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Help With Mindfulness and Meditation

Question:

Can you share some tips for being mindful for new practitioners? Also, do you have any tips for being motivated to meditate for new practitioners? I read the post about being mindful at work the other day and this is something I would LIKE to do but it is a daunting task because my job involves being responsible for up to 160 rowdy teenagers. I also wear a lot of hats at my job so my mind is always bouncing around and it is hard to meditate, I don’t think I have yet managed to do it. I was thinking some sort of item, or items, around the house or on my person might serve as reminders to do both of these things. I saw a Buddha candle holder the other day that made me think of this and I was also considering a small pendant or bracelet. However, I tend to side with you on the issue of idolatry and shrines, etc. Your perspectives on these issues are most appreciated.

Answer:

As you mentioned, we have discussed idols and shrines in the past. I believe that they aren’t necessary and tend to cause unnecessary attachment. That being said, the main point of having a statue or shrine is that they DO help with mindfulness. If you have a Buddha statue where you see him often, that will help with mindfulness, at least in theory; you can probably learn to tune him out if you ignore him too much. Other forms of Buddhist artwork and objects will have a similar benefit. You don’t need these objects for religious reasons, but they certainly won’t hurt in building your mindfulness. “Out of sight, out of mind” works in the opposite direction too.

I have only one tip to help new practitioners to meditate more often, and it’s a bit obvious. Set a specific time and do it every day. Force yourself to do it if you have to, but get in the habit of doing it regularly, just like any other physical exercise. Once it becomes a regular habit, you can start getting flexible with your timing, but you have to get to the place where you want to do it and look forward to it. It’s not meant to be unpleasant or something you put off or with which you procrastinate.

Everyone has their own ideas about what is or isn’t a good tip for mindfulness. I turned the question loose on Twitter and got the following responses:

@sacredmusick Take one minute every hour to sit and breathe. It will have amazing effects on overall focus and mindfulness.

@izablessing Hi Brian, I actually did a workshop with the Healing From the Core foundation. It was entitled Developing Therapeutic Presence! Excellent!

@cacwgirl Listen to the office staff!

@pamdodd Work tip: If busy, tell interrupters you’ll get back to them and set a time.

@Annie_Fox To be more mindful at work (or anywhere) begin 2 notice when UR annoyance levels kick in, then… http://bit.ly/gvkXi

@BruceDinwiddie Tips for mindfulness at work? Give up multi-tasking and focus on single tasks intently.


13 comments to Help With Mindfulness and Meditation

  • Micah

    My suggestion is to take “Mindful Moments”, by taking 5,10,20 seconds throughout the day to be mindful. Notice your breath, or the cool breeze on your face, or the colors of the room, etc.

  • Brenton C.

    As a meditation neophyte (who lives in an area with no local Buddhist or meditation centers), I’ve found an easy to read book a great help: Real Meditation in Minutes a Day. Maybe it can be a help to you, too.

  • Winn

    I have only started to experience the calming of my mind through meditation after attending a 7-day retreat.

  • Bob P.

    I found Micah’s suggestion very helpful. I like to keep things simple, it is very helpful when I am at work in a busy office environment.

    It is easy for me to find peace in solitude. The real challenge is to apply mindfulness in everyday activities.

    Thank you Brian and Micah, you have enriched my day.

    Peace ~

    Bob P.

  • ZenYen

    I have used the technique Micah suggests, and it really does help. I also must echo Brian’s suggestion for setting a time for meditation, and then doing it. With time, zazen can become its own motivation.

  • I am blind. Images and icons don’t do much for me. But, sometimes, I carry a small mala (Buddhist rosary) with me, in my pocket. At various points during the day, when I feel the need to renew my focus and mindfulness, I take just a few moments to tell the beads, while silently repeating my mantra. The feel of the beads, coordinating my telling the beads with the silent repetition of my mantra, the whole sensory experience of this little ritual, is a focus for mindfulness. And, since the mala is small enough to fit in my pocket, I can do this anywhere, and no one even needs to know I’m doing it.

