Guide To Living Mindfully
In case you’re confused this isn’t another post on mindfulness meditation this guide concerns mindful living. In mindful living the object is to live a more conscious life all of the time, not just during a 30 minute meditation session.
I’ve often thought about how people lived hundreds of years ago. They lived without many of the distractions of modern life, a simpler life. Much of what they did took a long time to learn, took more time to do and required deep focus and concentration. They didn’t think anything of it because all life was like this but they were practicing mindful living. We can glimpse it today when we play sport, paint, carve wood, or get in the zone generally. This state of being mindful is often associated with being in a state of flow.
Whilst these flow states are definitely mindful, we can also become mindful in daily living, we don’t have to set the bar as high as flow which can take hours to achieve. I’m going to provide a few personal examples from the last month and then hope you can find many more in your own lives:
- I’m out hiking along a cliff top trail listening to an audiobook. I’m enjoying myself but I decide I want to listen to the waves so I pull out the headphones. I notice a change as I walk along on my own, suddenly I feel that I’m placing my feet more accurately, I’m moving faster, I’m noticing the flowers by the path. I start to feel my body responding to the challenge, I feel more powerful, more at one with the trail. By focussing on just this one activity I’m walking mindfully and it’s wonderful and intense.
- I’m confronted by a huge pile of washing up after our family Sunday dinner, I start to try and talk myself out of doing it, maybe it’s the kids turn? Then I remember mindfulness. I decide to focus on doing the best job I can of the washing up. I stack the cleaned dishes carefully, I relish the warm water on my hands, the sense of progress every time a plate leaves the bowl shining. When I’m finished I want more, I clean all the counter tops and the burners. When I finally finish the kitchen is gleaming. Even the most boring task done well, with full attention, mindfully, becomes very enjoyable.
- Every time I look at the strawberry beds in my garden and see the new shoots trying to push their way through last years rotting leaves, covered in snails, slugs and spiders I turn away. Finally I can’t ignore it any longer. I get a kneeling pad and tell myself it’s time to do a fantastic job. I start small, carefully cutting away the old leaves and clearing all the debris away around the first plant. After a few minutes I’m left with only new life and clean soil. I keep going slowly, plant by plant, savouring the progress. When I’m finished my heart swells a little with the pride of accomplishment and I imagine the joy I’m going to have tending and finally eating the strawberries.
- Debbie and I go out late at night into the sand dunes, there’s no one about only a starry sky for company. We wait quietly for the International Space Station to go overhead, when we finally catch it on the horizon my heart jumps. We watch it avidly as it slowly glides across the blackness and fades out of sight. Better than any TV. Being one with nature, able to focus totally on just one thing is mindfulness.
We can go through life trying to cram in more and more experiences, buying new things, more thrills, ever more extravagant gestures and meals, this is modern life’s attempt at happiness. Alternatively we can go back to our roots, we can be content with what we have, we can focus on and enjoy every step we take, every task we do. We can take pleasure in making progress every day, in nurturing and caring for what we have, rather than just buying anew. This is mindful living, it doesn’t need to be confined to a few events like the ones I listed above, the more you practice the more mindfulness becomes your default experience.
Mindfulness meditation helps in establishing the quiet mind that’s necessary for mindful living, but finding your own examples, like those above, is all that’s really required. Each time you experience mindfulness try and soak up the feeling, so you don’t forget how great it is and can recall it when needed.
Next time you are bored, stressed or tempted to spend lots of money trying to buy happiness, go and do the washing up instead!
Todays photo is of three lovely ducklings exploring the tow path by the side of Nottingham Canal. I spent 10 minutes sitting and watching them just being mindful, totally in the moment. I wanted to burn the cute memory deep into my mind, now available to me at any time.