Thich Nhat Hanh (TNH) is a 94 year old Vietnamese Buddhist monk who is one of my all-time favorite human beings. He’s been a top spiritual leader on planet earth for the past fifty years with much of his work centered on practicing mindfulness.
Here’s how long he has been on the spiritual world stage: Martin Luther King nominated him for the 1967 Nobel Peace Prize for TNH’s efforts during the Vietnam War.
A half day is doable
In my favorite book of his, The Miracle of Mindfulness, TNH offers a suggestion for how to devote an entire day to mindfulness. I’m actually going to truncate that to a half day because I know many of you don’t have the time or the wherewithal to do a full day. A half day is doable for most. Let’s call it the time from waking up through eating lunch.
First, he recommends doing this on a weekend, so pick a Saturday or Sunday when you have nothing on your schedule the first half of the day. He suggests staying silent as much as possible.
When you wake up on the appointed day, start things off by taking some long, slow, conscious breaths. At least ten of them. One cool thing he adds is to maintain a half-smile through these breaths and in your subsequent activities.
Get up slowly
When you’re ready to get out of bed, TNH says to do so very slowly and deliberately. Try not to jump out of bed and “attack the day” as you may normally do.
Then do your normal morning routine. But as you brush your teeth and wash your face, etc., do so slowly and mindfully. No rushing! If there’s one consistent theme from TNH on your mindful day it is to go slowly and mindfully, without rushing.
Most of you will love this next activity: TNH says to take a half hour bath. Everything slow and mindful. Stay close to your breathing while in the tub.
While doing the dishes, do the dishes
Next is something you may do anyway on a normal weekend morning, which is basic housework. Things like cleaning the dishes, dusting, scrubbing the kitchen floor, tidying up your bathroom and organizing your garage. The difference here is that TNH wants us to do this slowly and mindfully. Again, not doing anything to “get it done,” but rather being present and fully involved in each of those activities.
Then make yourself lunch. Don’t slap something together and wolf it down. Prepare the meal mindfully and then eat it mindfully. Chew slowly. Taste the food. Savor each bite.
I know many of you might be saying to yourselves, “Be mindful while scrubbing my kitchen floor? What the hell is that all about?” The answer is that it’s the core of mindfulness, which is about being present for the moments of our lives no matter what we’re doing. Sitting in your car at a red light. Brushing your teeth. Eating lunch. Working out. Everything.
The fact is that most of we mortal humans spend an inordinate chunk of our waking time lost in our thought-factory minds and NOT present for the moments that make up our lives. This half day of mindfulness put forth by Thich Nhat Hanh is a fantastic way of strengthening our ability to be present.
If you’re a single mom with four little kids, I get it, this could be tough to pull off. But maybe you could get your mom to watch the kids for a half day. Or your sister. Or maybe you go for what’s possible, which might just mean getting up early, doing your conscious breaths, brushing teeth, etc. and taking that thirty minute mindful bath.
Whatever you can do will be worth the planning and effort. Because what’s more important than getting better at being present for the moments of our lives?