Many of us spend at least a couple of hours per day on public transport like bus, train or underground (for me it is around 2.5 hours).

How could we use that time to develop right mindfulness?


5 Answers 5


When im taking public transportation i also like to read a book, write messages on mobile phone, look at people or look out of the window.

I try to be mindful in all those activities. I think that when one is guarding oneself with mindfulness then its not important what activity one is doing. One can read a book and be mindful about the activity of reading. If mental formations arise then one can be mindful of them, note them and return to the reading.

If doubt arises e.g. if one is worrying whether or not one is trying to escape the present moment by reading or being on the mobile phone then one can take that doubt as an meditation object. One can note the doubt a couple of times and then return the ones primary object of meditation. If the doubt keeps arising again and again one can then leave the primary object and then take the doubt and make that the primary object of meditation.

As long as one is mindful of whatever arises and ceases then one is practicing the "right mindfulness" factor of the Noble EightFold Path. Here is a description of Right Mindfulness by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi:

"The mind is deliberately kept at the level of bare attention, a detached observation of what is happening within us and around us in the present moment. In the practice of right mindfulness the mind is trained to remain in the present, open, quiet, and alert, contemplating the present event. All judgments and interpretations have to be suspended, or if they occur, just registered and dropped."

And here is the book "The Noble Eightfold Path" by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi.

You might check out the chapter IV: "Right Mindfulness - Samma Sati" to get a fuller description of it. Its very well described.

Another thing i would like to mention is the obstacles to meditation and the practice of being mindful of the present moment. This teaching is called "The Five Hindrances". You might have heard of them. They are what keeps one from developing in meditation. They are briefly:

  • Sensual Desire (kámacchanda)
  • Aversion or Ill-will (vyápáda)
  • Sleepiness – sloth (thina), torpor (middha), sluggishness
  • Restlessness – worry about the future, regret of the past, anxiety (uddhacca-kukkucca)
  • Doubt (skeptical doubt) (vicikicchá)

Here is a book called "The Five Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest" by Ven. Nyanaponika Thera and here is a great audio dhamma talk on the five hindrances by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi - Part 1 and Part 2. The dhamma talk really goes into depth of the hindrances and how to overcome them. When one gets to know the 5 hindrances as the inside of ones own pocket then one is well equipped to meet those obstacles.

May this be of some help to you.



I too am on public transport for a reasonable part of the day. When I look around at my fellow passengers it's always notable to me how many are not present. The majority of people are on phones, checking social media, listening to music, flicking through a newspaper, doing anything but being present. It is rare to see people just sat there. This isn't to judge these people - commuting is tough particularly on some routes and people do what they feel they must do.

But it's not just other people. I do it - listening to music, checking the phone etc... Recently I've challenged myself just to let go of these crutches to my commute. I don't listen to music etc.. etc.. I just sit there. I try to take notice. I wait and see what crazy thought pops into my head and try to spot where it came from. I try to be aware of my fellow commuters. I sometime play a game with myself where I wait and see how long it takes before I get bored. I never get bored. I get restless, frustrated but not bored.

Right now this is a good practice for me. My life is busy but I just add to it. There are moments in the day when I can take in a bit less information - commuting is one of them. Guarding the sense doors is an important (and difficult) practice for me. I truly believe that it's improved my mental state and is having a positive effect on my meditation practice. It's all conditions and if I spend my commute pumping extra information into my mind it's not surprising that at the end of the day I feel like I've poisoned my mind.

This answer is just my personal experience but I hope it's of some interest to you. Good luck with the practice on your commute.

