It's wonderful to experience the sense of freedom, calmness and tranquility that mindfulness affords us in our meditation practices, but unless we're able to bring mindfulness into our everyday lives, the experience of meditation will not only be short-lived, it will be of little use when we go about our daily activities. So, how do we include mindfulness in the chaos?
Well, it will not be easy, as our world seems to be designed around getting as much done in as little time as possible; the tendency is to cram so much into every nanosecond that we end up performing a lot of tasks on autopilot, or even trying to multitask, which usually just means that we only pay partial attention to each task, especially those we deem to be mundane or boring. More mindless than mindful.
Ideally, it would be great if we could give each task our full attention, the way that we open our awareness to whatever object we're focusing our attention on in meditation, but this is highly impractical and completely unrealistic. To bring mindfulness into our daily lives, we must include it as part of the goings on. If we think that bringing mindfulness into our lives is about focusing on one thing at a time and excluding everything else, we will quickly discover that we have excluded what's necessary for us to get on.
In meditation, mindfulness involves focusing our awareness in a quiet and calm environment, and for most of us living in the Western world the environments we inhabit are a far cry from the peace and quiet of a meditation space, so just bring mindfulness into the present moment, wherever you are. Mindfulness in everyday life involves the same sort of non-judgemental awareness, but includes pragmatism and plain old common sense. In other words, pay attention as best you can, bring kindness, appreciation and patience to whatever you're doing, but be reasonable. Maintaining a balanced, steady and open awareness that allows it all in without becoming overwhelmed is essential.
When you're rushing to meet a deadline, your focus needs to be on meeting the deadline, not on the 2000 other things you need to do after you've met the deadline, or how annoying your boss is for setting such an unrealistic deadline, or worries about what will happen if you don't meet the deadline or whatever other things may pop into your head that will not help you actually meet the deadline and that you can't do anything about now anyhow because you're trying to meet a deadline. Bringing mindfulness into the mix allows you to focus on the task and leave the rest, to do what you need to do to get it done without getting caught up in the story, as expending mental energy on anything other than the task at hand will only sap your resources.
You can even bring mindfulness to the simpler, less taxing aspects of your day; when you're out walking, having a cup of tea or even brushing your teeth, see if you can be present, appreciative, even joyful. Instead of zoning out or getting carried away in daydreams or worries, see if you can break the task down to its discrete elements and bring mindfulness to them. Feel the motion of your legs and feet as they glide and step when walking. When drinking tea, sip it slowly, taste it fully and feel the sensation as it trickles down your throat. As you brush your teeth, feel the strokes as your toothbrush moves from your gums to your teeth.
Whatever you're doing as you go about your daily activities, open your awareness and enjoy the moment; find gratitude for this day, this breath, for simply being alive.