Mindful meditation in everyday life

Washing dishes

For meditation practice and Buddhist ethics to be useful in reducing unnecessary suffering it is important that they are active in our everyday existence. This means developing ways of extending what we do in periods of formal meditation into all the other aspects of our lives. How we do this is a matter for each individual to decide. Here are a few suggestions that may be useful:

Being attentive to our breathing a few times each day. Allowing the outbreath to be gentle and full, and drawing the inbreath into the lower abdomen. Coming back to the breath at times of stress, anxiety and conflict. Not only is this physically and mentally calming, it means we are open to reflection and less likely to react in an unmindful way.

Choosing a mundane activity that we do on a regular basis and treating it as if it was a period of mindful meditation. For instance: cleaning teeth, washing dishes, eating a meal, walking to work – bringing mindful attention to one or more of these chores can transform the activity, enrich our experience, develop our meditation skill and enable us to be more awake to what we are doing.

In our interactions with other people we can develop non-reactive attention to what others do and say – listening without commentary and judgement, and speaking in a way that is mindful and considerate about the effect that our words may have. In this way we become more aware of karma (causality) in action, and understand how our reactive habits can lead to misunderstanding and conflict.

A regular period of sitting meditation, even for a short time (five minutes), can be very useful in developing skill and can act as an anchor and as a reminder of what is possible for the rest of the day.