Behave Like A Monk?
By Art Ramsay, PhD

 One of the most helpful practices I have found to be present and stay focused is mindfulness. Buddhists monks and martial artists have practiced it for centuries. While mediation is something we do for a specific amount of time once or more times a day, mindfulness is a way of life.

 So what is mindfulness? From Wikipedia and Buddhism - .........establish mindfulness (satipatthana) in one's day-to-day life maintaining as much as possible a calm awareness of one's bodily functions, sensations (feelings), objects of consciousness (thoughts and perceptions), and consciousness itself.

 I have practiced mindfulness for years, but not to the extent that I would like to. There are times when I am fully aware, when I do Tai Chi for example, and other times when I get lost with the outer aspects of life. Recently, while washing some dishware, I remembered that doing chores around the monastery is a way for monks to practice mindfulness, especially if they are preparing to be a martial artiest beyond their normal routine.

 The writing of both my first book, and now my second, involves Tibetan monks, giving me insight about their daily lifestyle. So I decided that when I engage in any activity, to ask myself, 'how would a monk do this'? It gives me a way to focus on what I am doing and be mindful of the process. Whenever I remember to ask this question, I slow down and do things in a mindful way.

 Maybe 'behaving like a monk' for even a few minutes each day would help you be more focused and present with what you are doing. It is similar to the Christian question of 'what would Jesus do?' to help a person respond accordingly.

 In my Inner Peace Revealed eBook, I have a whole chapter devoted to meditation and mindfulness. It is that important. Like any spiritual growth process, daily practice leads to living the principle. So how does one practice mindfulness? What follows are three procedures that will help. 

  • Eating when you sit down to eat notice what is on your plate.
    • Smell the different aromas; explore the shapes, sizes, and colors of the food.
    • Then take a fork full of something and bring it to your mouth. Smell the aroma, put the fork back on your plate after taking a bite, then taste the texture, feel the way the food is broken down by your teeth and how its texture changes.
    • Chew the food until it is soft, almost like liquid, before swallowing. Repeat with another fork full of food. Do this until it gets tiresome. Increase the time you spend each day until it becomes a habit.
  • Washing, drying, or preparing dishes for the dishwasher as you touch each dish, cup, or eating utensil,
    • feel its texture, notice its color, shape, size, listen to the sound it makes.
    • Also, feel the temperature of the water, smell the soapsuds, notice how it changes. Mainly, just slow down and pay attention to what you are doing.
  • Meditative Walking this is best done as an exercise first. Take a few minutes each day, outside if possible, to practice.
    • Begin by slowly taking a dozen or so steps, preferably with bare feet. Feel your foot contact the ground (or floor) as your heel lands first, then the sole, and last your toes.
    • Notice the rest of your body too. Do you feel balanced, have any sensations in your knees, notice your hips moving, and so on?
    • After you get used to the very slow walking, speed it up doing the same as the preceding, but also notice how your arms swing.
    • Finally, walk at an even pace, and synchronize your breathing. Breath in while taking three steps, then breath out and take three steps, or however many steps feels right.

 The preceding should give you a great start in practicing mindfulness. If we want to change something in our lives that has become a habit, then we need to establish a new habit to take its place. This is done by doing what helps you be a better you repeatedly. It took years to establish the habits you now have, so it will take some time and effort to replace what does not work, with what does.

 By choosing a new way of doing something, we tell our minds and our bodies to get ready for a change. Then when we repeatedly do the new action our minds and bodies get it; 'oh look, we are doing something different, let's see if it continues before we change over to it.'

 How would a monk do this? Asking that question might help you focus on how a monk lives and the results of his lifestyle one of peace, harmony, and love. Sounds good to me. Think I will try it.

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