The idea is to bring the sense of meditative awareness and presence into everyday life. So, over the next 4 posts we will add one activity per blog that we will be doing in a state of mindfulness. I will be choosing 4 very mundane daily activities that we normally do in a state of unconsciousness, thinking about something else or simply acting out on auto-pilot. The thing is, a large portion of our lives is made up of mundane daily activities – things that we normally do as a means to an end – brushing our teeth, doing the dishes, driving to work. Seldom do we stop and revel in the wonder of these simple tasks that have become background to our lives. What we will attempt over the next 4 blogs is to bring our meditation into as many areas of our lives as we can, so that in the long run our whole lives become a meditation, a celebration of life itself.
This time we will focus on brushing our teeth – an activity that hopefully everyone is engaging in a least once, if not twice a day. I suggest that you put a post-it note or something up on your bathroom mirror to remind you of this one, as after a whole lifetime of doing this unconsciously it might be easy to slip back into old habits.
So, every time you brush your teeth, use this as a meditation. Without bringing the thinking mind in to analyse every movement, try to be aware of some of the following...
- how wonderful it is to have a toothbrush. Watch a little child when they get their first toothbrush and see the excitement and wonder of this familiar everyday object. Try to reclaim a little of that wonder and freshness.
- take a good look at your toothpaste. Notice every little movement of your body involved in fetching your chosen paste, opening it up, putting it onto your toothbrush. Bring it up to your nose and smell it. Put a little bit on your tongue and experience the intensity of the taste.
- then as you brush your teeth, try to be aware of all the sensations involved – taste, smell, feeling, sounds. Notice what your tongue is doing as you brush – how it moves out of the way. Notice the different sensations as you brush different areas. Try brushing your tongue, or even running the toothbrush over your lips. Notice the different movements involved in getting to all areas.
- If you slip into auto-pilot, don’t stress, Just notice how easily that happens and bring yourself back to the task at hand.
- If you find that your mind wanders or tries to label / name / analyse everything you are doing, bring awareness to your breath, and keep some awareness on the breath as you continue.
- listen to the sounds of the water as you turn it on to rinse. Feel the sensations of this – the heat or cold, and the different tastes before and after you rinse.
- notice any small details along the way. Stay focused in the present and totally engaged in the activity that you are busy with.
Ok, I realise that if you brushed your teeth like this every day it would take more time than you have allocated to this activity. However, you can brush your teeth in the same amount of time and stay totally present and aware of all sensations and your breathing. It helps in the beginning to take a little more time and exaggerate the experience to draw you out of the lifetime of unconscious activity that preceded this week. So, if you can, spend a little more time on the first few days and then as the week goes on see if you can bring the time down and still keep the same level of awareness.
By the way, don’t be surprised if your mind resists this activity with all its might. It will most likely tell you that this is silly and mundane and that there is no awesomeness or wonder in brushing your teeth and that it will not further any of your great plans that you have for yourself. Let it rant, notice this, and laugh. There is only this moment, right now, so whether you are reading this or brushing your teeth or making a life changing decision, the wonder of life is in this moment. Enjoy every second of it.