Let’s talk about this topic: integrating your awareness practice into daily life.

Sitting in formal meditation is very good. It’s a basis. However, we can do more by extending our practice into our everyday moments.

The biggest challenge is REMEMBERING to do it. Post-it reminders, setting a calendar reminder on your cell phone, asking a friend to remind you, and NOT GIVING UP!!! Eventually it will begin to become a habit, like remembering to check if you have your money and your car keys with you, or whether your cell phone battery is getting low.

There are many, many ways to integrate awareness practice into daily life. We can pick certain situations as reminders to be mindful. Perhaps just before we start eating lunch we can take a moment just to look at the food before us and appreciate it, be present with it, just for a heartbeat, for example.

What I want to discuss today, though, is integrating your heart-meditation practice with awareness and daily life.

In our heart-meditation we open the heart center and from deep within we send sincere wishes of happiness, fulfillment and peace to others. In daily life, however, all of us frequently feel irritated, impatient, annoyed, and periodically experience a subtle, or not-so-subtle distance, alienation, annoyance, or dislike of people we don’t even know. People who have not done anything to us except that they happen to be ahead of us in line, or we don’t like the way they look, or the sound of their voice. We wish, on some level, they were not part of our experience of the moment.

The awareness practice is to NOTICE these feelings — not just the obvious feelings of irritation and dislike, but even the times when it is just a subtle feeling.

Remember when we practiced the smile exercise — the subtle difference in your entire body when you smile and when you don’t smile?

So, becoming more and more aware of even subtle feelings of irritation and dislike in interaction with others is the practice.

This becoming aware is NOT the awareness of a policeman trying to find evidence of wrongdoing. It is not the awareness of a drill-sergeant, a judge, a critic, or an inner accuser: “see that! I caught you!!! you were being annoyed! shame on you!”

That’s NOT what we mean by awareness.

Awareness is more like curiosity, surprise, interest, bemusement.

“Ah, there’s some annoyance. Ha! Interesting!”

We have an affectionate and compassionate awareness of our annoyance, the way we are aware of a small child’s distress after it falls and starts crying. Hopefully we don’t get angry at the child for crying. We just notice, “Oh, he fell, and he’s crying, but he seems okay.”

So we NOTICE “There’s a feeling of irritation, annoyance, dislike rising in my body. And, how odd. . .I don’t even know this person I’m feeling so annoyed with. This may be a wonderful, loving person. All I know is I’m irritated because they are ahead of me in line and I’m in a hurry.”

Then we can apply the principles of our heart-meditation. We can think, “This is a person, just like me.” “This is another human being, just like me.” “This person is seeking happiness, but not always finding it, just like me.”

Just having this thought will probably produce a softening in your heart.

And, oddly enough, OCCASIONALLY, just as you have become aware that you are radiating annoyance, and you begin to think “this is just another person, just like me” and your heart softens — just at that moment of heart-softening,  sometimes that person mysteriously will turn around and look at you and smile, without knowing why. And you may find yourself smiling back.

There is a deeper dimension to life, that we swim in all the time, and are no more aware of it than fish are of the water that is all around them.

Good luck practicing awareness and love.

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