One of the key questions for me has been how to come up with an effective daily and weekly practice to put all this philosophical in to practice; something that is simple and makes the most improvement in my well being based on practices with a good evidence base. So over the few years I have gathered various tips and ideas from different sources (not all of which I can now recall) or come up with myself, that I have found that work for me (but that may not be the case for everyone). I have them printed out upon a single sheet of paper that I replaced every week as it changes. It is folded vertically with the one side called ANCHOR and the other MINDFULNESS MENU. I read it several times a day, but in particular in the morning. A lot of thought, many revisions and various sources have gone into this seemingly little thing, but I have found it very effective when I consistently read it (which is not always, I do lapse from the practice which is another issue).
The following includes both what is on this Anchor / Mindfulness Menu (in italics), and some explanatory notes (in brackets). Much of this is clipped or shortened to fit it on the one side of the piece of paper.
ANCHOR (This side is called an ‘anchor’ after the focus of mindfulness meditation.)
I Dedicate Myself To…. (A statement of intent to focus and remind me why I am doing this. It includes a number of quotes, which are each read after this phrase.)
Keep to simplicity, Grasp the primal, Reduce the self, Curb desire. (A summary quote from my most read book, the Tao Teh Ching.)
Accepting…. Things come, Things go, Such is the nature of things. (One of my own inspired by others.)
Move the body, Still the mind, Connect to the other. (This was the line started me off on this entire process of philosophical review. It combines a number of ideas I heard within the same week. Firstly “Move the body”. For fitness of body and mind we need to spend most of our day moving, being still most of the day is unhealthy and unnatural. As the mind is integrated with the body work on the mind must start with the body. Even subtle things like body posture affect that state of mind and decisions that we make. (See Spatial Research.) Secondly, ‘Still the Mind.’ Like a pool, if your mind is allowed to become still then you can ‘reflect’ upon what you are thinking and doing. For if you don’t know what you are doing you are lost. Mindfulness Meditation is all about this. Thirdly, ‘Connect to the other’ this is far easier to do when your mind is still. When the internal babble is quiet you can really hear others and make thus connect with them. To listen with your mind (as well as your ears) you need to be silent within.)
Treat Ideas as tools not rules, Hold them lightly, Be ready to let them go. (The corner stone of my thinking.)
Be open, Accept, Embrace, Forgive, Love. (Not sure where I got this from.)
Act only from a still centre. (Not sure where this one comes from either.)
Embody Peace. Be the solution. (Not sure where this one comes from either as many things I have read talk about being the change rather than forcing the change.)
(The next section is what I read as a guide for my daily walking meditation and draws on a number of books on meditation. I won’t necessarily do all of these on a single walk, but I drawn from if they are needed.)
Move the Body.
Slightly slow. (Doing everything more slowly makes you more aware, mindful and calm. See the Slow Movement and many others.)
Breathe. Relax. Loosen arms and hands. Upright. On centre. (A term from the theatre for a perfectly neutral posture, that allows for a present focused state of mind)
Silent. Look around. (Being alive to the moment and the world is easier if you look for what is there. Everyday on the same route I notice something new, and realise the complex wonder of the world as well as being reminded of the limits of my knowledge of it.)
Half Smile. (Like the Buddha. Even if you don’t feel like it, this does improve your mood. Though this can make you look smug if you over do it. Keep it subtle.)
Things come & go. (Accept what you see on route and let it go. Do not try to ‘capture it’. Movement reminds me of the impermanence of things. Some things move by quickly other things pass by more slowly, but all have a changing perspective for you and then disappear from view.)
Still the Mind. (Having got the posture right then I move on to the mind)
A sinking pebble. (Imagining a pebble slowly sinking to the bottom of a pool to rest on the mud is a potent image that Thich Nhat Hanh describes. I came up with almost the same thing myself during one of my walks.)
Be hollow. Transparent. Empty. (These three ideas I find helpful, but others I know do not. I feel my interior world disappearing and become aware of the surface of my body and how it interacts with the world around.)
Look. Listen. (Being aware of the world without commenting on it and definitely….)
No moaning. Mindful Inner Narrative. (Thich Nhat Hanh and many others have commented on how describing what you are doing as you are doing it makes you more mindful. For example ‘I am noticing the noisy traffic.’ ‘I am deciding to change my route to avoid the large puddle.’)
Embody Peace. (A reminder to be the solution.)
Appreciate world as gallery, lunch hour as holiday. (I came up with these ideas and found I now easily switch into ‘holiday’ mode when I use them. Turning free time or between time into valued time.)
