Things that ground us, things that lift us
December 27, 2017 6:40 AM   Subscribe

What are the external props, prompts, and practices that remind you to be mindful and return to center when life’s little details overshadow your intention?

Any spiritual or philosophical leaning that suits the question is fine. I’m especially interested in Buddhist practice in general and Nichiren Buddhism in particular but it’s the intent behind the thing that is most important.

For example: rosary by the bed, Mala wrist beads, five cent Buddha coin in pocket, rituals (not just intention of ritual but ritual that works for you), incense, candles, serenity prayer on bathroom mirror...the little things that ground you in a practice or framework and say ‘hey remember me?’

I hope this makes sense.

FYI I have heard tell of the spiritual enlightenment of cleaning the cat box but I’m looking for less prosaic....more for the things, largely physical things, that prop you up and keep you clear eyed.
posted by A Terrible Llama to Religion & Philosophy (18 answers total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I have a scar on my left hand that was the result of getting really frustrated in a moment and losing focus with a tool. It's a visual reminder that I see many times a day to take time in the moment to better situate myself and to acknowledge my emotions and to get past them. I know people who have tiny tattoos for the same reason.
posted by notorious medium at 6:53 AM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Sometime this past July I started doing a "morning circle" every day (I am Wiccan). The purpose was to counteract world-events-induced anxiety and it has worked extraordinarily well, and might be responsible for my significantly lower blood pressure the last time I went to the doctor.

Just after getting dressed and before breakfast [usually] I go to the room I use for ritual, set up a simple altar (I keep the tools in a box; setting it up and putting it away is part of the ritual for me), run through a full circle casting, maybe talk to the Gods a little, and then take the circle down, again step by step. It takes about 15-20 minutes including setting up and putting away my altar tools. Focusing on the physical ritual acts, and doing only that thing at that time, is a big part of it -- this is probably mindfulness.

So, not something that I can actually drop everything and do in the middle of the day when life's details happen, but having this regular daily practice I think has given me a reservoir of calm centredness that I can draw on when needed. It has made a much bigger difference than I had expected.
posted by heatherlogan at 7:16 AM on December 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Mine is pretty big, very bright, and always in my sight-line. Over a year ago, my therapist told me to start doing arts or crafts or something creative with a tangible output. My first project was to take six adult coloring book pages and print a letter on each of them in a bold outline font. I colored each page, with different color schemes inside vs outside the letter outline. Then I foam taped them to a large piece of candy colored plaid wrapping paper. And finally, I tacked the wrapping paper to my wall above the filing cabinet next to my desk. Here's the result.

Definition: "Ananda refers to a joy that 'changes and dances itself in many ways to enthrall your mind and keep your attention occupied and interested forever'"

Definition: "That Joy In Existence Without Which The Universe Would Fall Apart and Collapse"
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 7:17 AM on December 27, 2017 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Each night, usually right before bed, I list three things from the day: A thing that went well, a thing that could have gone better, and a thing I am grateful for. I don't dwell on them or think too hard about what to list. I prefer to say them out loud or write them down but doing it in my head works too. This keeps me grounded both in the present and also in the center. Without something like this, I'll spin either too high or low pretty quickly and either way it's a mess.

This is often called a mindfulness exercise or a 10th Step exercise and I've talked to many people who do similar practices with positive results.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 8:01 AM on December 27, 2017 [8 favorites]

Best answer: My whole life is strictly tied up in routines which is often good and sometimes not so good. A few years ago when I was having some serious anxiety issues, I started an "offscreen time" practice... the first and last 45 minutes of every day are off screen (phone, computer, anything with a light, ancient Kindle ok) which basically starts and ends my day in the here and now. It was tortuous at first, wanting to check email, get to work, whatever the thing was. But now it's a really nice time to reacquaint with all the real life things and movements that I do: birdwatching, coffee appreciating, meditation if I feel like it, etc. It used to be a thing I did that was an absence, like "You can't do this" and it's shifted over the past years to be a presence of a thing I have.
posted by jessamyn at 8:14 AM on December 27, 2017 [16 favorites]

