Recently, I had a new battery installed in my digital watch. And now my continuity of mindfulness feels like it has improved by a power of ten. How is that?
The watch has a simple ‘chime’ function that can be set to beep every hour. And whenever I hear the chime, I now take five conscious breaths, regardless of whatever else I happen to be doing.
This simple practice re-establishes the habit of being mindful and increases the frequency of occasions when mindfulness spontaneously arises on its own, in an unprompted manner.
I first heard of this technique from Bhante Gunaratana, author ofMindfulness in Plain English (among other books). And I was reminded again by Pavel Tsatsouline, the acclaimed kettlebell guru. Pavel applies this technique to physical development. He says that if you want to gain strength at pull-ups, then every time you pass your pull-up bar do half of your maximum number of reps. This strategy is called Greasing the Groove. In other words, we lubricate the pattern of movement or thought so that the pattern becomes more easily replicable.
Get creative with greasing the groove. I can already hear the fashionistas amongst you complaining about the gauche aesthetics of a digital watch. Ditch the watch then. Get an app for your phone or computer to chime at designated times.
Or take a leaf out of Thich Nhat Hanh’s book and take some conscious breaths at red lights or before answering the phone.
Whatever you do, keep the practice simple and manageable. Soon you will feel many moments of mindfulness as being linked, and the quality of your presence and focus improving.
For tips like this on how to establish and integrate a solid meditation practice, check out The Buddha’s Playbook, co-written by myself and friend, Michael Brooks.
Originally published on January 18, 2011