How to Practice Mindfulness in the Everyday
Monday August 29, 2022

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“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” 
― Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation

On this past Saturday morning, you would have found me in my garden, a common sighting during the summer months as the weekend begins. After breakfast, awaking without an alarm clock, I don my gardening attire – Bermuda shorts that hit just above the knee, a long-sleeve linen button up shirt and my wide-brimmed garden hat. Some sunscreen is applied, and Norman patiently waits for me to pull on my wellies and decide which door we will exit from so he can mosey about and say hello to the plants, neighbors and simply take in the fresh crisp morning air.

I lose all track of time and savor this opportunity to be amongst the flowers, listen to the birds as they chatter and nibble away at the bird cafes, and check in on everyone [by everyone, I mean my plants, currently my dahlias and mums as they are the next to begin blooming ☺️].

I share this moment that can last for thirty minutes to three or four hours depending upon what catches my attention or I want and need to do at any particular time of year to nurture my plants, something I choose and want to do, as an example of practicing mindfulness in the everyday. As Thich Nhat Hanh teaches, there are miracles every single moment if only we would hold ourselves in the present moment and when I am in my garden I see them every single time I step amongst the plants I am fortunate to care for.

There is much in our world that pulls us away from being present, often that we permit to do so, but we have the choice every day, every moment to hold ourselves concurrently with the present, and when we do, oh my goodness, our lives become more alive than we usually are aware that they can be.

Often as children, some at a younger age than others, being fully present is unconsciously done and their glee and delight and amazement is exactly what we need to remember to embrace again in our lives no matter what our age. However, it isn’t always easy. People may chuckle and tease. After all, we are choosing to be vulnerable if we are in the presence of others when we take in all that is around us and see it, really see it. But if we choose to do so, our courage will be rewarded.

“Rejoicing in ordinary things is not sentimental or trite. It actually takes guts.”

—Pema Chödrön

There are many activities that we can engage in that give us the opportunity to experience mindfulness in the everyday so that we can then carry over the practice into tasks we may not think could possibly be something to savor as they, at this moment, are chores we just have to do and get through or so we tell ourselves. Let’s take a look at a short list of examples of where you might remember in your own life finding it easy to hold yourself in the present moment. If any of the items on this list enabled you to lose all track of time, recall how that felt, what the experience was like for you, and then . . . well, I will explain at the end of the list.

  • gardening
  • attending a musical performance – indoor, outdoor, intimate at a bar or pub, or at a large arena or amphitheater
  • travel – visiting new sights, experiencing a different culture, anything that was new and pushed you outside of your everyday routine
  • painting or creating any medium of art
  • cooking – experimenting with a new recipe, making a favorite from memory, on your own or with someone
  • watching a play or musical at the theatre
  • visiting an art exhibit
  • listening to a lecture given by a person who intrigues you
  • building something with your hands
  • hiking or biking or skiing or snowshoeing or paddling or surfing or sailing in Mother Nature, no motor, just human power that moves you through the hills, the trees or the water

“The feeling that any task is a nuisance will soon disappear if it is done in mindfulness.”

—Thích Nhất Hạnh

Now, recalling how you felt and what you experienced during any one of the moments above, and keeping in mind Thích Nhất Hạnh’s wisdom shared in the quote, think about tasks you don’t look forward to. In fact, make a list of them in any given week, what are the have-tos? Each of our lists will be slightly different because one person’s dreaded task is another person’s pleasure (for example, my love for gardening is not everyone’s choice of fun). Another example, I thoroughly enjoy going grocery shopping. I share in the post below 10 ways to shift our focus to make this everyday/week task more enjoyable. However, after making your list, take an honest look at it. What tasks do you actually have to keep doing? And if you have to, can you delegate? Can you hire out to actually buy yourself time to do what you love and/or with those you love? Once you have whittled down your list to the tasks and/or chores you have to do, shift how you think about them.

