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No In-Between Moments

"Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen Master and mindfulness teacher aptly points out that one reason we might want to practice mindfulness is that most of the time we are unwittingly practicing its opposite; When framed this way, we might want to take more responsibility for how we meet the world inwardly and outwardly; especially given that there just aren't any 'in-between' moments in our lives."'

-Jon Kabat-Zinn, in Coming To Our Senses

In the weekly mindfulness meditation class that I teach, participants often say: "I wish I practiced more in between classes," or, "Practicing only once a week isn't enough for me." These expressions reflect an understandable desire to experience the benefits of meditation more often in daily life. On a deeper level, a common misunderstanding is revealed -- that our real "practice" happens only during formal sitting meditation. This implies that as we go about our life, the periods "in- between" mindful sitting do not involve any practice.

From the meditative perspective, even when we are not meditating we are still "practicing." In fact, every waking hour we are practicing some type of awareness. It is simply that we are not often practicing mindful awareness. In some of our ordinary moments we are aware and awake, and the rest of the time it wouldn't be unusual if we were on auto-pilot. Habitually interacting with the world this way is practicing. Unfortunately, we can end up deepening the automatic-pilot mode on a daily basis. Moving through our life this way may even feel "normal." This automatic mode is a type of trance since we are not present in a moment-to-moment knowing and embodied way. To the degree that

partial awareness has become our default-setting, we can accumulate circumstances, big and small, that leave us with a vague sense of being off-course, or out of balance. We may not have intended to become out of touch -- none-the-less, we become what we practice most often.

The good news: we can restore being in touch by purposefully bringing a fuller awareness into any activity or interaction. One simple, but effective way to do this: Stop anytime and deliberately feel the physical sensations of your breathing. You could additionally ask yourself: "Right now, is my mind on what I am doing?" This extends the practice of meditative awareness into your ordinary moments and offers another way to practice "in-between" classes. As your embodied mindfulness deepens, it becomes more clear how every moment of being alive contains the potential to practice. And when you live as if there really are no "in-between" moments, your truest practice shines. This is when ordinary life itself -- when met with awareness -- is the practice. ©

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