Let’s look at 17 ways you can bring mindful moments into your day.
Mindfulness meditation is extremely popular right now. After its understated beginnings in ancient monasteries, you’ll now find it on apps, adverts and Apple iPhones. Even high-profile celebs are getting in on the act.
The common practices circulating right now help you cool off after a hard day, focus on the breath or slip calmly into sleep.
For what they are, these practices are great.
But there’s a problem:
They aren’t powerful enough, they don’t provide lasting, useful skills, and they don’t lead to permanent transformation. And what do we do in daily life? Does that work go out the window?
In this article, we’ll answer some key questions:
How do we develop strong mindfulness skills that are both transformative and generalisable?
Can we then take these skills and use them to have mindful moments during the day, transforming both ourselves and our relationship to the day-to-day?
In short, mindfulness is not an isolated task, but really a ceaseless, ongoing practice. And it’s not a fad or a New-Age philosophy – it’s about building super-strong attention muscles.
Mindful moments are a fantastic tool for developing those muscles. In short, these are short bursts of mindfulness during ordinary activities. We look at 17 options in this article. Play around with the ones you like, then go further and design your own mindful moments.
To do, we’ll cover a tonne of useful mindfulness practices you can use to have mindful moments in daily life. Even the most mundane activities are an opportunity to boost our mindfulness skills.
This is a vital part of traditional meditation training, including Vipassana meditation. The folks at Tzu Chi USA said it best:
Meditation in everyday life is about training the mind in the midst of normal, daily life activities – in the course of real life and living.Tzu Chi USA
In creating this guide, I’ve been inspired by work from experts in the field, who I’ll cite throughout.
But there’s one major difference: all the practices we explore here come with a clear framework for practicing them – an algorithm that you can to your mindful moments whenever and wherever.
What is this algorithm? Let’s get to work.
Your Mindfulness Toolkit: The Ticket To Meditation Success
In previous articles, we’ve explored my favourite meditation system in some depth. Here I’ll summarise the system real quick.
The See Hear Feel system, part of Unified Mindfulness, helps us build our attention muscles so that we can skillfully attend to what’s going on in our senses. With it, we can optimally observe and experience what’s happening in and around us, giving us the ideal tools for having mindful moments during the day.
Why is this toolkit useful?
Its beauty is found in its clarity and simplicity beyond complexity. It gives us clear guidelines for how to develop mindful awareness, avoiding long, vague instructions and mumbo-jumbo.
The Three Categories
This system divides our senses into three broad categories:
See: Visual experience – either mental, in the form of images, or physical, from the sensory world around us. These subcategories are called See In and See Out, respectively.
Hear: Auditory experience – either mental or physical. These subcategories are called Hear In (mental chatter) and Hear Out (sounds from physical world), respectively.
Feel: Body experience – is either emotional or physical. These subcategories are called Feel In (emotional experience) and Feel Out (physical body experiences), respectively.
You’re going to become ultra-familiar with these categories.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to choose which of these sense categories you focus on during your session, but we’ll explore the ones I’ve found most useful.
In these exercises, we’ll also use the three fundamental mindfulness skills. These are Concentration, Sensory Clarity and Equanimity, or CCE for short.
Each of these terms refer to a specific skill we use and develop when practicing these exercises. Under this system, your goal is to develop these skills, not necessarily to feel a certain way or induce an emotional state.
Rest assured, the practices we’ll discuss all help you build CCE, and I’ll give specific advice when necessary.
Run These Cycles During Mindful Moments
How do we actually practice See Hear Feel?
Well, the practice itself consists of running 3-step noting cycles on the sense categories, all the while attempting to develop CCE. Briefly, this 3-step noting process is:
Step 1: Acknowledge
When a phenomenon appears in your senses, there is a moment in which you spontaneously register that it is there, you acknowledge its presence. This happens naturally. The first step in the cycle is to do this deliberately. Just notice that this is happening in your senses. Simple.
Step 2: Label
Now label the phenomenon. You can say the label to yourself in your mind, whisper it, or say it out loud. Label both inner and outer sights “See”, use “Hear” for sounds, and “Feel” for sensations, whether In or Out. During Step 3, you can re-label the sight, sound or sensation to help you maintain your attention on it.
Step 3: Savour
Now savour the phenomenon until it disappears, or for as long as you wish. Pour your attention onto it, attempting to experience it as fully as possible.
Then open up your attention and move back to Step 1 to begin another cycle on a new phenomenon. You repeat these 5-10s cycles for the length of time you are to practice for. Easy!