Ask yourself the following questions for each task:

  • What is the purpose for this task?
  • Who benefits?
  • How do I feel about this/these person/people? (this includes yourself)
  • What need am I fulfilling by completing this task for them? (this includes yourself)

Once you shift your reason in your mind for why you are tending to any of the have-tos you have grumbled about or procrastinated about, you are reframing your reason for doing them in your mind and the hope is you are bringing more intention to the task which makes it easier to hold yourself in the present moment when you partake in it. And the motivation to hold yourself in the present moment on these tasks is to do them well, with love and integrity (to the best of your ability), because that energy does translate to the recipient; it is felt, whether unconsciously or consciously, and that includes you if you are the recipient.

This past weekend I dove head first into many seasonal chores I don’t necessarily enjoy doing. Cleaning the refrigerator, deep cleaning the shower and the bathtub and even cleaning a few closets I had not intended to. However, this year, my mindset was different because my intentions were clearer (having gone through the list of questions above), and after one space was completed and cleaned, I saw the difference but I also felt the difference, and I wanted to continue to give that to myself in my home – a lightness, a groundedness, an unburdening of stress, a refreshed feeling of less, and bit of order where there was none, no longer certain tasks staring me in the face. And so that motivation carried me to the next task, and then the next, and because I was engaged with each one, I could feel that positive intention lingering even when I am done. Now, not all tasks/chores did I do myself. As I shared last Friday, I hired someone to come and clean my carpets. That was something I didn’t want to do, knew it needed to be done and could budget for; however, and here is the key, when you can let go of some tasks and let others do them, even if you have to pay for them, when they are done, it can provide a motivation to tend to the tasks you have to do yourself. Don’t feel you have to do everything because yes, that can become too much. The key is to bring yourself to the present when you tend to these tasks, and what makes it easier to do so is to have other activities and hobbies you enjoy that exercise the mindfulness muscle of holding you in the present.

A balance, and something to be honest with ourselves about, if we have too many have-tos and not enough want-tos, our mindfulness muscle has to be very strong, and if it isn’t toned at all, building it will be extremely difficult (not impossible, but why not make it easier for yourself). There will no doubt be temporary periods in our lives where the balance gets thrown into a direction of more have-tos than want-tos, but it need not remain in this state.

As I will talk about in the first episode (#339) of Season 9 of The Simple Sophisticate podcast (airing on Wednesday September 7th), there is a beautiful paradox when it comes to contentment, and as mindfulness plays a role in living a life of contentment, it is when we become more mindful in our everydays that we begin to make different decisions in our lives that then usher in more want-tos and ultimately create a life we love living and feel most fortunate to have the opportunity to do so.

“Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.”

—Sharon Salzberg

Thank you for stopping by today and wishing you a wonderful start to this brand new week.

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15 thoughts on “How to Practice Mindfulness in the Everyday

  1. Hi Shannon,
    It feels like I’ve known you all my life, but I just discovered your podcast last month.
    You know how to fully LIVE! And I appreciate the efforts you go to show the rest of us your ways.
    Have a wonderful day!
    Sincerely,
    Lindy

  2. Shannon,
    One thing I really enjoy that not many people seem to do anymore is iron. I can lose myself there just as I do gardening my patio pots and I love the smell and feel of freshly ironed clothes. If I had to guess, i would say you iron as well.
    Have a marvelous week.

    Phyliss

    1. Hello Phyliss. I love to iron. I put on some beautiful music and away I go. Just love to see a neat pile of ironed clothes. Have a fun week. Kameela 😊

    2. Phyliss I too love to iron. There is something so satisfying about watching a garment go from crinkled to crisp and smooth!

  3. I love puttering with my house plants & can lose myself happily for an hour or more checking on them. Who needs watering, repotting, topping up, feeding, trimming or cutting back? Do any need moving or turning to change the light (I’m still figuring out which windows in our new place work best for which plants)? Are any of the cuttings rooted & ready for potting? Can I take a cutting or two from the older established plants? Do the “rescue” orchids need a good soaking & some attention (on our daily walks I sometimes find & retrieve orchids people have thrown out when they’ve lost their flower spikes; they’ll bloom again & again if given the right care but often people get them for gifts & can’t be bothered fiddling with them once the flowers are gone)? And I’m a fellow ironer — I love the smell of freshly ironed clothes & linens.

