I think a meditative way of life can mean a lot of things to different people. Depending on our character and our practice preferences we choose methods that suit us best.
After having lived and practiced full-time in retreat for seven years, my wish has been to continue retreat life in our normal everyday world as much as possible. How can I maintain key elements while working and living in busy and distracting normal circumstances?
By now I’ve been experimenting on this project for another seven years.
In the beginning my pace in everything was quite slow and multitasking was nearly impossible. Every moment seemed to be very special and I was over-flooded by sensations.
I found my way back to a normal pace and am multitasking again if need be. Still I find joy in nearly everything and my awareness likes to be open. Every experience, every situation and connection can be uniquely beautiful if I’m really present. But there are enough moments in which I’m also so involved with something that not much openness is left.
I’m writing this to give some insight into the way a meditative life works for me. It can work for everyone in their own way, because the principles discussed here apply to all minds, even though we are all different. There is no right or wrong way: you can find yours! I hope this inspires you to find your own way to live with more focus, awareness, balance and self-care.
My Own Meditative Way of Life
- Knowing that no matter what is happening I can be aware of it. Awareness is bigger than anything.
- Whenever something gets complicated, disturbing, and exhausting, I focus on the situation AND my own experience of it, outside and inside, seeing how they affect one another. If I am blind to my own reactions I feel tight and claustrophobic. If I see them, I can immediately relate.
- Knowing that there is always the choice that I can notice and focus on the bigger picture. No matter what, there is always space.
- Whenever possible, I schedule my days with enough time (space) before, between, and after different appointments and activities. This prevents the often unnecessary stress of a shortage of time.
- This also means that I tend to leave quite early when I’m on my way to an appointment. It enables me to be fine even if something takes longer and often, to take a short break or even go for a little walk before the next thing starts. This prevents most situations where hurrying would be required. Hurrying is stressful and can almost always be avoided.
- I take all red lights, lines, or other inconveniences as blessings from the universe, allowing me to take a blissful break. This switches an out-of-my-control annoyance into an in-my-control little holiday.
- Whenever I remember it, I take one or a few conscious or even deep and pleasurable breaths. Then I move on to the next task.
- In between activities I take tiny breaks (probably nobody notices them). I stop doing anything and enjoy deeply what that feels like in body and mind to have finished another task. There is a short moment of accomplishment. In this way a mixture of gratitude, effectiveness, and contentment sinks into my being.
- No matter how small and banal the accomplished activities are, I acknowledge or even celebrate them. This creates positive tendencies, deepens satisfaction and counteracts tendencies of self-criticism and doubt.
- No matter what I’m doing in work or private life, I try to stay in focused and clear activities with natural concentration and engagement for some time. Especially these days it’s very easy to follow every idea and distraction. If I have a good idea while meditating or doing something else, I just write it down.
- If I’m interrupted in what I’m doing, I maintain my focus and shift it briefly to the new concern, and then shift back. I might have some positive stress doing so, but it prevents me from falling into distraction, upset-ness and negative stress.
- It’s important to me to know there will be empty spaces in my calendar. If every day is overfilled with plans and appointments it feels too tight to me. Free time even if short allows for deeper breaths and a general feeling of openness, creativity, and freedom. And finally, and perhaps most important, I feel and maybe pray for others whenever I can, especially whenever I notice suffering. I wish others happiness, joy, peace, and health. Expressing love for all living beings in this way is wonderful to feel and not always easy to live. But this is a topic for another post.
If I view daily life as full of duties and things I need to get done, it feels like a burden. And maybe it really is a burden sometimes. But if I see life as inherently spacious and see that clocks just mark certain points, I don’t get caught in seemingly claustrophobic experiences.
As I take my timeless little breaks again and again, I see the many beautiful moments of space and time making music with the appointments and long stretches of work, and everything works out quite well.
Good rest, a more meditative life and all the best for you!
P.S: Now I’m curious to learn more about what works for you? Let me know in the comments below.