I’ll use words like “run cycles” or “note” to refer to these 3-step cycles.
And if you’re a little confused, don’t worry. Eventually this process will become automatic and seamless. Your hard work at the beginning will pay off, and you’ll have a clear recipe for practicing mindfulness in any situation.
If you’re worried about whether you’re developing the core skills and using the SHF categories correctly, don’t fret. Follow the instructions below, and I guarantee you’ll be on the right track.
You ready for these amazing mindfulness practices?
Mindful Moments: 17 Practices
Let’s run through the 17 practices you can use to have mindful moments during the day. In each case, remember to run the 3-step process on the sense categories you choose.
The beauty of practicing in daily life is that it helps us more quickly build the core skills.
Our ability to keep our attention on the sense categories chosen (Concentration) is tested by the stimulation that bombards us and with the mind stirred by the external activity. More is going on around us, meaning we have to exert more effort to detect sights, sounds and sensations and separate them out (Sensory Clarity) and to allow all sensations to freely come and go (Equanimity).
The categories I expand on in each scenario are merely suggestions, and I haven’t listed all the possibilities – they’re endless! In reality, all six sense categories are always available. However, given activities often lend themselves to certain exercises over others.
Besides, these are very broad categories. You could easily spend a whole session on just one of my suggestions. Use them as pointers. Once you are really familiar with this system, you can customise it to suit your needs on the fly and design your own mindful moments.
And finally, remember – Mindfulness is Concentration, Sensory Clarity and Equanimity working in tandem. If you’re striving to develop those three skills during your mindful moments, you are by defintion practicing mindfulness! And I’ll show you how.
Without further ado, let’s get to the 17 practices.
Mindful Moments During Housework
Oh no, the dreaded housework. Turn this often tedious task into a time for building your mindfulness skills with the following practices. Monastics have been using exercises like this since time immemorial.
1. Washing the Dishes
For this one I’d like to credit verywellmind.com, who have an article with a tonne of mindfulness exercises. Their advice for how to attentively wash dishes got me inspired!
How often do we wash the dishes hurriedly, lost in memories and fantasies and praying we wash them as quickly as possible? This is a perfect time for mindful moments – we can take advantage of this “mundane” activity by practicing See Hear Feel AND enjoy it more.
As you’re scrubbing away, run the 3-step cycles on one or a combination of the following categories.
See Out: The movement of the water and bubbles, the action of washing.
Hear Out: The splashing of the water, clattering of the dishes, the sound of scrubbing.
Feel Out: The warmth of the water and touch of the plates.
I often go for See Out only here, though you could definitely practice Focus Out, where you run cycles on all three Out categories, or choose to spend a few minutes with one category before moving on to the next.
Remember the cycle: Acknowledge – Label – Savour.
A similar analysis goes for cleaning. Junior monks in monasteries don’t just spend hours cleaning to keep the place tidy, but to develop their attention skills.
Having mindful moments while cleaning allows us to take advantage of what is, for many, no more than an obligation to get out of the way as soon as possible. And hey, you might even make a better fist of your cleaning!
Sense categories to run cycles on:
See Out: The object being cleaned, the sights from the environment, the movement of your hands.
Hear Out: The whirr of the hoover, the sound of scrubbing, sounds from the environment.
Feel Out: The feeling of the cleaning equipment in your hands, the movement and efforting of your body.
You could also practice with any of the In categories. For example, thought and emotions related to impatience, frustration and boredom often come up.
Thanks to the folks at mokshamantra.com for contributing this detailed article on mindfulness and wellbeing. You inspired me to consider cooking in my mindful moments article!
Continuing the theme of household tasks, while cooking we often begin mentally recounting the events of the day along with random fragments from the past and fantasies of the future. Since cooking is a delicate and potentially dangerous task, it makes sense to focus our efforts on the Out categories here.
See Out: The sights of the food you are preparing, the movement of your hands, the tools acting on the ingredients.
Hear Out: The sounds of cooking: sizzling, boiling, cutting, bubbling, pouring, rustling.
Feel Out: The movement of the body, your hands touching the food and utensils.
Mindful Moments On The Go
Practicing when we are out and about can be like lifting heavy weights. But we make use of time we might otherwise waste, and we might even derive more enjoyment from our time spent out of the cage.
4. Out Walking
Thanks to my friend Grace at grace-being.com for this one – in this article she walks us through how to train our awareness skills when we’re walking outdoors.
