Monthly Archive for June, 2012

Mindfulness, Week 2

The Exercise:  Leave No Trace.

“Choose one room of your house and for one week try leaving no trace that you’ve used that space.  The bathroom or kitchen works best for most people.  If you’ve been doing something in that room, cooking a meal or taking a shower, clean up in such a way that you leave no signs that you’ve been there, except perhaps the odor of food or fragrance of soap.”



“Often we leave rooms a bit messier than when we entered.  We think, ‘I’ll clean it up later.’  Later never comes, until the mess is unbearable, and we become irritated enough to undertake a thorough cleaning. Or we get annoyed at someone else for not doing their part in the housework.  How much easier if we take care of things right away.  Then we don’t have to feel growing annoyance at the gathering mess.

“This task helps us become aware of the tendency to turn away from doing certain things, even small things that we could take care of during the day but somehow don’t have the motivation to do.  We could pick up the trash on the sidewalk as we walk by, or the paper towel that missed the bin in the washroom.  We could straighten the pillows on the couch after we get up, or wash our coffee cup instead of putting it in the sink, and we could put tools away even through we’ll be using them again tomorrow.

“One person observed that becoming mindful about leaving no traces in one room spread out to include other areas.  Washing her dirty dishes immediately after eating led to making her bed immediately after arising, and then to cleaning the little hairs out of the drain right after a shower.  We have to summon the initial energy, but thereafter, energy seems to breed more energy.”


Jan Chozen Bays, How to Train a Wild Elephant, Shambhala, Boston, 2011, p. 23.

Mindfulness Week 1

Mindfulness Week 1:  Use your non-dominant hand for some daily activities
“Discoveries:  This experiment always evokes laughter.  We discover that the non-dominant hand is quite clumsy.  Using it brings us back to what Zen teachers call “beginner’s mind.”  our dominant hand might be forty years old, but the non-dominant hand is much younger, perhaps about two or three years old.  We have to learn all over again how to hold a fork and how to get it into our mouths without stabbing ourselves.  We might begin to brush our teeth very awkwardly with the non-dominant hand, and when we aren’t looking our dominant hand will reach out and take the toothbrush or fork away!  It is just like a bossy older sister who says, “Hey, you little klutz, let me do it for you!
“Struggling to use the non-dominant hand can awaken our compassion for anyone who is clumsy or unskilled, such as a person who has had disabilities injuries, or a stroke.  We briefly see how much we take for granted scores of simple movements that many people cannot make.  Using chopsticks with the non-dominant hand is a humbling experience.  If you want to eat a meal in under an hour and not end up spilling foo all over, you have to be very attentive.”
from Jan Chozen Bays, How to Train a Wild Elephant, Shambala Pulbications, Boston, (c) 2011, p. 20.