Extending mindfulness is a type of training. How do we maintain our practice? Phakchok Rinpoche in this video teaching explains that we cannot begin by maintaining mindfulness for 24 hours. Extending is a skill that we need to develop. Right now, being mindful in every moment is beyond our capability.
Extending Mindfulness: Exercise–How to Begin
Then, we continue that reminding for a period–such as for a month or so. Allow ourselves to really get into a rhythm. But, you have to be honest with yourself–are you truly reminding?
Extending Mindfulness: Exercise–Increasing Effort
Then, we can remind ourselves to be mindful every half-hour. Try that for another month or so. And ask yourself–am I becoming more mindful? When you can answer honestly–“Yes! I really, am”–then you can remind yourself more frequently. Reduce the amount of time between reminders.
After some more training, we can remember every 15 minutes. We train that way for some time. Next we recall every 5 minutes. That means that every 5 minutes we are bringing our attention back! And we can congratulate ourselves–look how we are slowly improving! And then, after a period of time, we can reduce that time to every 1 minute. Gradually, maintaining mindfulness becomes easier and easier. And eventually, we won’t have to look at the clock to remember.
Rinpoche uses the metaphor of running to explain how we need to train. When we start running, we begin with a short distance. We don’t immediately run a marathon, do we? But, over a period of time, we can slowly build to longer and longer distances. Extending or maintaining mindfulness is very similar. Don’t be excited to go to fast–go slowly, and the progress will be smooth!