In modern busy life, it is usually said that “time is money” or “time is gold”. Some people even say that “time is diamond” to emphasise the value of time. However, after experiencing a near-death experience in a hospital in 2012, I no longer resonate with that sentiment. I feel that time is life. Once it is gone, we can never turn back time. In the past I used to love one quote “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” These days, I feel that my life is measured by how many mindful breaths I can take, and by how many moments I can live deeply in awareness. Following are some of my practices of mindfulness in daily life that help me live my life more deeply in each moment.
The first thought I have when waking up, I realize, has an effect on how my day unfolds. Ever since I had a near-death experience in a hospital, I have always reminded myself to wake up every day with a smile and feel thankful to be alive. There is a poem by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh that I love, and I recite this poem every morning when I wake up:
“Waking up this morning I smileknowing there are 24 brand new hours before me.I vow to live fully in each moment,and look at all beings with eyes of compassion.”
After that I wiggle my toes and my fingers to slowly wake up my feet and hands. I do some morning stretches on my bed before starting my day. Before leaving the bed, I take the time to scan my whole body from toes to head to send love and gratitude to my body. It’s a miracle to be alive today!
When I go to the bathroom every morning to brush my teeth, I usually look at myself in the mirror and say to myself “Hello Le. Thanks for showing up today. I wish you a good day”. When I brush my teeth, I usually do it slowly and gently with a smile. I listen to the sounds of water, the sounds of the brush against my teeth, and become aware of my hand movements as I brush my teeth. Sometimes I count my breaths to see how many breaths I take to brush my teeth. I also remind myself to be grateful to have fresh and clean water, and have strong teeth to brush. I also remind myself to practice mindful speaking during the day.
Mindful drinking of tea
One of the habits of happiness I have cultivated in my daily life in Singapore is to pause and enjoy my tea mindfully. My tea meditation starts when I pour water into a kettle. I take the time to enjoy listening to the water running from the tap into the kettle, and feel grateful for having fresh water to drink today. When I switch on the kettle, I remind myself to return to my breathing, and count how many breaths I take until the water is boiled. I also enjoy listening to the sounds of water being boiled as the temperature increases. After that I carefully pour hot water into my tea pot and wait for the tea to be ready. It is such a joy to see the colour changes as the tea leaves dissolve into the hot water. When the tea is ready to be served, I usually hold the tea cup with my two hands, becoming aware of the sense of touch between my palms and the cup, and relax my whole body. I also take three deep breaths to enjoy the aroma of the tea before taking a sip. Whenever I enjoy my tea with all the senses, I feel that I take good care of my body and my mind, to feel recharged, re-energised in the middle of a busy day.
Taking care of flowers
When I live in a big city for an extended period of time, I feel that I am nature deprived, which then takes a toll on my mental health. One of my practices to keep connection to nature is to take care of plants on my balcony. My morning ritual after waking up is to go to the balcony and say hello to all my plants, and thank them for being there to make my life more beautiful. Whenever I water the flowers, I take some deep breaths and smile. I remind myself to recognise the goodness in myself and in all those I interact with today. It is true that when I do stop and smell the flowers, life becomes more beautiful.