Sunday, April 10, 2011

6 Mindful Ways to Make the Most of Each Day

Inspired by yet another very wise talk from Ayya Khema, here are six mindful ways to make the most of each day:

1. Set the intention to be mindful:
"When getting up in the morning, the first thing would be a determination to be mindful. Becoming aware of opening our eyes, is the beginning of the day, and the beginning of mindfulness. If we have opened our eyes before becoming aware of that, we can close them and start all over again."
2. Meditate first thing in the morning:
"The first thing would be to sit down to meditate, maybe having to get up a little earlier . . . In most homes, starting at 6 o'clock, there is noise. If that is so, we need to get up early enough to avoid that . . . If we have a whole hour available for meditation, that's fine; at least let us not practice under half an hour, because the mind needs time to become calm and collected. The morning hour is often the best for many people, because during the night the mind is not bombarded with as many conscious impressions as it is during the day, and is therefore comparatively calm." 
3. Follow with a contemplation of the five remembrances:
(simplified version I learned during Zen Hospice training)
I am of the nature to grow old.
I cannot escape growing old.

I am of the nature to have ill health.
I cannot escape having ill health.

I am of the nature to die.
There is no way to escape death.

All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change.
There is no way to escape being separated from them.
I inherit the nature of my actions in body, speech and mind. My actions are the ground on which I stand.
4. Realize this is the only day you have and use it most skillfully:
"We can keep three things in mind. First comes mindfulness, bare attention to the prevailing mode of being. That can be a physical activity without the mind going astray, or it may be a feeling or a thought which has arisen. Paying full attention, not trying to bury it under discursive debris, but knowing exactly what is happening in one's life. When physical activity does not demand our attention, we can again direct thoughts to the fleeting aspects of our own lives and everyone else's, and reflect what to do in the short time available. When we consider this correctly, kindness, lovingness, and helpfulness arise as priorities. We need not help a lot of people all at once. Even helping one person, maybe someone who lives in the same house, is beneficial. It is the attitude and motivation that count, not the results."
5. At the end of the day, make a balance sheet of your actions:
"At the end of each day it can be a good practice to make a balance-sheet, possibly even in writing . . . We can check our actions and reactions during the day, and can see which ones were conductive to happiness for ourselves and others and which ones were rejected . . . If we do that night after night, we will always find the same actions accepted or rejected. Kindness, warmth, interest in others, helpfulness, concern and care are always accepted. Self-interest, dislike, rejection, arguments, jealousy are always rejected. Just for one single day, we can write down all our actions on the credit or debit side, whether happiness-producing or not. As we do that, we will find the same reactions to the same stimuli over and over again. This balance sheet will give a strong impetus to stop the pre-programmed unwholesome reactions."
6. Before going to sleep, practice loving-kindness meditation:
May I be filled with loving kindness.
May I be safe.
May I be well.
May I be at peace.
May I be at ease.
May I be happy.

May you be filled with loving kindness.
May you be safe.
May you be well.
May you be at peace.
May you be at ease.
May you be happy.

During this coming week, will you join me in practicing Ayya Khema's mindful ways? 


  1. absolutely...beautiful teachings. I love listening to her talks at dharmaseed. what a wise, sweet and loving soul she was...we are so fortunate to still be able to learn from her teachings today.

  2. Thank you Laura. Yes, she is the most inspiring teacher I have come across!

  3. What a beautiful checklist to being present Marguerite. I need to print this out and pin it to my shirt!
    Thank you, and Budu saranai.

  4. Yes, very precious indeed. It could be a whole life practice, really!

  5. I have been telling myself lately that I need to be more mindful and not just rush to the computer at every free second. This will definitely help. I absolutely must check out Ayya Khema. Thank you. :]

  6. Yes, do spend time in Ayya Khema's company. She will serve you well . . . :)