The exercises found at the beginning of Days 1-3 of the 5-Day Solution are just a few of the many ways to practice being mindful. In this chapter, you’ll find additional ideas to help you develop your mindfulness.
Never forget that mindfulness is a skill. Like any skill, your ability with it will increase as you practice. The stronger this capacity is, the more successfully you can use it to find the way beyond stage fright.
Like a musician having a variety of practice techniques, having an assortment of mindfulness exercises at the ready is helpful. First, it can keep training interesting. Second, it can extend and deepen your mindfulness as you develop different ways of being mindful.
The word practice is important when it comes to mindfulness. We can again liken it to performing. As a performer, you know you develop your skill more when you practice rather than when you perform. The same goes for mindfulness. Develop it off stage and enjoy the fruits of that practice when you’re in front of an audience.
I don’t present the exercises found here in as much detail as I did the ones that are part of the 5-Day Solution. Just use the same basic approach you found there. That means concentrating as fully as you can on the activity of an exercise and accepting any extraneous thoughts that interrupt you. Gently return your concentration to the activity each time it’s interrupted.
Like many people, traffic lights frustrate me. They delay me from getting to where I need and seem to last forever. In general, moments in life like this that make us impatient are great opportunities to practice a little mindfulness. It’ll increase your mindful skills and make the time pass with less frustration.
The next time you find yourself staring at a red light while you’re driving or riding in a car, do this. Just gaze at it with a still mind. Quietly observe your breathing while accepting any random thoughts that pop into your head. Let the thoughts gently pass as you continue to stare at the light until it turns green.
Trying to call a company, government office, or the like, and waiting on hold can also be annoying. It’s especially true if you must listen to a recorded voice chiming in every minute telling you how important your call is to them. As with a red light, being on hold provides you with a great chance to practice being mindful.
Waiting in line at a store, a bank, the DMV, or wherever, provides another chance to be mindful. It can make all the difference in the frustration level you experience too. In fact, if you have a little free time, why not pick the longest, slowest line? It’ll give your mindfulness a real workout.
House chores like washing dishes and vacuuming are additional sources of frustration you can use to practice mindfulness. I picked up the idea of mindfully washing dishes years ago from a Japanese tea master, and I’ve never minded doing them since. Just pay attention to all the sensations of the act as you quietly wash, rinse, dry, and put away the dishes you used for a meal.
Sitting meditation is the most well-known mindful practice in Zen, but the tradition relies on other forms as well. As part of the 5-Day Solution, I mentioned the Zen proverb, “When walking, walk. When eating, eat.” From this perspective, almost any activity can serve as an opportunity to practice mindfulness.
Be careful and use common sense though. Take mindful walking. Don’t try it anywhere you might get hurt. However, if you can find a safe place, strolling with a quiet mind can serve as an excellent way to practice what it is to be mindful.
The growing popularity of mindfulness has brought with it a treasure trove of online resources. Many of them include helpful suggestions for practice. Here are a couple of the most useful resources.
The New York Times has been publishing an ongoing series of mindfulness exercises for everyday life by David Gelles. (You can find them on the newspaper’s website.) Some of my favorite ideas from the series include:
- “How to Be Mindful While Reading”
- “How to Stay Mindful When the Kids Are Fighting”
- “How to Be Mindful by the Grill”
- “How to Be Mindful with a Barking Dog”
Mindful magazine offers up another rich collection of mindfulness exercises through its website, Mindfulness.org., Here are some examples.
- “Meditate at Your Desk”
- “How To Meditate with Noise: A 3-Minute Practice for Anywhere”
- “A 10-Minute Guided Mindfulness Meditation to Foster Forgiveness”
- “Two Simple Mindfulness Practices for Back-To-School”
- “A 3-Minute Mindfulness Practice to Ground You in the Moment”
You can also search for “how to practice mindfulness” using Google or another search engine to find pages and pages of additional exercises. Use your imagination to come up with others. When you find an activity to be boring or frustrating, that’s often a good sign that you’ve hit upon an opportunity to practice a little mindfulness.
Finding a variety of ways to practice mindfulness will deepen your capacity in applying it to your stage fright. It also holds other important benefits. As you’ll learn in the chapter “The Mindful Answer,” people can apply mindfulness to a range of problems they face beyond stage fright.
In addition to helping you address a range of problems you encounter in life, it can help you find a greater sense of well-being. It can even serve as an enriching prescription for happiness through an attitude of “living mindfully.”
You can see then there are good reasons to continue practicing mindfulness after you complete the 5-Day Solution. It’ll increase your ability to apply the skill to your stage fright. It’ll also give you an effective tool for tackling other issues you might face and even to enhance your general well-being.