What if establishing a regular sitting meditation practice seems impossible, or we have a mental condition that makes it inadvisable? What are some other methods for cultivating mindfulness?
The key is dailiness. There are any number of practices that can help us establish a better relationship with our minds, but they are not one-off exercises.
Memorize the precepts and recite them, preferably out loud, each day. It will take less than two minutes (after you know them), and reciting them daily will deepen your intention to act on your wholesome motivations and refrain from acting on unwholesome ones. Read about the precepts here: https://buddhasadvice.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/what-actions/
Spend two minutes a day repeating a mantra. You can do this while sitting, standing or walking (not while driving!). The most common mantra for Buddhists is “Budd-ho”, saying to oneself “Budd” on the in-breath and “ho” on the out-breath. This mantra practice can be done while waiting or during other activities that don’t require our minds to be actively engaged.
Spend a few minutes each day walking mindfully. Choose a place where you can walk undisturbed by external events for several minutes; up and down a hallway is fine. During this period, do nothing beyond walking and being aware of what the body feels like while this walking is happening. Bring awareness to the breath, relaxed (or not) muscles, the pressure of the feet on the ground, the air temperature, posture, etc. No daydreaming, planning, or dodging obstacles.
In all of these practices, we are slowing down and taking a break from our normal modes of thinking – planning, worrying, hoping, regretting, etc. We purposefully try to quiet ourselves and turn our attention away from our thoughts and towards our direct, physical experience. In this way, gradually we learn that we are not our thoughts, that our thoughts don’t define us, and that we have some control over where our attention is placed.
Another helpful practice is metta, which I’ll address in the next post.
Keep on keepin’ on!