I want to catch your attention with the ordinary rather than the extraordinary in this blog. It may feel like meditation or mindfulness is some special or rarefied activity. Maybe you like it to be special. The right clothes, the right cushion, chair, posture, the right space may all be important to you and that’s fine. I met someone who had a little meditation retreat hut built in her garden and this was her sanctuary. People often spend time and money going off to meditation retreat centres in beautiful parts of the world. Again, this is a good thing to do now and again. I go on retreat at least once a year to deepen my practice with a concentrated period of meditation, contemplation and reflection.
But what if you don’t have time to do this? or the funds? Or even the inclination. Mindfulness has huge benefits to unlock in your life but it is a practice. You won’t get the benefits by just reading about it (even this blog), buying the right clothes/cushion, magazine or jewelry. You will only experience the benefit by actually meditating. Then it will change your brain and probably your life too.
So, what is everyday mindfulness and what are the “in between bits” of life? Mindfulness can be a moment, just a moment of being absolutely present. The mind opens with relief like a flower in the sun when it finds this presence. It is a mental-break, peace from the relentless chatter, busy-ness, planning and worrying of the mind. It is entirely possible to find that the mind is on the go all day, from the moment you wake up to the moment you fall asleep without giving you a moment’s peace or presence. How do you feel on a day like that? My guess would be mentally shredded and exhausted by it! Or maybe you are more the person who thrives on being busy, for whom stopping or slowing down means being left with your own thoughts and you don’t like that. Maybe status derives from being relentlessly busy. If you are 100% happy with that then you can stop reading now and get on with more productivity. What I keep in mind though is that at the end of life people do not generally say “I wish I had spent more time at work”, they say “I wish I had taken more time to experience the journey”.
When the late Nadine Stair of Louisville, Kentucky, was 85 years old, she was asked what she would do if she had her life to live over again.
“I’d make more mistakes next time,” she said. “I’d relax. I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been on this trip. I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would perhaps have more actual troubles, but I’d have fewer imaginary ones.
“You see, I’m one of those people who live sensibly and sanely hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I’ve had my moments, and if I had to do it over again, I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day. I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, and a raincoat. If I had to do it over again, I would travel lighter than I have.
“If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds and I would pick more daisies.”
Let’s think about the in between bits for a moment, where could they be? Try observing them just today. They are usually moments of inevitable pause, times of waiting. Waiting for the kettle to boil, waiting for the shower to run hot, waiting for the bathroom to be free, waiting for the elevator to arrive, waiting for the lights to turn to green, waiting for your turn at the checkout in the supermarket, waiting for the bus, train or tram. Waiting for the car park barrier to open, waiting for someone to answer the phone, waiting for your lunch to heat through in the microwave, waiting for the meeting to start, the dentist to call your turn, the rain to stop. Or the in between bits might be routine, daily activities like cleaning your teeth, shaving, applying your makeup or taking a shower. Instead of letting your mind race off to listing and planning why not take the time to just be present, experience what is going on in you and around you? As you stop to wait take note of your breath and feel it moving in and out of your body. Notice any tension building up in the body and breath into that part of the body, choosing to soften or relax there. Try just smiling and notice how the muscles of your face soften and rearrange themselves. In that tiny, in between moment become more present in your life. Live every moment, live more lightly.
Mel Wraight 2019