How often do we squander the time we spend walking from place to place? Have you ever had the disturbing realisation that you don’t know how you got from A to B? That’s because you were thinking, not walking.
We can take advantage of this time to have mindful moments. We’ll develop our mindfulness skills and enjoy the walk more at the same time. To more fully absorb in the sights and sounds around you, run the 3-step cycles on these two Out categories:
See Out: The sights of cars, people, buildings, trees and animals.
Hear Out: The sounds around us, like talking, trees rustling, birds singing, silence.
For a more introspective walk, we can place our attention on the In categories. By default, you’ll have your eyes open, unless you’re in a place where you can safely close your eyes. This makes these exercises more challenging.
See In: Mental images, often associated with what we see as we walk.
Hear In: Mental talk, also often triggered by what we see. We might mentally praise or judge the people we walk past, form mental opinions on the shops, cafes and restaurants around us, etc.
Feel In: Body sensations associated with emotions. Again, these may be triggered by what we experience as we walk. Or they could be emotions we’ve been experiencing all day.
5. The Commute
Heading home after a day in the office, we’re often lost in the day’s conversations with colleagues or running through tomorrow’s to-do list. Grounding ourselves in the Out senses is a wonderful idea.
It’s definitely possible to do these exercises as you drive, but I recommend you build a solid ground in mindfulness practice first. Evidently, you still need to pay attention to the activity of driving!
See Out: Sights in the bus, train or surround, the city moving past us, people.
Hear Out: Noises around us, the music we’re listening to, the chit-chat of fellow commuters.
Feel Out: Body temperature, our body on the seat, our breathing.
Or, if you have had a challenging day and feel stirred and lost in the mind, you might find it useful to attend to your inner world by exploring See In, Hear In and Feel In.
Whether we’re spending a long day buying clothes or taking a quick visit to the supermarket, shopping can be an overwhelming experience. On top of the sensory bombardment of sights and sounds, we run to-buy lists over in our mind, make mental decisions and experience a swathe of emotions, all in the space of 15 minutes.
I find it hard to stay present when in the supermarket. I usually retreat into the inner world of thought to protect myself from the overstimulation.
A great practice is to ground ourselves in the body, running cycles on Feel Out. This gives us a relatively stable anchor amid the constantly changing scene around us. There are many options available to us – here are a few ideas.
Feel Out: the soles of the feet, our breathing, the sensation of walking and movement, the temperature of the body. Remember: in the UM system, any body sensations not associated with emotions are considered Feel Out.
7. Waiting in Queues
For most, this is a time of restlessness and impatience. But this activity is a great example of when we can apply these on-the-go mindfulness techniques to never waste a moment. In boredom, we can find freedom.
One of my Buddhist teachers used to focus on his breath as he queued. This is a great choice, as are any of the Feel Out options I mentioned in Exercise #6. It grounds us in the body in overstimulating environments, the exact places we often find ourselves queuing.
But because queuing often stirs up unpleasant thoughts and emotions, the inner world is an excellent place to turn when we find ourselves waiting. Here are some examples.
See In: Images of more exciting places and people outside your immediate surround.
Hear In: Mental chatter associated with impatience (“I wish they would hurry up”, “Why’s it taking so long?”).
Feel In: Emotional sensations associated with impatience, boredom and restlessness.
Shoutout again to Grace’s article on mindfulness techniques, which inspired me to get creative with mindfulness during exercise.
Exercise activates us and creates unique and unusual body sensations. Pay close attention to the body when you exercise and you’ll be amazed at what’s going on.
Though the particulars will vary according to the form of exercise you’re practicing, here are some ideas.
Feel Out: Movement of the body, feeling of skin touching floor or apparatus, increased body temperature, muscles working, strength of the body, rushing of lactic acid, stretching, twisting.
I’m an amateur runner, and I’ve found it really useful to run Feel Out cycles when the going gets tough. When I do so, challenging sensations like muscle pain, quickening breath and a pounding heart become way more manageable. Equanimity (Mindfulness Key Skill #3) is really important here. My resistance to these sensations decreases, the running becomes more pleasurable, and I don’t end up throwing in the towel.
Mindful Moments During Habitual Stuff
Now time for some daily activities we often pay little attention to.
I credit my inspiration for this exercise to mindful.org – they give some great tips on how to eat more consciously and take better care of the body.
We often eat rather unconsciously. We’ll savour the first bite of a burger or the first sip of a coffee, but then our attention wanders and we get lost in conversation and mental monologues.
