Saturday, October 10, 2015

Floss Test

In recent years I have made efforts to take my meditation practice "off the cushion." I realized the real goal of the practice is to be constantly aware, continually present, moment to moment. Otherwise you just sit on the cushion 1-2 times a day and its an oasis of presence at best, a ritual at worst. The practice becomes alive and really starts to benefit you if you are able to apply it during the other 22 hours.

Continual awareness in day-to-day life is a big challenge. For a couple years, I've found pockets of mundane life where robust awareness and precense has made headway: when I drive, before I sleep, while I prepare food, while I walk around, while I sit and wait, etc. But these are just small punctures into the vast thick canvas of consciousness that covers life.

One test of awareness and mindfulness I've been playing with is the Floss Test. Every morning, I floss my teeth. Usually, I wake up and brush or floss and its so mechanical I forget that I've even done it 30 min later. I stood in front of the mirror and picked at my teeth for several minutes, but I don't even have the prescense of mind to remember what I did or sometimes that I was even there.

So I've made a habit of trying to be fully aware while flossing my teeth. More times than I'd like to admit, I start flossing with mindfulness, but by the time I'm at the end of the line my mind has wandered and I wasn't there for the experience of cleaning the last few teeth or throwing away my floss. It's crazy how many times I've promised myself I will end that two minutes with the same presence as when I started, for the sake of this game, but was still not able to maintain. But over time it's slowly gotten better.

This bootstrapped approach seems inelegant. Once I'm able to master flossing, I'll move on to showering, then eating, then exercising? Seems quite brittle.

Is there a better way than "fake it till you make it?"

3 comments:

  1. I've strived in this direction too. My working practice is to attempt to keep part of my attention engaged with either breath awareness or sensation for as much of waking hours as possible. Full attention for mundane tasks like brushing and flossing is a higher bar, esp if what you do for work is mentally taxing. Habituation is a mental formation designed to conserve cognitive energy, and I still have plenty of bad habits where my attention is better applied before I reach the stage of rapt lossless attention to dental hygiene routine :-)

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