Best answer: Mindfulness bell on my desktop pc at work, set to "random."
posted by headnsouth at 8:27 AM on December 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I go into a small woods near my home if I can. If it is dark out, I go outside and look up at the sky. I consciously practice letting the smallness of life disappear into the vastness of the natural world.
posted by velveeta underground at 8:35 AM on December 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I wear heavy acorn necklace most days and it reminds me that from small things there can be great things with time. It’s also a reminder that most acorns don’t become oak trees, which helps with worrying about little things, and also makes it ok that not every task is part of some larger greatness. Sometimes a small task is just a small task. I put it on each morning and take it off at night.

I also have a scar that reminds me to slow down (I got it in the kitchen slicing ten pounds of pears for jam this summer, hurrying because I had some plans that evening. Obviously, I was late for the plans and ended up getting six stitches in my thumb. Someone else had to slice the rest of the pears. No time was saved by my hurrying.)

There’s also a scar on my knee that I suppose reminds me that even when you look where you’re going, someone else might have placed the clean glass from a picture frame on the sofa cushion and you might kneel onto it perfectly. I suppose that lesson is that all my mindfulness is still happening in our world. I guess it also should remind me to not be the person who leaves clean glass on other people’s sofa cushions. How’s that for a metaphor?
posted by bilabial at 8:40 AM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've been doing this little Notepad thing - whenever I feel a resentment coming on, I write it down in my Notepad.

Said Notepad has three columns: 1) I'm resentful at x, 2) the reason for my resentment, 3) what I can do about it (sometimes it's taking the opposite action; sometimes it's doing nothing at all and letting it go).

Works wonders.
posted by Spiderwoman at 8:41 AM on December 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Tying shoes (my mind is usually already outside doing the thing that requires shoes).
Opening doors (mind is already in the other room doing the thing).
Climbing stairs (mind has already gone upstairs, gotten the thing, and come back down ready to use it).
posted by NotAlwaysSo at 9:22 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Greet the sun first thing in the morning, by that I mean let it shine on your skin and lift your face to it, experience the pleasure of placing yourself in real time. This does not have to be long, but long enough the act brings physical and emotional recognition of the gift of self, and the relationship of self to the local cosmos. Watch the sunset each day as well. Let that be the only thing on your mind at the time. Respect the act of living in your skin, in your time, and that it is good to be still, with yourself, and love your self, and feel the rightness of your right to exist. Smile for both the sunrise and sunset.
posted by Oyéah at 10:20 AM on December 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: One of the big meditation books talked about "stop and be present" at each stoplight or stop sign. I don't do it all of the time, but I do find it helpful when driving or biking (and I should do it more while walking). It's just taking in all of the sensory information as best to be present at that "stop". It helps me get out of my head (and often helps me appreciate more about the city on my commute).
posted by ldthomps at 12:32 PM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I adopted a stray cat. It's hard not to become more grounded when a cat is sitting on your chest purring.
posted by slidell at 1:57 PM on December 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: These answers are so good! Thank you! (I was worried I wasn't actually making sense....)
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:24 PM on December 27, 2017

Best answer: A Christian triptych that I picked up on a trip to Sitka, Alaska sits on a small shelf where I leave my keys. Every day, before I walk out the door to start my day and right when I come home, it serves as a reminder of a transcendent ideal, that I'm not the center of the universe, and that I've already been graciously provided everything I need in this life to live my purpose and pursue happiness.
posted by tackypink at 4:31 PM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is sad, but I have an app on my phone. It reminds me to breathe, and also takes me through a breathing exercise.
posted by Vaike at 5:48 PM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I also use a phone app, sometimes it's useful to have a technological reminder to abandon technology briefly. It's a lovely program and has done me much good.
posted by fish tick at 8:47 PM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I also subscribe to a Poem of the Day site. It's nice to get something in my inbox that wants nothing from me but a moment of awareness and feeling.
posted by slidell at 5:22 PM on December 29, 2017

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