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Mindfulness in Daily Life

Christy Matta, M.A.

Mention Mindfulness a large portion of the population tunes right out. Meditation - that's not for me, you might think. In many people's minds, mindfulness and meditation mean sitting quietly for hours at a time contemplating life. Or focusing on breathing or simply being.

cell phone and computer keyboardWith the hectic schedules of most Americans, setting aside time for meditation might seem an impossible feat. But, while mindfulness can include a more meditative practice or sitting quietly and focusing your attention, it also can be practiced in everyday life.

In his book Peace is Every Step, Buddhist monk and mindfulness teacher Thich Nhat Hanh recommends bringing mindfulness into every day activities, such as answering the phone. Whether it's a ringing phone that finds us whatever we may be doing or constant access to email, we can all relate to feeling tyrannized by modern conveniences.

Our constant digital connection can interrupt every day activities like eating dinner or reading the paper. The awareness of a ringing phone or unread email can activate a number or emotions, including anxiety.

If you're resolved to stay connected and respond to those emails and phone calls, Thich Nhat Hanh has a few recommendations to bring mindfulness into the moment. Perhaps following his suggestions will reduce your anxiety and at the same time make your connection to the person on the other end of the phone/email more effective.

  • When the phone rings or you're aware an email has arrived, relax the muscles of your face and smile.
  • While smiling, say to yourself "Listen. This sound brings me to my true self."
  • Continue to practice breathing and smiling until the 3rd ring of the phone (or for about a minute after you've gotten an email).
  • Remember that you are your own master. If you are irritated or angry at the interruption, the person on the other end of the phone will pick up on your negativity. On the other hand, if taking a moment before reacting to the interruption has helped to calm and center you, you will respond to the person with more openness.

The point of this exercise is to remember that you don't have to do hours of meditation to bring mindfulness into your life. Simply taking a moment to breathe, calm and center yourself in the midst of hectic and busy days can allow you to be more mindful. You might find that the it also results in greater productivity and less frenzied days.