First time, last time - A practical way to get out of a rut

After meditating for a few years, I realised I had fallen in a rut. I was running on a (peaceful) autopilot. I don’t remember how I hit on this practice, but it rejuvenated my meditation and I started using it for other times when I felt like I was in routine or bored and it really helped. It harnesses the benefits of being ‘mindful’ but gives me a route in, rather than connecting to an abstract or mind-y concept.

The Practice

First Time/Last Time is so simple I can’t even believe I’m describing it. It can be applied when you’re going to a situation where you think you know what to expect, or something routine like getting on the bus, having a meeting, making dinner, hanging out with your significant person.

Here’s how I do it.

First time

Imagine this is the first time you’re doing this activity.

What would you notice if this were the first time?

What would you be feeling if this were the first time? (I’m an inveterate starter, so the first time doing something is exciting to me!)

What leeway would you give yourself in terms of expectations if this were your first time?

Last time

Now imagine this is the last time you’ll ever do this.

What care would you give this activity if this were the last time?

What would you feel if this were the last time? (I often feel a kind of fond nostalgia…)

How much effort would you put in if you know you’d never do this again?

First time/last time

Can you allow both of these possibilities at once? What if this were the first and the last time you ever did this? What if it were the only time?

What would you notice if it were the first and last time?

What would feel if this were the first and last time?

What freedom is there in letting this be the first and last time you do this?


The thing is, there is more than an element of fundamental truth about all three steps. It is the first time you’ve done this activity, today, in this way. It is the last time you’ll do it right now, in this way. And one day, it really will be the last time! Either because you stop doing it, or because you’re not doing anything anymore.

At different times, this practice can freshen my approach, supply me with more energy, reconnect me with my body and allow an escape from sleepiness.

Where in your life are you doing things on autopilot?

This practice was just published in an edited form in Street Smart Awareness, a really accessible book on really grounded practices for developing wisdom in the moment.