Writing about mindfulness and meditation

Creating a practice plan for the day

Just this week, I've started being a bit more formal about my intentions for practice in the day ahead. I've started looking at the specifics of the day ahead and planning how I will bring mindfulness and other aspects of Buddhist practice into that situation and how I intend to negotiate any obstacles. The idea came to me when I realised I don't necessarily have to have the perfect approach to practice mapped out for the next year or two. While it's good to have a general arc and theme, the real question was, "How are you going to practise today?" For example:

  • I will practice the gradual entry into emptiness followed by contemplating the aggregates in formal sitting this morning.
  • I will walk mindfully to and from the cafe, being aware of change around me.
  • I will drink my coffee mindfully.
  • I will listen to the sound of silence while typing.
  • I will be mindful of my posture, and changes in posture – especially while getting into the car, driving, and getting out of the car.
  • I will lay off text messaging until the evening.
  • I will be patient and attentive with the kids at bedtime.
  • I will be mindful of speech, especially when talking on the computer.

It need not be so extensive, of course! It's probably best to focus on one or two things.

What this does is make the gap between our intentions and the actuality very clear. We can see, "Oh, I'm supposed to be walking mindfully to the cafe, not thinking about computer games" or "Oh, I said I wasn't going to surf the World Wide Web until this evening."

It also helps me to really visualise myself being mindful of changing postures as I get out of a car, for example, or creating space in a conversation for others to speak. It creates a blueprint for a day of mindfulness. Marcus Aurelius would do something similar in resolving on waking up not to become angry with the difficult people he would meet that day. We, too, may wish to acknowledge where difficulty may lie, price it in, and decide on a noble way of tackling it.

Finally, at the end of the day, I've started jotting down a brief review of how well the plan went. For example, I might notice that during my lunchtime walk, I was only mindful at a couple of intermittent moments, the rest of the time I was thinking and planning. There's no judgment, but I think resolve is created in that act of reflection, and we see the gap between our intentions and our present capacity. Reviewing also helps us to see where there are challenges and we might need to change our approach or our expectations. I'm also someone who enjoys a challenge, so that can be motivating.

I've always reflected on how my practice is going, but this brings some extra intentionality and focus. Plus, creating a practice plan and reviewing at specific times should, in theory, free me from constantly re-evaluating what my aims should be and how well it's all going. Overall, I think this will bring some healthy clarity and accountability to how I practice. Hopefully, it will help with continuity in daily life.