by Michael W. Taft
Life often asks us to wait, and a lot of this waiting can feel crushingly pointless. We cool our heels in lines at the supermarket, the bank, or at a restaurant. We spend hours stuck in traffic, held up in airports, or sitting at a desk. I find wasted time to be an unpleasant experience. Life is too short to be eaten up by all these dull, meaningless moments.
These days we have the option to zone out into our smartphones, but I contend that playing Candy Crush while lingering in the doctor’s office doesn’t really give much meaning to that half and hour. It’s still a waste of precious time, albeit a pleasant one.
A much more powerful way to engage these moments is to practice on your meditation skills as you go about your day. With a little bit of adaptability, you can gain valuable and effective meditation practice while watching the clock hands crawl at the DMV. Do simple (and safe) meditation exercises while you are stuck in traffic or waiting at the airport. Every formerly wasted moment can become a part of your mindfulness training regimen. Here are some possibilities:
- Breathe—This standard-issue meditation practice has a lot going for it, including the fact that you can do it almost continuously while going about your daily business. Just tune into the body sensations associated with the act of breathing, while continuing to breathe normally. Feel the raising and lowering of your rib cage, the movement of the diaphragm, the rush of air in your nostrils, and so forth. You’ll notice how your breath quickens in certain situations, but actually seizes up in others—remember to just keep breathing.
- Feel Your Emotions—Meditating on emotional body sensations is a little more challenging, but has several advantages that might make it worth the effort. You contact the place in your body where it feels like an emotion is happening. For example, if you are happy, you might feel your face lighting up in a smile, or an uplifting feeling in your chest. Continuous contact with emotions in the body keeps you aware of how you’re feeling moment by moment—something that many of us could use more of. This technique also allows you to notice when unpleasant emotions die down or fade away entirely—often accompanied by a soft wave of relaxation and relief.
- Listen—most people imagine that mindfulness means only focusing inwardly, but you can just as easily focus on external sensory events. For example, it’s relaxing and stimulating to open your ears and listen to the sounds around you without judgment. The trick here is to not focus on any particular sound, but to hear everything together at once. It’s a sound bath that is ever changing and ever fresh.
Of course it’s important to keep your eyes open while doing all of these in public, which may be different than your normal technique. Nevertheless this meditation in motion practice will serious up the hours per week you spend doing something useful and positive. They may even help you to be present in every situation and experience of your life. And that’s the goal, isn’t it?
photo by moonux