    You don’t need a fancy mala, from an ‘official’ Buddhist supply shop; although, if you google, you can find many such available online. You can make your own, from materials available at any craft shop. I recommend using 27 small beads, and 1 larger center bead. This is useful if you use a 4-beat mantra (as do I), or if you also want to use the mala for counting 108 recitations, prostrations, or bows.

    Dana

  • September 3, 2009
    Tricycle’s Daily Dharma

    Don’t Eat Your Spinach

    Now, if the practice is so good for us, why is it so difficult to maintain a
    steady practice? It may be that the notion that practice is “good for us” is
    the very impediment-we all know how we can resist what is good for us at the
    table, at the gym, and on the Internet. This mechanical notion of practice,
    “If I practice, then I will be (fill in the blank),” leads to discouragement
    because it is not true that practice inevitably leads to happiness or
    anything that we can imagine. Our lives, like the ocean, constantly change,
    and we will naturally face great storms and dreary lulls.

    How, then, to put our minds in a space where practice is always there,
    whether our lives are tumultuous or we are in the doldrums? It requires a
    completely radical view of practice. Practice is not something we do; it is
    something we are. We are not separate from our practice, and so no matter
    what, our practice is present. An ocean swimmer is loose and flows with the
    current and moves through the tide. When tossed upside down in the surf,
    unable to discern which way is up and which way is down, the natural swimmer
    just let’s go, breathing out, and follows the bubbles to the surface.

    -Pat Enkyo O’Hara Roshi, from “Like a Dragon in Water,” Tricycle, Summer
    2002

    Read the complete article on tricycle.com.
    http://www.tricycle.com/3september2009

  • Jami

    Mindful moments can be effective: it is like, in a sense, praying five times a day. A person may start with 2 then, eventually, 5 minutes. Like this, a persom may achieve 25 minutes a day meditation without, really, much effort. Do not concentrate at first: think everything, let the mind roam, and with time, the journey becomes clear, and the traveller can focus more clearly on the direction of the destination.

  • In fact, don’t concentrate *or try*, AT ALL. Let your mind do whatever it does; just focus on watching it do whatever it does.

  • Beth

    If you are the type that lives by your ‘daily planner’ (as I do), I write in my list of things to do for that day; RIGHT EFFORT, or whatever it is I want to work on for that day. Every time I look at my planner that day…I am forced to take a moment and be reminded of that. Also, if you check your email often through the day (as I do), I’ll send myself an email with the subject ‘RIGHT SPEECH’ (or whatever). Everytime I open my email….there is a reminder throughout the day.

  • G

    Sooooo…the Buddha candle holder is sitting here with me. “He” does make me think about what I am doing more but I am not 100% comfortable with “him” at the moment so “he” has been moved from the kitchen table to a shelf by the door. I bought some nice-scented tea candles for “him” to hold (looks like “he” is holding this lotus-shaped begging bowl). Not yet at a point where I can sit with “him” and a candle on the table and meditate though. I feel like I need to have it clean and tidy in here, or something, before I can do that.

  • Having a clean and tidy practice space is important. BUT, don’t make having such a space a *pre-condition* to your practice. Make cleaning and tidying your space your practice, itself; at least, until your space is clean and tidy.

  • Max

    To help bring me back to a state of mindfulness, I carry around a small rock which I keep in my pocket or place on the desk/table I’m at. It worked very well for a while until I got used to it being everywhere with me, then it was less effective. I lost it recently so I’m casually looking for a new one.

    I also try to be mindful of the body and breath whenever I am walking, and I try to remind myself to be mindful when sitting or doing something else. If you check the time often, perhaps set checking the time to be a mindfulness bell. You have to find what works for you, and it takes a persistent effort to keep the object/experience as a cue.

    To help meditate daily, I made a commitment to meditate every day for at least 5 minutes. I almost always stick to this, since 5 minutes is so little time and I can do it before bed if I haven’t yet. Once I get in the habit of meditating every day, I look forward to meditating because I see the rewards I get from it. Being mindful of the rewards of meditation will help keep up the motivation to do so.

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