Soul & Spirit’s Liz Frost connects her consciousness for one mindful day
Mindfulness is a term we’re very familiar with at Soul & Spirit, but with busy lives, like all of us, we often forget to practise it. So in the spirit of our March issue’s theme, I agreed to be completely mindful for a whole day. Here’s how I got on.
“I open my eyes at 6am to the sound of my alarm. It’s a sound I hear every weekday morning, but today is different; today I need to pay attention. I remind myself to check in with my body, limb by limb and notice the feeling of the duvet against my skin. I’m not sure I’ve ever registered how my bed actually feels, so I do some yoga stretches between the sheets to bring some energy to my muscles. Before long my four-year-old appears, sleepily rubbing his eyes. Pulling Albert close, I take in his biscuity smell and mentally prepare for the day ahead. Mornings are usually hectic in our house, with breakfasts, school bags, dressing, teeth and the inevitable dash out of the door to make the school run. I wonder if today will feel different.
Downstairs, with Albert enraptured by some cartoons, I set about making us breakfast. I normally multi-task, flicking on the kettle and flitting about the kitchen, getting other things done while it boils. Today I watch it, feeling, if I’m honest, a bit antsy about time ticking by and all the other things I need to do. Mindfulness guru Ekhart Tolle says multitasking is unconscious behaviour, so I try to absorb myself in the sound of the filaments clicking into life, the gentle bubble of the water coming to the boil. Next, I set about pouring porridge oats into a saucepan and… ‘Mum…’ It’s Albert and he wants apple juice, pronto. I stop what I’m doing and focus instead on the trickle of the juice and the gentle change in timbre as the plastic cup fills. Now, back to my porridge. How can I be mindful with so many distractions? I roll a dab of crystal-infused lavender oil on my wrists before I leave the house, to relax and soothe me on my journey.
Minfulness in play
As we leave the house to walk to the car, Albert veers off to stomp through the frosty grass. ‘Come and crunch with me, Mummy!’ he says and I realise that when it comes to being mindful, he could actually be my best ally. I stop walking and join him, enjoying the frosty breath coming out of my lungs and the noise as my feet compress the crispy grass. Less than a minute of crunching won’t make me late. I need to remind myself of this several times. My urge to get out of the door and on my way is overpowering.
At work, I look at my to-do list. Bam. There are suddenly a thousand things floating around my mind, vying for my attention. I have to focus and pick one to give my full attention to, but it takes a lot of effort. My way of concentrating involves distraction, I realise, as I jump up without thinking, to make a cup of tea, then to the loo, then periodically flit between my work and my emails. These are all automated responses of my busy mind, unable to keep still and lock in on one thing. I close my eyes for a moment and take a deep breath, before bringing myself back to the moment. I need to do this several times over the course of the morning. My brain is like Albert, wanting to race and flit and run. But unlike Albert, it wont be placated with the promise of a chocolate biscuit. I need to be the adult and rein it in.
At lunchtime, Sthiranaga from the Colchester Buddhist centre guides us through the Mettā Bhāvanā) meditation (try this for yourself on page 27). We’re in a meeting room and the chatter and noise from a next door meeting room is so distracting, it’s difficult to concentrate. After we’ve finished Sthiranaga explains that there will always be distractions, even in the most serene environment. The trick is learning to tune them out. It feels like a penny dropping.
Back at my desk I feel refreshed and strangely, I have a new perspective. I have been fighting against my errant brain all morning, reprimanding myself for my wandering attention, but maybe I need to take a different approach. Maybe I need to make friends with my naughty brain?
Finding stillness within
I make my tea and go to the loo and do all the distracting things I normally do, but I do them mindfully, one at a time, and then I sit for a moment at my desk and watch what my brain does. It wants to run and play and frolick. It wants to spark up conversation with Rosalind next to me, and plan what I’m having for dinner, all whilst humming the song that was playing this morning on the car radio. I sit and I watch and I let it go for a moment about its impish fun. It’s no fun without me along for the ride though, and soon, just like Albert, it runs out of steam. The last of the frantic thoughts trickle away and I’m left with a stillness that feels like pure bliss. Could I be finally getting the hang of this?
Later, as I collect Albert from pre-school, I feel present but tired. Mindfulness isn’t easy, it takes lots of practise and perseverance. But as I tuck him in bed and kiss him goodnight, I can’t help but feel I’ve squeezed a little bit more from my day than I normally would. More joy, more fun, more magic, and there’s nothing in this world that can’t wait a moment for a slice of that. Wouldn’t you agree?