Moments: An Experiment
There are so many activities we do every day that are so integrated into our daily lives to the point of automation. We don’t often think about how often we sit down, we drink a glass of water, open a door, or tie our shoes. We perform these actions as if unconsciously.
Of course, there is a good reason for this, mostly. If you had to be aware of every time you blinked, or took a breath, you’d go crazy. The brain isn’t prepared to handle those sorts of interactions all the time, so it’s relegated to our unthinking process.
As a side affect of this, we start to relegate more and more tasks to this category. As this happens, more of the day slips into unconsciousness, making it easy for you to lose your frame of reference on the day. If half the tasks you perform are on autopilot, how does this affect the other half?
In meditation, there’s often a call to awareness for other parts of life, through walking meditation, or in observing small moments. I have found that this helps to reframe my perspective on the value of a moment, and can be a good way of adding awareness between meditation sessions.
So my proposal is this: pick one activity to work through consciously each day, and try it for a week. One common one is the act of opening a door and passing through. In this case, you just focus your attention on the task at hand when you move to grab a door handle, the feeling of opening it, the change in temperature and pressure when you pass through. As well as the sensory change, if the sounds and smells and sights change when you walk through.
Think of it like a mini-mantra to add into your daily life, through something mundane.
Another you could do is tying your shoes. Many people seem to never tie or untie their shoes, simply electing to leave them loosely tied enough to slip on and off when needed. Others minimize the times they take their shoes off at all. In Japan, you remove your shoes before stepping up onto the floor of a home, and many times you’re inside.
Perhaps try and take your shoes off any time you’re home, and put them on any time you need to leave. When you do this, go through the process of tying and untying your shoes. By calling attention to this action, you’ll become more aware of it, and maybe come to value the transition.
Any transition could be used for this purpose. The point is to add awareness to an activity that otherwise would be performed with a different part of your brain. This addition of awareness is largely the goal of any meditative practice, and can have pleasant affects on all aspects of your life.
If you miss one, don’t be hard on yourself. This isn’t a cumulative practice, which is one of its greatest benefits. Simply remind yourself to check the next one. After all, the whole point is to become more aware, and you shouldn’t expect that to happen overnight. Soon, you’ll get better and better at it, maybe keeping track of all of them in a single day.
So pick something to think about, and for the next week, give it a shot. See how it makes you feel at the end of the first day, and the third day, and the end of the week. I’ll be doing the same, for any doors I open. Of course, I recommend doing some sort of reflection on this, preferably in writing. If you write a single note each day, on how it went and how you feel, you’ll be better for it.