Do you ever get to work in the morning and then realize you have no idea how you got there? You don’t remember any part of your routine that morning. You don’t remember showering, or when you were in the shower, you don’t remember washing your hair so it is either very clean because it was washed twice or dirty because it was not washed at all. You do not remember what you ate for breakfast. You do not remember kissing your husband goodbye and telling him to have a good day. You and your car are in one piece so you figure you must’ve stopped at red lights and braking traffic. It’s always a little disconcerting when this happens. And it happens because you are not practicing mindfulness.
I do these things all of the time. It is always a function of my mind being elsewhere. I am either multi-tasking, and not paying attention to the multiple things I am doing at once, or I am thinking about things other than what I am doing at the time. I am not being mindful in my everyday.
I recently took a seminar on mindfulness and one of the exercises we did was to eat a single raisin mindfully. We were encouraged to look at the color, shape and texture of the raisin. To smell its scent. To roll it around our mouth with our tongue before chewing. To chew it several times before swallowing. By doing this exercise, I really paid attention to how a raisin tasted. I realized how sweet it tastes. I realized that the texture is very bumpy. I learned that I really don’t need more than two or three raisins to be over them and not want eat anymore of them.
As a writer, I have to try and observe details of the world to enrich my writing. I find it hard and tiring to always be paying attention to the small things. I was challenged once to go out and simply walk around a shopping district of a town and observe details of people and places, using all five senses. I was supposed to take notes about the things I observed, the conversations I overheard, the way people walked and moved, the smells my nose detected. Other than feeling like a weird stalker spy, trying to surreptitiously watch people and take notes while standing on street corners, I found it to be fun. I noticed that the air smelled like chicken noodle soup when passing a restaurant. I overheard part of a conversation that included “I got to get rid of the back fat. Ain’t no way I can run with that cute top on.” I noticed that the tall man sitting across from me was wearing red suede tie oxford shoes to coordinate with his outfit of white skinny jeans and a red t-shirt (I guess his fashion guru told him that shoes that matched the color of his t-shirt was a debonair look). It ended up being a really fun exercise and one that at times I have tried to continue to follow because it made my day so much more enriching and colorful.
Lately, I am trying to practice mindfulness more often and pay attention to experiences and details in my life. There are certain habits I know that take me out of the practice of mindfulness, and multi-tasking is definitely my biggest enemy. One thing that I have been consciously doing is leaving my phone in my purse when I am in the car, especially when I am the driver. I already do not look at my phone while driving (that is a terrible and dangerous practice), but I do find myself checking emails or dashing off a quick text at stoplights. However, I have realized I do not drive anywhere for any length of time. Most days I probably stick within a 5 mile radius of home. So any message that needs to be addressed can wait until I arrive at my destination. Not only is this making me a more observant driver, but I have found I feel calmer when I remember to do this. At stoplights I am now taking a moment to breathe and to just practice patience.
This past Sunday, as I sat on the porch reading all of the important things on the internet like Facebook, email and general nonsense, my husband came out to join me. I took that as the opportunity to close up and set aside the laptop. We chatted a bit but then we just sat. I noticed that the ceiling fan spinning, making its loop to create a cool breeze, and the cicadas starting to gear up their cacophonous mid-summer evening song. I noticed that my body was still, my legs still felt like jello from my weekend workouts and my mind was still. I was not ready to leave that back porch despite having not eaten dinner and the clothes dryer was buzzing at me that the cycle was done. The peace and the joy from mindfully being in that moment was a lovely way to end the weekend, and start a fresh new week.
May you have some time this week to practice mindfully living life. –June
“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.” Jon Kabat-Zinn