  • Thank you . I always read books on my iPhone when travel , mostly Dhamma books (meditation etc. ) . But still is this again an escape from present moment ? Would it be more benificial for me to note mental factors or aware about body posture when travel ?
    – nish1013
    May 15, 2015 at 4:36

1st lets analyse the situation:

  • There will be a lot of distraction like sounds, sites, chatting if with a colleges, reading, etc.
  • If you are standing you have to keep your balance
  • If you are the driver you have to be mindful of the road and everything around you

So the risks associated with the situation:

  • Your mind will wonder into an object and you loose awareness
  • Developing sloth and toper (especially in the case you are the driver)
  • Not been effective at multi tasking to better utilise the time, like mediation while driving, chatting, doing a piece of work on your laptop, reading, etc.
  • missing your stop

What is not conducive in such a situation:

  • trying to keep your focus on one object if you are a beginner
  • practices which might make you sleepy
  • practices which might be prone to you loose your awareness

Also key ingredients of the right type of mindfulness you have to develop (as per Buddha's instructions in the Maha Satipatthana Sutta):

  • on one or more of the 4 foundations of mindfulness
  • aware of arising and passing or the constant thorough understanding of impermanence or clear compensation
  • inside and out side piercingly and penetratingly (examining elements and sensation arising in internal organs also)
  • diving and dissecting
  • devoid of craving and aversion or strongly equanimous
  • working at the experiential level

Now lets work out the strategy which will be effective in the situation mitigating the risks.

  • Satisfy the natural tendency of the mind to jump from object to object as you are among distractions. (Changing objects, multiple objects - anchor and secondary and tertiary objects)
  • Since there is chances of distraction try to change objects systematically with sustained and applied thought to do this in the chosen manner - e.g. scanning the body
  • Make sure you have sustained and applied through on 1) some wholesome object 2) without loosing awareness, so you do not get sleepy. Again scanning the body is good. May be having an anchor or secondary object or tertiary object is good,
  • have a anchor point while scanning. Use the breath or some sensation like your lips touching or just the upper lip. Having more objects mean that chances of loosing your awareness
  • With regard to distractions object > contact > conciousness > Feeling > Perception > volition > thinking > pondering of each of the sense door. Try to catch the train at the stage of Feeling > Perception > volition > thinking > pondering, but earlier the better. When a distraction comes 1st be are of it. Perception > volition > thinking > pondering stages also has sensation associated with them. So look at them. Make sure you are not taking craving, clinging or averse to any of the sensations. Look closely to see the sensations with the awareness of arising and passing (or the constant thorough understanding of impermanence or clear compensation). If it does not pass be aware of the sensations and continue scanning (come back to the anchor and then continue scanning if you are doing this). If the sensations seam to be lingering for some times let go of the sensation and pay more attention to the are you are scanning.
  • if you are doing a piece of office work, studying, reading, driving, etc. this causes sensations as there is mental activity involved. Keep your mind steadfastly on this sensations. If driving keep your focus on sensation around your eyes, ears, head, perception of what might happen, etc. but consciously switch objects so you do not get drowsy.

I hope this helps.


Living in the present moment is the core of Right mindfulness. A person should always live in his present moment without regretting/ cherishing the past or planning/ fearing the future. We can always practice that while doing our daily chorus. I once heard a monk preach during a dhamma deshana that an old grandpa can practice this right mindfulness while he is going to pick his grandaughter from the pre-school. He can think with each step he takes that he is walking & can concentrate on the people & obstacles on the path before him. This will keep the old grandpa out of accidents & train his mind to work according to his will. Maybe you too can use that 2.5h journey of yours to forget office work & household work & just live in the present. Maybe then you will notice something new each day on the daily route. Enjoy the everyday ride. May the nobel triple gem bless you.


It can be difficult to focus on what is going on around you on public transportation. I prefer to engage in focused activity that is more enjoyable to engage in, such as listening to a podcast or music. Noise cancelling headphones help. I am still engaged in the present moment. But I choose which present reality I am focused on.

  • 1
    Could you clarify how this is an answer to the question, i.e. "How could we use that time to develop right mindfulness?" Maybe explain how your preferred activity matches your definition of "right mindfulness" ... or what right and wrong mindfulness are, or something like that.
    – ChrisW
    Sep 14, 2017 at 10:46

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