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Are you paying attention?

What is your recipe for getting back on track?

My daughter arrived home from school the other day and said “Mum, I really loved my lunch today.” This is not something I hear regularly from my children. My daughter went on to say that she had enjoyed the breadroll and it was really fresh and delicious. I thanked her, still a little bemused as compliments regarding any meals at our place are pretty rare.

At the end of all these compliments I finally got to the bottom of this discussion when she said, “did you mean to put anything in the breadroll.” And there it was, I had sent her off to school with a roll in her lunchbox without any filling, no salad, no ham or chicken or even vegemite – just a roll. What do I coach people in all day – mindfulness! Yet obviously in my own life autopilot seemed to be winning.

What a great reminder for me about actually becoming present in my life. Because of course the empty bread roll is just a symptom, just a sign that I am moving way too fast to really being available in my life. Not noticing things in my life, obviously, I did not notice that the filling was missing. If I was missing this fairly obvious thing what are the more subtle, things that I might be missing as well? Maybe I am not showing up for conversations in a way where I can hear the nuance? Maybe I am not available to really hear about how the school day went? Maybe I am moving too fast to notice that there is something going on for one of my colleagues, my mother or my friends?

One of my values that I hold very dear to my heart is generosity but how can I be generous when I am not noticing what is in front of me? I saw this clearly from the bread roll that I obviously did not notice had no filling; in fact not filling the bread roll was certainly not generous. To be generous and to notice means I need to be present I cannot be operating on autopilot. There are a number of things I now know help me to regroup when I am moving too fast and when I am not present in my life. I can sit on my deck for ten minutes to look at the trees, walk with my dog and really look at what is around me or I can take the time to play uno with my kids. When these things are happening I almost immediately feel the impact of how I then move through the world. I move a little more slowly and a lot more mindfully.

The empty bread roll was an SOS for me that I was not noticing my life and as a result I was not able to be generous with the people in my life. When we are operating in autopilot people do notice, certainly my daughter did. That is what her question was really about, she was really asking why aren’t you here Mum? Her question was the reminder I needed to reroute. But what can you do if you don’t know how to get back on track? I have always found journaling even for a just a short time is a great way to problem solve, to hear that inner voice that knows clearly who I am and helps me to find my way back. I find it much easier to hear this voice when I am free writing, all the other distractions seem to fade into the background. Sometimes I might use a prompt like, “how can I be generous today” or I might ask, “What do I need to do to pay attention to in my life.” I now have a bit of a recipe that helps me get back into my life when I see the “bread roll” signs. If you do not have that recipe maybe five minutes of journaling will help? 

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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