Yep. This is me sharing about brushing my teeth. Riveting topic eh?! Actually, it is! This is precisely what engaged Buddhism is all about: Finding ways in which to bring the art of mindfulness into every aspect of our daily life.
One of the new mindfulness practices I’ve taken up recently centers around brushing my teeth. When I got back from Deer Park Monastery at the end of January, after a 3-week retreat stay, I came to see just how dispersed my energy was while brushing my teeth. As soon as I hastily squeezed a dollop of toothpaste onto my brush in the mornings I would quickly take to leaving the bathroom, and set to doing a myriad of things that really had no business in trying to be accomplished while in the midst of brushing. I might go outside and start my car to warm it up or prepare a fresh cup of tea or ready my lunch to take with me to work. I would do all sorts of things around the house with my toothbrush protruding from my mouth. I would actively brush for a bit and then proceed back to whatever multi-tasking “urgent” matter needed tending to. It was comical!
So my new practice is to “stay put”. To not leave the bathroom and to stay there in front of the sink while brushing my teeth. What I’m experiencing as a natural by-product is that by simply staying put I am also slowing down. It reminds me of how when I practice a day of silence, slowing down happens in tandem, seemingly on its own accord. By staying put I am automatically able to slow down, which affords me the opportunity to connect more readily with what I am doing. No longer am I hurriedly scrubbing my teeth as a sort of task to get out of the way. I’m practicing awareness of my teeth, of how fortunate I am to have them, and to care for them by slowing down and paying attention to the act of brushing. I’m practicing awareness of my breathing and of my gratitude for having running water. I’m practicing to feel my feet on the ground beneath me as I stand in front of the sink.
A couple of weeks ago a sangha member shared about how they’ve been practicing to slow down their personal teeth brushing regiment as a way to strengthen the development of patience, a particular quality they felt very weak on. Having not spoken of my own practice around this same subject, I was delighted to hear her timely sharing. The power and importance of having a community of support, a sangha, never ceases to inspire and astound me.
It’s still a new practice for me. It’s not uncommon for me to catch myself just as I’m about to leave the bathroom with my toothbrush in tow. But I do catch it. As my foot prepares to cross the threshold of the bathroom door, I remember. Then I smile to my strong habit energy, before returning back to my “staying put” spot in front of the sink.
An image I put together as a handout for my class on the topic of mindful eating
As part of the mindfulness and meditation series I’ve been teaching our next class will be, in part, about mindful eating. So once again I’m taking to my blog to write out some ideas as to what I’ll say in regards to this topic.
Just as there is no one right way to be mindful about anything really, there is no one right way to practice mindful eating. In any given moment we have the opportunity to direct our attention in a myriad of different ways that would all classify under the umbrella of mindfulness (hence the image I put together above :). For instance, when we sit down to eat a meal we could practice mindfulness by looking deeply into the food in front of us. We could become inquisitive and ponder questions about where our food came from and do our best to imagine all of the causes and conditions that went into its creation. We could use our mindfulness to get in touch with the energy inherit in our food and how it wouldn’t be possible without the sun, soil, and water. We could tune into our senses taking special notice of the textures, smells, taste, feel, and colors. We could connect with our gratitude for the gift of food we are afforded, knowing that many people will not have enough to eat today. Or we could practice by slowing down and putting our undivided attention on the process of eating, instead of hurrying through a meal or multi-tasking while eating. And if we spent our meal time simply practicing to enjoy our food and have a pleasant time while eating that would certainly be a wonderful way to water our seeds of mindfulness as well.
A pic I found on a local news outlet website and added Be Here Now to (pic credit on photo).
Starting next week I’ll be teaching a 6-week class series entitled Being Here Now through the adult learning center here in town. I’ve taught a few other similar class series’ through them as well but its been a couple of years since my last session. The description I provided for the class is as follows :
When we learn the art of mindfulness through the cultivation of meditation, relaxation, and joy our lives have the opportunity to become more spacious and at ease. This class will be focusing on the practice of sitting meditation, watering seeds of joy within ourselves, and learning how to rest our bodies and minds through the process of guided relaxation. No experience necessary, great for beginners. This is a non-faith based approach to living more happily and mindfully in the present moment, all are welcome. A variety of cushions, benches, and chairs will be provided.
Since it turns out that in the span of 5 days I’ll be giving a talk for Unity Church’s interfaith day of prayer service, performing in a poetry slam (this Friday! Gulp!), starting my class series, and giving a teaching talk at my local sangha I’m especially finding the need to write out my preparations for these speaking engagements in order to keep them all organized. So, once again in line with two of my most recent posts, this one is to help me sort through what to cover in my first class.