Developing a mindfulness practice is a wonderful and liberating thing to do. It is easy however to fall into the trap of thinking mindfulness is something else we have to fit in to our busy day. It is not. Practising mindfulness can range from short or long periods of silent meditation to the occasional ten seconds when you simply remember to feel your feet and notice the rhythm and movement of your breath in your body.
Imagine you are sitting in a quiet place somewhere out in nature. You are completely safe from harm. Your body is comfortable and relaxed. There is nothing you need. You are not troubled by thoughts about the past or worries about the future. All of your awareness is taken up with the experience of Being in this place in this moment. You sense yourself breathing, the movement of your body rising, pausing, falling and resting, rising again, maintaining a steady effortless rhythm.
You feel blood moving through your toes, a feeling of solidity in your legs, maybe a little twinge in your knee, tingling in your fingers, warmth in your arms. You move your attention to sensations in your belly. Perhaps you feel a sense of calm spaciousness there. You tune into what you sense in your heart. Perhaps a sense of fullness and joyfulness at simply being alive.
You notice the subtle movement of your mind, supporting your travelling awareness, making small adjustments to the direction of your attention when needed, away from thinking and back to the experience of Being. You sense your arms and legs, your belly, the gentle movement of the mind, the soft beating of your heart and the rhythm of your breath.
Imagine you feel your bottom on the ground, helping you to feel connected to the earth. You experience yourself as a pulsing organism, pulsing with vital energy in unison with all living creatures, with the ebb and flow of the oceans, the rushing of the rivers and the trickling of the streams, the blowing of the wind, the crackling of fire, the silent growth of plants and trees and the deep but delicate vibration of the totality of Being. You experience yourself in this moment as the universe experiencing and observing itself through you. You are aware of yourself as a spontaneously unfolding embodiment of pure Being.
“Well this all very well,” I hear you say “but I don’t have time to sit in a meadow watching my breath and communing with the universe”. Fair point! Ok, so how about this?
Imagine you are a commuter on the train. You are sitting in your usual seat, opposite the same person, on the same train you always take. You sense into your body, your arms and legs, your belly, your heart. You notice an uncomfortable ache in your lower back so you adjust your posture to make your body more comfortable. You notice your heartbeat is a little fast and you are mildly out of breath, having run to catch the train before the doors closed on you. Your mind tells you that your heart rate and breathing will return to normal within a minute or so there’s no need to panic. You take a few deliberate breaths to help with this.
You move your attention to what is going on around you. You notice the older woman opposite is reading a Margaret Atwood. You notice yourself wondering if it’s any good and your mind becomes preoccupied with thinking about the fact that you still haven’t returned the Yalom novel your friend lent you last year. You notice you’re getting caught up in pointless self-recrimination so you make a note in your diary to find the book and return it.
You bring your attention back to your breath. You notice it has returned to normal. You close your eyes for a few moments and sense into your arms and legs. Yes, they’re still definitely there. Your toes feel a bit cold but you know they’ll warm up by the time you get to the next station. You look out of the window and watch the countryside rushing past. You notice that almost all the trees have lost their leaves as winter approaches. You suddenly have a sense of yourself, sitting on a train speeding through the countryside; a sudden sense of yourself located in a particular place at a particular time. You experience a moment of awe at the extraordinary nature of everything.
This is interrupted by screams from a child further down the carriage. You notice a feeling of irritation about the intrusion. You experience some agitation in your body and the muscles in your face tense up a bit. You notice wishing the child would be quiet and then you feel curious about how come this is bothering you. You focus on the experience of irritation in your body and the thoughts you are having about it. You realise that you were enjoying the moment beforehand and wanted to continue feeling that sense of wondrousness. You remind yourself that that wondrousness is available to you in every moment in different guises and you begin to notice the wondrousness of the child’s joy at his mother’s funny faces. You notice a melting warmth in your heart at the beauty of their connection. You feel a powerful sense of gratitude for the gift of being alive and experiencing this moment.
This is an extraordinary experience of Being on an ordinary day.
It is unrealistic to expect that we can be present all the time or even much of the time, especially when we are starting out. All that is really required is to simply pay attention, even for just ten seconds, to whatever is already happening. Nothing to change, nothing to achieve, nowhere to get to. In ten seconds, we can feel our feet on the ground, notice our breath and do a quick check in with our belly and our heart. This brings us into the moment, gives a brief break from the mental chatter and reminds us that there is another dimension beneath the everydayness of things.
While initially this can seem like an added pressure, with practice (ten seconds, thirty seconds, a minute here and there), we begin to notice that things feel more real, time slows down, we become more effective and we feel a greater sense of both aliveness and ease.
So there is no need to add mindfulness to your to do list. Instead I suggest bringing gentleness and curiosity to the seemingly mundane and letting yourself discover a sense of awe and wondrousness in the everydayness of things…