Meditation in daily life

  1. Introduction
  2. Formal med­i­ta­tion
    2.1  Time of the day
    2.2  Suitable place
    2.3  Group support
    2.4  Short term retreats
  3. Daily activities
    3.1  Mindfulness
    3.2  Food for the mind
    3.3  Friends, family members, colleagues
  4. One activity at a time
  5. Changes in attitude
Buddha-Dipa Buddha sculpture at Dipabhavan med­i­ta­tion centre, Koh Samui

1. Introduction

The Dalai Lama wrote in his book A­wak­en­ing the Mind, Light­en­ing the Heart, p. 72-73: “To make our spir­i­tu­al prac­tice stable and enduring, we must train con­sis­tent­ly. A fair- weather prac­ti­tion­er has little hope of a­chiev­ing his or her goal. It is extremely im­por­tant to prac­tice the teachings day after day, month after month, year after year. [...] During the (med­i­ta­tion) ses­sion we are actually re­fu­el­ing or re­charging our energy to be able to prac­tice after the ses­sion.
Therefore the more we are able to mould the mind during the session, the better we will be able to face dif­fi­culties after­wards.”

This under­lines the im­por­tance of stick­ing to a regular formal med­i­ta­tion prac­tice. It is even more im­por­tant to carry these skills into our daily ac­tiv­ities. The fol­low­ing will give some hints about how to start and continue your med­i­ta­tion prac­tice outside of a med­i­ta­tion center.

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2. Formal med­i­ta­tion

2.1 Time of the day

Set up a certain time of the day for your formal prac­tice. The best time, in my opinion the only time with some chance of suc­cess, is the early morn­ing. If nec­es­sary get up half an hour earlier and make it the first thing you do after your bath­room rituals. Many may find the early morning to be very condu­cive for medita­tion and it might be easier to avoid dis­trac­tions, eg by other family mem­bers or external noise.

The second best time is the evening, before going to bed. But it is more dif­fi­cult to stick to a regular evening med­i­ta­tion than an early morning med­i­ta­tion. The evening is the time for all kinds of activi­ties and social events. Visiting friends, meeting others for dinner, going to the cinema or some­where else is quite often ac­com­pa­nied by the use of alcohol or other kinds of drugs. Alcohol and med­i­ta­tion do not mix. Other drugs are even worse. Even with­out, you will probably be tired – maybe too tired.

The third best time is when you come home from work and before you start your leisure activi­ties. But during this time
demands on you by other family mem­bers or the nec­es­sary duties like shop­ping, pre­paring meals and cleaning may be quite heavy. Addi­tionally you may be tired or quite ex­haust­ed by your job.

Try to use the early morning, sitting every day for 30 minutes at least. If you have more time to spend, fine. You may want to sit for a longer period or have a second sitting at another time of the day. You will not reach deep stages of con­cen­tra­tion with only 30 min­utes of med­i­ta­tion daily, but half an hour to calm the mind, to reflect on what is hap­pen­ing in your life, will help you to accept life as it is. The need to ma­nip­ulate rela­tion­ships, sit­u­ations or the en­vi­ron­ment accord­ing to your likes and dis­likes will lessen. You will become more content and balanced, more valuable to our­selves and others.

It is nice and beneficial to end sittings with a few minutes of loving kind­ness med­i­ta­tion or even devote a whole ses­sion every now and then to this kind of prac­tice.

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2.2 Suitable place

Set up a certain place for your prac­tice, a place you ex­clu­sive­ly reserve for formal sitt­ing med­i­ta­tion prac­tice. This may be a spare room or just a corner; you may dec­o­rate it with flow­ers, a picture, a sculpture or what­ever.
It should not be a fancy place, but a spot where you want to be, free of dis­trac­tions, a place to calm down, to relax, to look inside.

2.3 Group support

Try to find a group of fellow med­i­tators. Nowadays you will find in many towns in the West groups who come together for spir­i­tu­al de­vel­op­ment regularly, maybe once or twice a week. It has not necessarily to be a Bud­dhist group, as long as they sit quietly and medi­tate. Look in the news­papers, in magazines or on the internet. The group support and the group energy will help you to stick to the formal practice.

As the need for spir­i­tu­ality grows, there are all kinds of esoteric offers avail­able. Many are hon­est; some just aim to make money. Choose care­fully your group or teacher.
Ask the teacher where and how long he or she has studied and why; and how long she or he has been teaching – find out for your­self whether the teacher is ap­pro­pri­ate for you, do not believe just because the teacher is famous, or because others have told you. A rec­om­men­da­tion by the Ven­er­able U. Vima­lar­amsi, a med­i­ta­tion teacher, says: “The way to select a good teacher is by observing if their stu­dents are kind, pleasant, friendly and supportive.” Of course the teacher should also show the same qualities. If there is no med­i­ta­tion group in your vicinity, you could start one to attract like- minded people.

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2.4 Short-term retreats

Try to do a short-term retreat with friends or alone at home from time to time. Maybe you can reserve a week­end ded­i­cated to medi­tation and to silence. If a whole weekend is too much, just have a day of silence every now and then. If you have the time, do a 10-day retreat maybe once a year to recharge your spir­i­tu­al bat­tery, to get more settled in the prac­tice. Meanwhile there are med­i­ta­tion centers nearly eve­rywhere in the West with some excellent teachers; many of them have prac­tised for years as nuns or monks in India or South East Asia. [...]