But there’s another way.
Here’s how you can heighten your enjoyment of food and practice mindfulness at the same time. Run cycles on the following.
See Out: Appearance of the food: colours, textures, shapes, sizes.
Hear Out: Sounds associated with eating, like chopping, spreading, clinking, pouring, scraping.
Feel Out: Sensations of the food in your mouth, chewing, the taste of the food, saltiness, sweetness, spicyness.
10. Lying On The Couch
We can take advantage of the time we spend sprawled on the couch, and even go deeper into the relaxation it produces. Any of the sense categories work well here.
See In: Track the mental images that appear in your mind.
See Out: Run cycles on the sights around you.
Hear In: Watch your internal chatter do its thing.
Hear Out: Listen to the sounds around you – the singing of birds, traffic noise and people chatting in the street.
Feel In: Track the emotional sensations you experience.
Feel Out: Feel your body as you lie on the couch. One option is to tune into the feelings of restfulness that lying down brings.
11. Listening to Music
Shoutout to Grace again for her suggestions. She told me: “music meditation has been really powerful for me in terms of healing and releasing heavy emotions and past traumas.”
So how can we meditate with music? One basic technique that can go really far is to wind up our Hear Out, paying exquisite attention to the sound of the music. There is a lot of territory to explore here.
Hear Out: Melodies, drum beat, singing, keyboard, bass, volume; acoustic features like pitch, location.
Beyond that, we can tune into Feel In – the emotions that the music creates in us. We might experience a sense of release, joy or excitement. Who knew that music could act as a springboard for developing your mindfulness skills?
12. Dead Moments
Let’s talk about applying mindfulness awareness to dead moments in our day. You know, those times when you’re at a loose end and are tempted to whip out your phone to scroll away the boredom. Those few moments spent in the lift, waiting for the kettle to boil, or waiting for a friend in a coffee shop.
Yes, those times are also an opportunity. You can certainly run cycles on any and all of the Out categories during these moments, but my advice will focus on the In categories. In these little periods, impatience and boredom often come up.
See, Hear and Feel In: Turn your attention Inwards for thoughts and body sensations related to boredom and restlessness. Watch out for stimulation cravings too.
13. Brushing Teeth
Watch yourself as you’re brushing your teeth – it’s fascinating. Being tired and keen to rest my head, I usually want the experience to be over as soon as possible, and I go into impatient, distracted mode.
But you can take power over this time by practicing your mindfulness skills!
My advice echoes what I said for #12: Dead Moments. You can focus on the Out senses, but I’d highly recommend going Inwards and checking up on the body and mind.
Mindful Moments During Emotional Challenges
This is when the rubber really meets the road. Even seasoned meditators find it tricky to apply their skills when their emotions get triggered. If you can do this, it’s a sign you’re developing super-strong mindfulness muscles.
Let’s kick off with the easy one.
14. Mindful Moments During Conversations
Again a shoutout to verywellmind.com, who inspired me to think about using mindfulness in the social realm. In this article, they talk about how to stay mindful during conversations.
Often when chatting, we fall into a mental daze or lose concentration after a certain time, meaning we aren’t present with the other person or our surround. By running cycles on the six sense categories in real time, we remain in command of our attention.
As with other situations, we can both Focus In and Focus Out. Let’s look at Out first.
See Out: An obvious choice is to direct our visual attention towards the other person, paying attention to their face and body as we converse. We could also cultivate attention for the sights around us, or combine the two approaches.
Hear Out: Run cycles on the other person’s voice and its auditory qualities, or on the sounds in the environment.
Feel Out: If we feel distracted during the conversation, we can ground in the body by running cycles on body sensations.
We can of course combine any of these as we desire.
And now for the Focus In categories. In my experience, it’s more challenging to work with the In categories than the Out categories in this scenario.
See In: Direct attention towards the mental images (e.g. memories and plans) that the conversation stirs up.
Hear In: Run cycles on mental talk that arises during the conversation.
Feel In: Make the emotional world, often quite active during conversations, your focus space.
15. Moments of frustration
Now we up the ante. Let’s turn our attention to moments of frustration or anger, when we lose the plot and go off on one. Mindfulness skills are absolutely paramount here. They offer a way out of spirals of rage and help us better understand our emotional world.
When we are gripped by strong emotions, our awareness of the world around us goes offline and we go into a kind of trance. We see red – and not much else.
