Every Activity is a Chance to Meditate

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In the West we have this strange idea, probably thanks in large part to how Eastern monks and monasteries are portrayed in movies, that meditation is something you do in silence on a mat, maybe with some incense, sitting for hours with your legs crossed contemplating the nature of existence.

Yet these same monks would be the first to tell you that the type of meditation you have in your head would be completely pointless if it wasn’t applied to all of the other activities in your daily life. At its most fundamental, meditation simply means focusing all of your attention on something. This something could be your breath, your footsteps, the face of your beloved, a specific teaching of the Buddha, or literally anything else you can think of.

This is why ‘I don’t have time to meditate’ is wrong thinking, because every activity is a chance to meditate. Thich Nhat Hanh often cites things as seemingly banal as washing the dishes or watering the plants as meditation opportunities. All you have to do is come to the present, putting all your attention into what you are doing without letting your thoughts wander and you are meditating.

Every moment of our lives takes place in the present but we often get distracted and let these present moments pass us by without even really noticing them. One of the big reasons why is that we discount most of the things we do during the day as not important enough to be worth our full attention. We try to rush through these activities, like cleaning up around the house, ostensibly to get to the good stuff, but we’re training ourselves to discount our immediate experience in the process, and limiting ourselves to only really enjoying life a fraction of the time.

In my opinion the best place to start if you want to meditate is to choose the daily activities that you already enjoy, because devoting all your attention to them will be pretty easy since you like them. Slow things down and really savor them. Don’t try to multitask, and you’ll find yourself liking them even more, and before long you might start using this same mentality with the activities you don’t enjoy as much, turning them into meditation opportunities too.