Apart from pursuing a daily mindfulness practice that includes sitting meditation and one other “daily life” awareness-training practice, we can support our growth by attending to the flow of our activities during the day. What’s our general pace? If it feels too fast or too slow, we can make adjustments. We can learn to be more realistic about how long individual tasks take, or we can learn how to call “time” on an activity that’s causing us to neglect other commitments. If there is a regular irritant, can we change anything to minimize it? Are our personal boundaries set correctly so we get satisfaction from being helpful without feeling resentful?
The most important habit we can have is reflection on the causes and results that are with us all the time. Which of our words, thoughts, and actions steer us in directions we want to go? Which ones could we change or pass over? Where in our actual existence today is the greatest suffering? There we’ll find the greatest clinging, and once we’ve seen it, we can start to address it. Where in our actual existence today is the greatest peace or joy? We can learn to relax into it and trust it.
In Pali, there is an often repeated phrase: yoniso manasikāra, which means “careful attention” and implies a continuous, skilful awareness of the present. It could be considered a component of mindfulness or a companion to it. Here is a simile offered in a post on Sutta Central:
Suppose there is a king who rules over a country. This king has a mighty army which protects the four corners of this country. The king looks after the army very well and the army in return takes care of the king and the country. Because of this mutual relationship the country overall is prosperous and peaceful.
Now this king is Sati, the mindfulness, and the mighty army is the radical attention which protects the four corners of the four establishings of mindfulness. The whole country which is prosperous and peaceful is the wholesome mental state.
In short, Sati, yoniso manasikāra, and wholesome states co-exist.
The four “establishings of mindfulness” are the domains for training our mindfulness (from the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta MN 10):
- our bodies,
- preferences (feeling tones),
- mental states, and
- the frameworks we use to perceive the world (phenomena).
What is the first thing we do when waking up? And the second? How are we treating our minds? In the morning some people head straight for the news to see what they missed while they were asleep, and immediately they receive the adrenaline hit that outrage causes. Other people spend those times of partial consciousness investigating the movements of the mind, or praying or meditating.
We can design our days to direct our minds in wholesome ways, but we have to know our intentions and be conscious and disciplined about acting on them.