Updated: Mar 1, 2019
As a lot of you know, about seven years ago, I was lucky enough to discover Mindfulness and I've been practicing it ever since. And no, that doesn't make me a sandal-wearing, peaced-out, patchouli-wafting waif (although I am partial to a Birkenstock). If anything, it makes me the opposite. I think it makes me more human. More real.
When I first started my mindfulness course I had just had my second baby and was struggling with post-natal depression. I have to admit, although I got the whole, 'non-judgement', 'being-in-the-moment' stuff in my head, I still couldn't help but freak out at the thought of giving up a whole thirty minutes a day to sit still and do, well basically, nowt. I mean, who does that?
Well, as it appears, rather a lot of people actually.
And now I'm one of them. Ok, ok, so not every day sees me indulging in the whole half-hour or longer. I'm more likely to whack on an app for ten minutes before breakfast and then go on my merry way. But that's just it you see - it helps me FIND my merry way. So that even if, in those ten minutes, what I'm noticing is that I'm really tense, my mind is rammed full of random shit and I can't shake the effing Horrible Histories theme tune, I find some merriment in that. I find some space from that. I smile at it and I allow it and I don't beat myself up for feeling any of it. Seven years of practice has got me that far.
These practices are the bees knees and should defo be done if at all possible. I mean, for every skill we want to learn we have to practice, right? I've even recorded a few meditation tracks on my You Tube channel if you fancy having a go. But something I learned very early on is that if sitting or lying down for a stretch of time is unachievable / unlikely / damn near impossible, then there's a whole host of other ways you can sneak mindfulness into your life.
If we take the definition of mindfulness as 'paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non judgementally' (thank you Mr Kabat Zinn), then we can find ways to be stealthy with it. If, like me, you're a parent, then you're familiar with the art of stealthiness (e.g. sneaking out of a sleeping baby's room / eating Kit Kats in the cupboard / pretending the wifi is knackered) and you can totally flex those covert skills.
It's probably easiest to give some real examples rather than get all preachy. So here are some ways I have sneaked mindfulness into a life I'm already living, over the last few days.
Mindfulness sneaked into . . .
- The massive mug of hot chocolate I made for myself before bed. The spicy scent of cocoa and cinnamon, the heat of the porcelain against my cupped hands, the creamy, dreamy satisfaction of it filling my belly. I mean, if you're gonna do it, you may as well do it consciously - am I right?
- My breath as I suggested yet again that my youngest Lad disentangle himself from the land of Fortnite to come and eat dinner. Slow, strong, sure and allowing oxygen to fill my body at a time when stress would typically steal it.
- The vigorous rendition of 'Don't Stop Me Now' by Queen that the Lads and I gave in the car travelling between their many, many social engagements. The glee in their little voices, the happiness in mine, the windows wound down and the spring air streaming through - not giving the tiniest little shit about how horrendous we might sound to the general public OR that we are late for swimming AGAIN.
- The rainbow reflection dancing on the surface of my sink as I washed dishes for the umpteenth time that day. It unexpectedly shone through a bottle of water I had on the windowsill and - no joking - erupted a massive, silly smile on my face that stayed there for the duration of the task.
- The huge hug I gave a sobbing friend on the street after the school run. I had to go to work and couldn't stop for long but mindfulness didn't care about any of that. Mindfulness only cared about my warmth, my presence, my breath and the purpose behind my eyes when I assured her she had the strength to get through the day.
- My attention as it rested on the total blueness of my oldest Lad's eyes - so wide, so clear and so handsomely framed by thick, black lashes. There I was, wondering how I created something so astonishing while he tried in earnest to convince me to buy him an electric guitar for the bazillionth time.
- The stream of sunlight that shot through the space between two buildings outside the Spar. And the moment I took to forget about the milk or whatever I was there for and to stop, sit my bum on a bollard it was clearly too big for, turn my face up to the sun, close my eyes and soak it up. Regardless of alarmed passers-by.
- The pause I took before hitting 'Buy Now' on a fashion website probably based in a faraway land with extortionate shipping fees just because I was bored for a second and fancied a new dress that probably doesn't look like that anyway.
- The cool, smooth surface of the kitchen worktop beneath my hands, the solidness of the ground beneath my slippered feet as I noticed the hot tears threatening to spill out because of a VERY long day topped off with two small boys refusing to eat the specially-fashioned cheeseburger / baguette hybrid that I had pioneered to avoid this very scenario.
- The pure relish I felt as I stood quietly on a hillside, looking out to sea with the Lads. Dropping all the worries about getting home in time to make a dinner they probably (definitely) won't eat and instead feeling the breeze on my skin, hearing the birds call to each other, watching the clouds roll by and the sea lolling lazily back and forth.
The list could go on and on. And, just to tip the scales here, I probably also have list of all the times mindfulness has NOT been around to save the day. But hey, I'm only human right? And sharing that particular list isn't going to to teach anybody something they don't already know.
So if you fancy a dip into mindfulness, I'd highly recommend it. Find a group. Ask your GP. Get an app. My favourite is Calm but Headspace is very good too. If you live in South Devon then check out my What's On page and see what I'm offering at the mo. And once you've got an appetite for it, I've absolutely no doubt you'll be just as sneaky as me with it.
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