If there is a number-one rule for mindfulness it’s this: Just do one thing.
One thing at a time.
There’s an old Buddhist story where a student asks a Zen Master: “How do you practice Zen?”
The master says: “When hungry eat, when tired sleep”
Student: “Well, isn’t that what everybody does anyway?”
Master: “No they don’t. When they eat they entertain all sorts of desires. When they sleep they dream all sorts of dreams.”
There are other translations to the “When hungry eat” story, but they all have the same essence. The point is that we are almost never fully present with our activities. It is only possible to be completely, utterly present with something when that thing is the only object of your attention.
We multitask often for the sake of getting things done. Sometimes, we may be able to do multiple things well, and get a lot done. But we are always robbed of our full presence when trying to entertain multiple thoughts, emotions, and actions.
Even when we don’t multitask, we often daydream. We may be cooking, but we’re thinking about our plans for later tonight. We may be walking to the bus stop, but we are thinking about work later.
Right now, I’m eating breakfast as I write this XD I’m violating the rule at this very moment. Hopefully my practice of presence is better when I walk to the bus stop, which now I’m thinking about. Staying with one thing at a time is one of the most difficult arts.
Another aspect of Buddhist life which serves as a reminder to focus on one thing is the practice of carrying something with two hands. To drive the point home to themselves, some Buddhists will make the effort to never carry two things at once. They will always carry one thing with both of their hands. They are fully present with the act of carrying something. That’s it.
We can fully give ourselves to an act if we choose to only participate in that one act for the time being. I try to do this after my yoga practice. I mindfully walk away from my mat. I pick up my clothes. I take them into the bathroom. I turn on the shower. I wash my body. I try to reduce my experience to each individual thing during the moment it’s happening.
Practiced enough, this mode of being can seep into the rest of our lives. We may spontaneously remind ourselves to be present for the moment; for the one thing being done.
Orient yourself to one action. For the moment, just do that one thing.