Connect to the Other.
Within & without. (The other includes your own sub-conscious as well as other people.)
Compassion for both. Mentally hug. (I imagine hugging other people, including ones I don’t like the look of. This is a simple version of a compassion meditation.)
Firm but fair. (Adaptable but mindful.)
Taciturn. Consider replies. (We all sometimes speak too much or too hastily. Conversation unfortunately too often seem to be about fighting to be the first to have a say, or the longest say, without considering what if anything, should be said.)
Listen to the music and the song. (Often what people are really saying is not in the actual words.)
Is it worth saying / doing? (Often doing/saying nothing is the best option.)
Mindful interactions with small / large, with global / local. (We interact with the world on many levels, but with only one mind.)
ROUTINE (Next I have a note of my routines, so I am mindfully in control of them, and not the other way round. Our lives are very busy, with many demands on our time, so a conscious balance must be struck, and this helps me say ‘NO I do not have time for’ something, and to make time for those things that really matter, but that are so easy to neglect.)
MINDFULNESS MENU (I used to find having a ‘To-Do’ which I crossed things off of, rather demoralising. Calling it a ‘menu’ implies that it is a list of Options not Obligations. I can’t always do everything, in fact this list is chosen from a much longer list from which I pick every week. Also I now draw a smiling face next to each item I do, and remember to add on those extra things I do that were not on the list.)
Mindful Menu. (This section starts off with a reminder to myself of how to do it.)
Pause between tasks. (This gives me the chance to enjoy having completed it. Checking that I have done everything about it. And then calming my mind before choosing the next option, which now might not be what I had intended to do before.)
No moaning. (Another reminder for this one.)
Centre then choose. Slowly. Focus on 1 task at a time. (Usually one is planning the next task while still doing the previous one.)
‘Do without doing’. (See the Tao Teh Ching about this)
Make it a meditation. (Almost anything can be made a meditation.)
Hold lightly. (Do not be so attached and stressed by the task in hand. It is easier to hold something without a easier grip.)
Be present. Mindful Inner Narrative. (Another reminder of this one)
Enjoy Now! Mix fun and tasks. (Very important. A balance needs to be maintained.)
Re-create yourself. (There are some activities we do which restore us. Energise and relax us. However, we don’t always rate these pastimes that ‘re-create’ us as important. They are so they must go on the Menu.)
Reflect. No self imposed deadlines. (I too often put deadlines on things that don’t really need them. Then I hurry, miss them, and fail to enjoy doing the task, or do it properly as I am in a hurry to meet this deadline.)
F**k it! (The western way to instant non-attachment as described by John C. Parkin. ) Let go!
Food: (Next I have a simple diet plan to remind me what foods are in and out. And what the exceptions are for the weekend. Writing it down makes it a commitment and makes the process of deciding what to eat in a mindful rather the impulsive frame.)
(Next I have the start of the menu, with all those things that are on there every week with a couple of sub-headings)
Re-creation:- Music, Art, Sacred Text, Philosophy
(After the above various things scribbled on the paper as they occur to me, or are taken off my much longer list.)
(Now for clarity here is the whole thing again without all of the explanatory notes.)
I Dedicate Myself To….
Keep to simplicity, Grasp the primal,
Reduce the self, Curb desire.
Accepting…. Things come, Things go,
Such is the nature of things.
Move the body, Still the mind,
Connect to the other.
Treat Ideas as tools not rules,
Hold them lightly, Be ready to let them go.
Be open, Accept, Embrace, Forgive, Love.
Act only from a still centre.
Embody Peace. Be the solution.
Move the Body. Slightly slow. Breathe. Relax. Loosen arms and hands. Upright. On centre. Silent. Look around. Half Smile. Things come & go.
Still the Mind. A sinking pebble. Be hollow. Transparent. Empty. Look. Listen. No moaning. Mindful Inner Narrative. Embody Peace. Appreciate world as gallery, lunch hour as holiday.
Connect to the Other. Within & without. Compassion for both. Mentally hug. Firm but fair. Taciturn. Consider replies. Listen to the music and the song. Is it worth saying / doing? Mindful interactions with small / large, with global / local.
Mindful Menu. Pause between tasks.
No moaning. Centre then choose. Slowly.
Focus on 1 task at a time. ‘Do without doing’.
Make it a meditation. Hold lightly. Be present.
Mindful Inner Narrative. Enjoy Now!
Mix fun and tasks. Re-create yourself. Reflect.
No self imposed deadlines. F**k it! Let go!