Two mindfulness tricks for the morning rush

You know the story. You probably live it every day. Your alarm goes off, your heart rate rises even before your feet have hit the floor. It’s a weekday morning, which means rush and bustle and stress (and sometimes tears!). The mental ‘to do’ list is running circuits in your mind, screaming out the things you need to do and make and gather and transport. You’re multi-tasking while you’re drinking your morning coffee, and there’s no time to manage more than a few quick bites of breakfast.

The morning rush means something different for every family, but it’s probably fair to say it measures somewhere around the ‘taxing and terrible’ mark on the morning Richter scale for most of us. So what can we do?

We can turn to mindfulness for a start. These two quick tricks are my favourites:

1. Mindful moment: This is about bringing your sole focus to whatever you’re doing right now. Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh calls it ‘washing the dishes to wash the dishes’:

“While washing the dishes, one should only be washing the dishes, which means that while washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes. At first glance, that might seem a little silly: why put so much stress on a simple thing? But that’s precisely the point. The fact that I am standing there and washing these bowls is a wondrous reality. I’m being completely myself, conscious of my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There’s no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves … If while washing the dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not ‘washing the dishes to wash the dishes’. What’s more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact, we are completely incapable of realising the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can’t wash the dishes, chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future—and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.”

(Sarah Napthali offers a similar idea in her book, Buddhism for mothers.)

We can use the ‘washing the dishes’ idea for any task: making the lunches, washing fruit, buying the groceries, watching our child’s soccer match, sitting in a meeting, ironing the clothes, playing a game … It’s all about gently bringing our full attention to the task before us, fully engrossed in the moment so that we can fully experience the moment. (This great Huffington Post piece has more ideas.)

2. Mindful walking: This one is about walking with your mind focused completely on the soles of your feet. Focus on the sensations of the bottom of each foot in its shoe, the gentle pressure on each foot with each step you take, any movement, any pressure, and feelings. Not judging the feelings, just noticing them. With that sustained focus, you can be fully in the present moment and release the stress and strain of a busy morning. I like to do this exercise while walking back to my car after dropping the kids at school. It can be pretty calming after the chaos. (You can read how Thich Nhat Hanh describes this idea in his book, The miracle of mindfulness.)

Seriously, doesn’t mindfulness just sound like a miracle for busy mornings (and life in general)?

If you’d like to dive deeper, you could read:

The miracle of mindfulness: the classic guide to meditation by the world’s most revered master by Thich Nhat Hanh

The power of now: a guide to spiritual enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle

The happiness trap: stop struggling, start living by Dr Russ Harris

Buddhism for mothers: a calm approach to caring for yourself and your children by Sarah Napthali


Natalie Bartley