This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Wherever You Go, There You Are" by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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What are the benefits of practicing everyday mindfulness? Why should you savor every tiny moment of your life?
Life’s too short to not notice the small details. In Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn, everyday mindfulness will help you stay fully present without missing the best moments in life.
Find out how you can practice everyday mindfulness to make the most out of life.
Mindfulness in Your Daily Life
While a formal meditation practice can help strengthen your ability to focus, the purpose of everyday mindfulness is to live your life fully every day. Every moment and activity is an opportunity for mindfulness. Mindfulness doesn’t require a specific activity or environment; it can happen anywhere at any time. Just pause and pay attention, using your breath as your focal point.
(Shortform note: While every moment is an opportunity for mindfulness, there are some moments that are especially easy to take advantage of. Gunaratana recommends looking for spare moments in your day when you aren’t otherwise occupied. For example, if you’re waiting for a dentist appointment or in line at the grocery store, instead of flipping through an old magazine or pulling out your phone, pause, notice, and focus on your breath.)
That being said, it’d be impossible to be mindful every minute of every day, so Kabat-Zinn recommends finding small moments throughout your day that serve as reminders to be mindful. For example, every time you open the refrigerator, go upstairs, or put on shoes, slow down and pause. Focus on your breath and pay attention to everything that’s happening in that moment. These small actions are all opportunities to pause and pay attention. As you add more activities and moments, you’ll be able to string them together, creating longer and longer periods of mindfulness in your day.
(Shortform note: As you’re learning to be mindful as you go about your daily life, it can be helpful to slow down your activity. Gunaratana recommends slowing down an activity to a tenth of its normal speed. Moving in slow motion will allow you to pay attention to every moment and nuance of the activity. For example, if you’re sitting and drinking tea, you can notice your posture, the feeling of the handle of the cup, the aroma of the tea, and the heat of the tea as it first touches your lips.)
Parenting is also a valuable opportunity to practice mindfulness. Children are constantly testing you, challenging your assumptions, pushing your boundaries, and reminding you that there’s much of the world that you can’t control. Most of all, what children want most is your loving attention, the same kind of attention that’s cultivated through mindfulness practice. So while parenting, or other responsibilities in your life, may feel like a barrier to your mindfulness practice, remember that they’re often the best opportunities to practice.
(Shortform note: Kabat-Zinn elaborates on the practice of mindful parenting in Everyday Blessings, a book he co-authored with his wife Myla Kabat-Zinn. They describe parenting as a spiritual practice and explain how the basic tenets and practices of Buddhism can be powerful tools for parents. The book offers the reminder that your time with your children, like everything, is fleeting and should be treasured.)
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Here's what you'll find in our full Wherever You Go, There You Are summary:
- A guide to mindfulness for both beginners and seasoned practitioners
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- How to practice mindfulness through meditation