Meditation in Action:  Off the Cushion in Everyday Life


Many books discuss how to meditate formally, in the seated position.  Fewer books discuss how to bring meditation off the cushion into every day life.  The book "Living Meditation, Living Insight," discusses the use of mindfulness in everyday life, to cultivate insight and wisdom.
This discussion is particularly useful for parents of young children, who may be busy all day with chores and consequently can feel frustrated with not finding quiet time to do formal meditation.  The author advises them to not be so attached to formal meditation that they become disturbed by the lack of time to sit.  As she points out, mindfulness can be cultivated and meditation can be conducted in the midst of daily activities.

While this book is a corrective to a one-sided view, it is important not to take it to the other extreme. Formal sitting meditation is very valuable, when the conditions exist to practice it.  Even five minutes of formal meditation can be useful, especially when integrated with informal mindfulness and meditation in daily life.

Excerpts from the book "Living Meditation, Living Insight":

"How can I start then?
    "Try being mindful of whatevere you are doing at the moment. . .You can do this at any time and in any place. . .Laater, as you go on, you can be mindful of your thoughts and emotions as they arise.
    "Suppose you are driving.  You have to pay attention to the driving, don't you?  Your mind has to be there at the time an place of driving, concentrating on the road, watching the other drivers.  You cannot afford to be distracted too much by other thoughtts.  It is something like meditation on the taks at hand.  But often we do not carry out other tasks in this concentrated way.

"Why not?
    "Probably because they are less dangerous than driving. But you can apply the same principles to tooher activities.  Suppose you are eating. If your mind is distracted, you may not even be aware of tasting the food. . .

"I have tried being mindful of the moment.  But it is strenuous and I get all tangled up.
    "For goodness sakes, staying witht he moment is only a figure of speech. It is not a commandment to be followed rigidly.  This is not a proficiency test.  You must understand this from the outset; otherwise you wil be tied up in knots trying too hard every second of the day.
    "If you become too involved with staying in the moment, you lose the art of living--of free flowing.
"You must realize that staying with the moment is just a means to break the mains old habits. . .to train the mind to cease flitting.
    "It is not important that you be with the moment every single moment of the day.  What is important is that you learn to get out of the constant mental run-around and to be more focused and grounded.

"Sometimes it's a luxury to be mindful of a task with undivided attention. I only get frustrated if I try to be mindful of a task when my young children demand my
attention. . .
Again, I have to emphasize that being mindful is only a means to practice focusing.  Don't compete with yourself. What you choose to pay attention to is entirely circumstantial.  If the children need you, you focus on them.
    "The only guideline is to avoid rigid conditioning.
    "This does not mean that if you are cooking vegetables you must be absolutely mindful of the color and the smell of the vegetables and ignore the children's questions.  If you did that, you'd be clinging to the cooking.

"Oh, so that's why I feel frustration?
    "Yes, because you are clinging. . .There are no set rules. 
    "You can become attached to your mindfulness of the moment just as you can become attached to anything else.
    "This is very subtle, but understand form the outset that you can be bound by your own mindfulness".  (abridged from pp. 19-23 of "Living Meditation, Living Insight")

"At the moment of seeing your anger, you transcend your own feelings of anger and frustration.  You become centered.  You no longer generate conflict. . .You no longer generate reasons for continuing the conflict."


"You may not have found perfect peace as yet, but at least you will find a breathing space in yourself, a respite.  This is the time you learn to be friends with your own mind and your emotions. You will find that you no longer wrestle with them as before.  The beautiful part is that you will find yourself loosening up inside. . .When you are not in a tightly bound, self-inflicted tangle, you can look at yourself more objectively." 
(p. 43)

You can download the entire book:
     Living Meditation, Living Insight: The Path of Mindfulness in Daily Life
             by Dr. Thynn Thynn

It is available as a free download at