Everyday Meditation for Beginners

Recently, I was reading a magazine article when a phrase jumped out at me from the page: "off the cushion meditation." The idea immediately resonated with me. 

I've been meditating for over 35 years. I started as a young adult in the 1970s because the Beatles had deemed meditation a way to be “cool and calm.” As a practitioner and teacher of the practice for decades, I can honestly say meditation has been crucial for keeping my unpredictable life on track.

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However, I know not everyone is open to learning how to systematically calm the mind and find stillness for 15 or 20 minutes a couple times a day. While this daily practice can be comforting, it also can be frustrating and challenging for some.  

 So, when I saw the idea of “off the cushion” meditation, I wanted to share it and offer this suggestion for beginners: make simple, everyday tasks into meditations.

Some people call this practice “mindfulness,” but mindfulness is only about being fully present and aware of the action we are taking part in and its details. “Off the cushion” meditation refers not only to noticing what we are doing – even, or especially, if it’s mundane – but also pairing a positive phrase or thought with the action. 

For example, you decide to make a soothing cup of coffee for a mid-afternoon break. You notice everything about the process of making it: the running water, the sound of the coffee brewing, the rhythmic motion of stirring in the cream. This is making coffee mindfully. To turn this action into meditation, however, you can bring in a positive affirmation or mantra as you drink the coffee. This phrase should bring peace and quiet to your soul. A possible affirmation could be, “As I sip this coffee, I am grateful for my good health. I will treat my body with respect.” Repeat the phrase as you drink the coffee.  A mantra could be as simple as repeating “I am”.

With the affirmation, observe how the phrase or calms your spirit, and how uplifting it feels to remember that you are grateful and that you matter. Don’t discount meditation because you think you must sit still and empty your mind — instead, take your meditation off the cushion and look for small ways to turn your daily routines into calming practices. Doing so will help you make room for more joy in your everyday life.  

Char Schuster