“Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child – our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” Thich Nhat Hanh
All too often we live in our heads: in our fantasies of how we would like to be, how we think we ought to be; in our judgements and criticisms about how we’re not quite good enough as we are; in our expectations of others and ourselves; in our fear, bitterness and anger; in our worries about the future and regrets about the past.
All of this means we’re never really living in the moment and experiencing life as it truly is, right now. Whatever stories are running through our minds, the world is still ticking along outside regardless. The birds don’t give a damn about our crises, they just keep singing. The stream just keeps flowing and the clouds keep on drifting through the sky. By becoming caught up in our stories, we are seduced by them and start believing them, and it becomes more and more difficult to step outside of our mind and actually notice what is happening around us.
Mindfulness is quite a buzz word at the moment, and for very good reason. The zen Buddhists have been talking about its benefits for thousands of years. My interpretation of mindfulness is being acutely aware of the present moment, and using all of your senses to fully appreciate all that it has to offer. Its beauty is in its simplicity. It can be practised at any time: eating, walking, meditating, doing yoga, gardening, running – whatever. It just means stepping outside the constructs of our mind and instead entering the realm of the physical and tangible; that which can be truly sensed right there, right then. For example, it could be taking a moment whilst outside to stop and really listen to all the sounds you can hear, feel the breeze and sunshine on your skin, smell the blossom, notice the colours that surround you. Or it could be really focusing on the flavours as you mindfully chew your dinner, fully appreciating each mouthful. Or it could be sitting and paying close attention to every aspect of your breath: its sound, texture, the sensations of warmth and cold it creates on your upper lip and nostrils and you breathe in and out.
Mindfulness is about finding the miraculous in every moment. It’s about coming back to earth from our self-constructed head-space, and appreciating the very miracle of being alive. Practising mindfulness is immediately and inherently grounding. Through mindfulness we come back to earth, and feel gratitude for its supportive, solid presence beneath us.