A friend of mine recently asked me: "Now that I 'practice mindfulness', how do I integrate it into my everyday life?"
The answer came to me automatically without thinking even for a second: "There is no 'mindfulness practice' apart from everyday life."
While my answer may seem a bit abrupt, it is a simple statement of fact intended to protect my friend and myself from a dangerous duality. Every attempt of the thinking mind to position 'mindfulness' as an activity separate from daily life is itself an expression of lack of mindfulness. Seeing mindfulness practice as a temporary escape or withdrawal from reality or a ‘magic pill’ is a misunderstanding to be avoided at all costs. On the contrary - it is the unavoidable meeting with reality just as it is, it is completely embodying our lives, it is fully owning every single aspect of our ‘self’.
Yes, it is true that sitting meditation is the most ancient, basic and effective way to cultivate mindfulness. Yes, it may take years of sitting for mindfulness to deepen and mature. Yes, thinking that one can be mindful in everyday life without practicing daily meditation is like a baby thinking it can run without being able to stand.
Still, true mindfulness is not limited to any particular activity or a body position. It is rather a way of being, often described as having the quality of open, all-embracing awareness which excludes nothing and is not limited by anything. While some activities lend themselves more naturally to this way of being, there isn't a single one that needs to be excluded. Sitting in meditation is as valuable a mindfulness practice as observing your thoughts, feelings, sensations and reactions during a difficult conversation at home, or while coping with an undesirable task at work. Noticing what goes on within you during moments of great joy and elation is equally valuable too.
These are merely pointers though - for the one that truly comprehends mindfulness in its fullness and entirety, there is only intuitive understanding not contingent on words or concepts to express it. As a matter of fact reducing mindfulness to verbal descriptions is an abstraction intended merely for communication purposes. Like a picture in a children book teaching the child what different animals look like, yet not being the real animal.
It is like this dear friends and 'mindfulness practitioners'... Do not be like children mistaking a picture for the real thing. Leave no gaps between mindfulness and your everyday life. Immerse yourself fully in everything you do without being bound by it. Allow your 'self' to disappear completely in the unity of 'you' and 'your everyday life' and you will now what mindfulness is like you know if water is cold.
Waste no time by chopping life in bits and pieces - be whole - NOW.