  4. Brilliant – so many instrumental authors included in a single post and incorporated into TSLL approach. Bravo and well-done. Thank you and may you have a terrific week.

  5. Shannon Thich Nhat Hanh was a very wise man. Everyday is a miracle yet few appreciate it. We are so caught up in ‘doing’ that we forget about ‘being’. Thank you for the reminder. From the time I am awake my purpose is to be present. I have to be, as I have animals and land to care for ,working to the seasons . My farm is just full of delights. At every corner there is something to awaken the senses. Yesterday I watched two Admiral butterflies doing aerial acrobatics for about half an hour and my cat was trying her best to jump and get involved. I love watching her chase the butterflies. So entertaining. My hens follow me everywhere. A few of them love to be stroked😀. The cows are very inquisitive and rush up at every opportunity to say “Bonjour.
    I like an organised orderly home. I do one room thoroughly weekly to avoid having a giant clean . There are a couple of tasks I’m not keen on such as mopping the flooring which is parquet and tiles but I always do another task which I enjoy first such as ironing or dusting and that motivates me. I find beautiful music or TSLL podcast makes the task less of a chore. I’m exploring the idea of a mini robot to do the mopping😀. Bonne semaine xx

    1. Hello there! You describe a life many seek to live. The animals, the critters, and the flying friends all teach us to slow down and explore the dimension that nature offers us every day. While I dislike ironing, I iron everything. I even use a product that produces a starched-like finish without stiffness. The bonus is the lavender scent. I usually iron in my studio because I like the industrial iron I use there, and to pass that pressing time I play music, listen to a podcast, or find something a bit mindless on television. Like many domestic activities, ironing provides a sense of orderliness, a structure to a task, and a wonderful sense of completion. Thank you for sharing and keep up that mindfulness, it will serve all of us well indeed.

    2. Kameela, so beautifully expressed. I struggled for years trying to determine ‘My Purpose’, and finally came to understand that it’s as you have said–my purpose is to be present and, if I can, translate those evaporative, ephemeral moments that catch in your throat and tear ducts, and celebrate, celebrate, celebrate. We are so lucky to be able to enjoy the lessons from Thich Nhat Hanh, and our cats and butterflies and sunsets and clouds. Yes, I too have a few tasks I definitely grumble about, but aren’t we lucky we still can grumbly do these?😄Love love to you and yours. (Please do let us know of the mopping-robot adventures…)xox Rona

  6. Great advice Shannon, and quotes too. It is true, to fully embrace and find ways to enjoy the seemingly “small every day” things in life, can to some seem silly. And can often lead to comments of incredulity from others. But as is the famous quote by Annie Dillard (I think?!) “how we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives”. So often much of our lives is made up of the mundane.. unless I win the lottery one day.. and so why not make the best of it? That is one of the reasons I originally gravitated to TSLL and the ethos of living simply luxuriously every day on an every day budget (though I know this is no longer your strap line I think the message is still clear). And it is easy to be fully mindful in the pleasant, awe-inducing moments (Mother Nature, talented musicians and artists), but making the duller moments (cleaning my house each week and ironing) more pleasant is certainly easier when I think of the outcome. My SO often comments “you love cleaning” when I’m powering through, and I remind him, I don’t love cleaning, I love sitting in my clean home and enjoying it !
    Sarah

    1. Sarah, I grinned and exclaimed aloud,”That’s it exactly!” (The cats were unmoved.) It’s not the cleaning I love, it’s the aftermath, a lovely clean space, and don’t you just feel lighter when it’s been tidied up a bit? Enjoy your weekend, Sarah!🌄

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