11 Ways To Make Your Mindfulness Practice Stick

When the fact that I teach mindfulness comes up in conversation, a frequent response is “Oh, I LOVE meditating... but I can’t get myself to practice.” Then there’s a guilty look, as if they’ve been a naughty meditator. I’ve seen it hundreds of times.

I have tremendous compassion for people in this position. They’ve tasted the fruit of practice and know its sweetness, but even though it’s right there in front of them, they just can’t bring it to their lips again. Suffering is rooted in resistance, and often people are too stuck in the sticky web of suffering to reach for the medicine. Seeing that firsthand, you can’t help but ache.

There’s a term in Zen, Upaya, which refers to adapting the method of training to fit the audience. In one case, I had a client with a crazy work schedule, so he never knew when he’d have a free moment to practice. I made up an acronym, FWW, which stood for: Find the Weird Window. Then it became a fun game for his mind. He actually started noticing windows of time he would otherwise have missed. I like to encourage people to get creative based on their unique life circumstances. The key is to stop judging the fact that you’re not practicing, so you can free up creative energy to find playful solutions.

For me, Upaya in our culture means: If people won’t stop, sit down and practice, help them find ways to fit practice into their lifestyle on their terms. That’s one of the main reasons I teach mindfulness with music. My feeling is that if you can get creative and slip it into your existing routine or activities you enjoy, you’ll naturally develop a momentum with practice.

On that note, here are 11 quick ways you can bring mindfulness into your day. As you practice, remember the following:

  • Every time your attention wanders, gently bring it back to what you’re focusing on.
  • Notice and track the details of your moment by moment experience.
  • Do your best to appreciate, rather than judge or interfere with your inner experience.

1. In the shower, spend an extra minute noticing how the water feels sliding down your skin.

2. While brushing your teeth, concentrate on the process, from the way the bristles feel against your teeth to the foam expanding and mint tingling in your mouth.

3. Exercising, try focusing on your breathing or on a neutral part of your body.

4. As you check your phone or Facebook, do a quick check in with your body. Notice any sensations, emotional or physical, related to the activity.

5. Standing on line or waiting in an office, let your attention move around the room. spend a few moments giving your attention to each object you see. Treat it as if you’ve never seen it before.

6. When someone smiles at you, even out of politeness, do your best to receive the smile, fully. When you smile, notice how and where it spreads through the body.

7. When you’re walking, concentrate on your shoes touching the ground.

8. If you’re doing a mundane activity, concentrate on each phase of the activity. For example, dish washing: Turning the water on, touching it to check the temperature, putting soap on the sponge, scrubbing the pot, rinsing the pot, placing it in the drying rack.

9. Set an alert on your phone and when it goes off, take one minute to repeat a positive phrase or mantra to yourself. Letting go of results, just listen to the mantra in your mind.

10. At any meal, eat one mindful bite or take one mindful sip. Choose to focus completely on the process of bringing the food or drink to your mouth, the taste of it, the way it feels in your mouth, the swallowing. Notice any reactions you may have to what you’re eating.

11. Get creative! Find a way unique to your environment. Maybe petting your dog or listening to your favorite song.

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