There is no doubt that it can be very helpful to take time out of the day for regular meditation/practice sessions, and also to take several days out of one’s schedule for a retreat.
And then there is meditation in action, practice distributed throughout our daily life. To me, this form of practice is more interesting right now, especially as it does not necessarily require any time beyond what I am already doing (in a way, it is practice for lazy and impatient people, for those of us who may be reluctant to set aside a lot of time every day, and especially don’t want to wait for these periods).
Some practices that I find very helpful in daily life, first those that do not take any extra time at all…
Douglas Harding’s headless experiments can be included and explored throughout daily life, during any activity. I work on the computer, I am on my bike, I eat, I am in a meeting, I watch a movie, I do Breema, and I can easily explore headlessness – notice that I am already headless in my own immediate experience. I am capacity for the world, that within and as which the world of phenomena – including this human self, happens. This shifts the center of gravity from the human self to seeing and beyond, into a taste of selflessness.
Another practice that can be seamlessly integrated in daily life is labeling. I note sensations, tastes/smells, sights, sounds and thoughts. And sometimes just sensations and thoughts, allowing each to live their own life. And sometimes just personality. That is the personality reacting, with its likes and dislikes, its habitual tendencies.
Seeing sensations as sensations, and thoughts as thoughts, allow each to live their own life. They don’t conglomerate into something else. And when they do, for instance into personality, then that can be labeled as well, at its own level.
All of this shifts the center of gravity from the human self to the seeing of it. It gives a sense of more space, of liberation from being blindly caught up in it.
Can I be with it?
Yet another practice which can be included seamlessly in daily life is asking myself can I be with what I am experiencing right now? I experience something that could be labeled pain, or sleep deprivation, or hunger, or stress, or confusion, or spaciness, or joy, or excitement – can I be with what I am experiencing right now?
Again, this shifts the center of gravity into the seeing, allowing the content to life its own life, to unfold in its own way. The experience is one of getting out of the way of the content.
Coming to the body
This shift also occurs through simply bringing attention to the body. To noticing the weight, movement or breath of the body, as it happens right now.
Of course, for each of these practices – headlessness, labeling, being with whatever is experienced and coming to the body, it does help to set aside some time in the beginning to become familiar with the process, and even to do so at any point where there is a break in the day.
Then there are practices that very much use the content of our daily life as fuel, and do require some time set aside, although often not much.
The inquiry practice from Byron Katie is one of these. Whatever happens during my daily life is fuel for finding clarity. The whole world is my mirror, in a very real and practical way.
Big Mind Process
The Big Mind process similarly uses our daily life and everyday mind as material for insights, for seeing what is already alive right here now, and how it is all manifestations of the Buddha Mind, Buddha Mind at work.