments of your day. Time and habit will do the rest.