So a great practice during these moments is to Focus Out, regrounding ourselves in our environment to diffuse that inner hurricane.
See, Hear and Feel Out: Run cycles on the body, and sights and sounds in the environment, to regain awareness of present.
On the other hand, these moments are golden opportunities for cultivating awareness of our inner world. And with that increased awareness, we regain dominion over our thoughts and emotions, and are less inclined to do something we might later regret.
Equanimity is extremely important here. I’m not suggesting you repress your frustration or rage – that would be a Freudian disaster. Instead, cultivate an understanding of what these emotions really are as body–mind experiences.
See In: Watch for images and fantasies of how you might act on your charged emotions.
Hear In: Listen for thoughts of anger, blame, victimisation and fantasy.
Feel In: Run cycles on body sensations associated with frustration and anger. To amp up sensory clarity, detect location, spread, movement or change, and intensity. Allow them to be there, avoid the temptation to tense around or repress them.
16. Mindful Moments During Arguments
This exercise is very similar to #15. Arguments often stir up anger and resentment, and we’re completely overcome by our thoughts and emotions.
Do this in real time as the argument unfolds and you’ll find it easier to diffuse the situation before it escalates. You can also physically separate yourself from the other people involved to run cycles on your inner world while it’s still activated. Besides, it’s simply a great opportunity to develop the three skills.
In any case, the mental and emotional effects of arguing are obvious to all. You enter fight-or-flight mode. Your heart rate increases, you sweat, and your muscles tense up.
See In: Pay attention to yourself recounting memories or imagining how you’re going to express your anger.
Hear In: Run cycles on the internal arguments and rage that come up.
Feel In: Feel the emotions stirred up by the argument, changes in body temperature and muscle tension.
17. Challenging Emotional Moments
In a previous article I gave a 5-step process, based on Unified Mindfulness principles, for how to deal with emotional challenges. Do check that out for an in-depth treatment of this topic.
Some examples of these situations include upcoming job interviews and presentations, unpleasant news and the death of a loved one.
These events stir our emotional world and we often react unconsciously to these effects. In a split second, we hand over the reins to this inner turmoil, which only escalates it. Even during the most challenging life events, we can take control again.
These moments are both the times when we need our mindfulness skills the most and when we develop them the most by applying them. So take on the challenge.
See In: Visions of impending future catastrophy, images of yourself suffering and of the other people involved in event.
Hear In: Internal monologues and dialogues, imagining the future and ruminating over the past, thoughts of desperation, denial and pain.
Feel In: Sense of wanting to be elsewhere, feelings associated with frustration, anxiety and terror.
Prepare Properly for Your Mindful Moments
Before you apply this, let’s look at some parting tips.
When you choose to start an on-the-go session, make sure to set it up properly.
First off, be clear about your focus range. You can change it later, but choosing one at the start is a good way to set your intention and get into the groove. Will you use See In, See Out, Hear In, Hear Out, Feel In, Feel Out, or a combination? This choice might seem overwhelming to begin with, but over time you’ll develop a familiar repertoire and will slide into meditation at will.
Next, choose a time. This is even more important in moving practice than in sitting practice, since there’s often no obvious end point. I usually go for a minimum of 10-15 minutes and allow myself to continue indefinitely afterwards. You can also choose to practice for as long as you’re involved in that task.
Since mindfulness meditation in movement is an internal exercise that we can practice anywhere, it lacks an obvious start and end point, unlike sports or books or other external, physical activities.
It can be useful to do a little ritual before you begin, like stopping, closing your eyes for a moment and deliberately relaxing the body. This is a way to delineate your practice and prepare the mind and body.
Once you have those parameters clear, then you can begin.
The Big Picture of Mindful Moments: Medtiation In All Situations
If you’re beginning to suspect that we can practice the three skills of mindfulness in any situation, congratulations. You’re right!
Let me paraphrase the creator of Unified Mindfulness, Shinzen Young: to begin with, your mindfulness practice is a part of your day. But eventually, there comes a time when your day is part of your mindfulness practice.
You develop your skills to such a degree that meditation becomes your automatic, go-to response to life’s ups and downs and moments both exciting and banal. Mindful awareness is your default state.
Any sensory experience is an opportunity for mindful awareness. Our experience of life a multisensory television composed of a cornucopia of flowing sights, sounds, smells and sensations. There is so much to explore.
I’ve given all these possibilities to convince you that you really can meditate anytime, anywhere. So get creative, and apply these skills in the situations you need them most.
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