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How to make practice a way of life? | Part 1 | Habits

Updated: Jan 28

1. Set a fixed time to do the formal practice (every day if that is possible)

Make an appointment for formal meditation practice, rather than doing it when you have time. This means to prioritise it. The mind makes meditation as an important activity if it experiences its benefit first hand. The beginner's challenge is to do it often enough before feeling a difference. Give yourself lots of time and have no expectations.

Start with 5 minutes, 10 minutes or 20 minutes. It's better than none. Just sit or walk, and establish mindfulness on realities in these postures. Do it often enough, it becomes habitual.

2. Join a community

Being in a group of people who are committed to meet and practise together makes a huge difference. Also, not underestimating your being part of the group supports the others too. It is Metta (kindness) in action. Sometimes, life gets busy or things get out of hand, and you miss days. Just join back in wherever we’re currently at in our Group Practice.

3. Daily life practice

Besides formal meditation, apply the practice in our daily life. This is a large part of a layperson’s practice. Spiritual progress or its benefits will be slow to manifest if we miss this (very large) part out.

Remember, the practice is within. It’s in the mind. That means we can practise anytime or make certain activities as practice time, if they are suitable. Even the simple mental act of directing the mind to the present moment is not to be underestimated. It requires mindfulness and is part of daily life practice. Mindfulness is needed - to be clearly aware that the mind is caught up in thoughts. Disengage from thoughts or memories of past. Disengage from planning and thoughts of future. Disengaging is letting go. It is a kind of detachment.

The past is gone. Future is merely a speculation. Direct and anchor the mind back to the present moment - the body postures. Thinking are mental constructs (not realities), and it obscures realities. Let it go and just experience what there is (realities) right there, right there in the present moment. This is how we uplift the mind in daily life.

You’ll want to know that much inner joy could arise when the mind stays present and simple. (That's because the continuity of mindfulness anchored to realities in the present moment, builds up calmness, which then brings about joy.) Anchoring the mind to the present moment often enough, will slow down the overactive and unnecessary thinking. That means, no insomnia and more quality sleep. It creates a habit of not overthinking and think only when it is necessary. This means reducing stress. You might doubt, could it be that easy? The practice is indeed very simple, although not always easy.

So, set aside a few activities or, some time to simply be present. Simple but practice, repetition and patience is needed.

For instance, the moment you sit down to relax, don't turn on your TV immediately. Instead, direct your awareness to the rising and falling sensations in the abdomen for 5 minutes (better yet longer) before you start anything else. If you have to wait for someone, do the same. While doing other things, be mindful of your posture or movements. Gardening and some exercises like yoga, pilates, taichi, slow walks (I'm sure there are many more) are activities that don’t require much thinking and gentle enough to practise mindfulness of body (posture).

Being mindful of present moment (realities) not only establishes mindfulness in daily life but also, manages hindrances.

For instance, mindfulness is needed - to be clearly aware that the mind is no longer anchored in the present moment, but is caught up in thinking especially those which produce stress, anxieties, worries and other negative emotions (mental suffering). Disengage from such thinking. Worries aren't solved by worrying. Rather, the mind is more able to see or come up with solutions when the mind has clarity. So, let go of what hurts. This too is, detachment.

Also, be mindful of feelings and mind often throughout your day.

Besides bringing out mindfulness directed to body, feelings and mind, practise Metta (loving-kindness) as well. Do so by bringing out Metta in your mind often whether you're standing, walking, seated or lying down, as long as you are awake. If you could nurture this until Metta arises all the time, you'll definitely experience less outburst of anger. Say kind words and act kindly when interacting with others (family and others as well). When Metta becomes a habit, joy arises frequently and you’ll also find that the mind concentrates easily.

Mind does not transform just because you or anyone else will it. It is a conditioned reality. Meditation is a long term process of reconditioning so that happier and beneficial mind could arise. While this change will benefit our day-to-day life, the aim or direction of this practice is liberation through Wisdom.

Always remember the reason you started doing this in the first place – peace. One can’t expect it without the reconditioning work within.

Much metta/s :)

A bit more on how to apply mindfulness in daily life in Part 2.