In the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, he often says that taking one step or one breath in mindfulness can bring peace right away. This might seem to imply that just doing this mechanically will yield that result, but I find this isn’t true. I think it is more accurate to think that we need to find a way to bring the peace that is already available within us to these activities.
Yesterday I had to do a number of things under some time pressure to file my taxes on time. There was a great sense of urgency, and the tasks I had to complete were a little bit complicated. Somehow I decided that I needed to be calm inside in order to do these things properly. I needed to breathe and take it slowly, despite the pressure of time, do every item on the list patiently and one thing at a time. Surprisingly, this task, one often fraught with some anxiety for me, actually brought me more peace than the meditation session I had just completed. It wasn’t just a matter of doing it in a mechanical way, but bringing a certain attitude toward the job at hand.
So, yes, take mindful steps, take mindful breaths, do tasks mindfully. But it is not enough to do this compulsively or mechanically. We have to find a way to bring the right mental attitude along with us.