Mindfulness is everywhere we look at the moment; I feel that it has been commodified excessively, do we really need an app to remind us to pay attention? I’m not judging you if you do merely asking you to think about whether it is necessary. I teach mindful meditation so I am a fan, but I am also a great believer in finding your own way to do something. Being mindful crept up on me slowly; an organically evolving concept that stealthy edged its way into my daily life and has become part of who I am rather than what I do. Reading the books, listening to the podcasts and attending the classes had taught me how to do mindfulness but it was only after one ordinary Monday experience of living with heightened attention that mindfulness became integrated into my way of being. This is what happened…
I didn’t wake with the intention of paying attention; it crept up on me as the sun shone into my bedroom showing up the cobwebs that accumulated above my head; the benefit of not doing thorough housework. As I made my way to the kitchen the wooden floor beneath my bare feet felt as if it had been buffed in the night, I noticed a light sheen and a certain softness. Then tea tasted fresher than usual. The colours brighter. Perhaps I should pay attention to this? And so I decided to see what it would be like to spend the day in heightened awareness, to practice mindfulness at all times.
It was a fairly ordinary Monday, chores to do, admin to catch up on; I wanted to make a cake but nothing that arduous. I was going to be alone for most of the day and I choose not to have any distractions from the radio or internet. It was warm enough to have the doors open and hang out the washing, a task that took a while longer than normal as the clothes smelt extra good, the plastic pegs more fun. As I noticed everything going on in my garden it was as if I had opened my eyes of the first time. In meditation class we are asked to come out of the practice with a sense of having no previous knowledge of the space we inhabit. By 11 am on my mindful day I was taking in information from my senses that I had never been aware of before. And in doing so time slowed down. The simplest task took on new meaning. Washing up was a sensuous experience of bubbles, and light ,and warmth, sweeping the floor a swishy dance with the broom, the touch of the magazines as I created orderly piles left me bemused that I hadn’t noticed how ‘paper’ felt. My mind, my feelings, my sense of edges and space became sharper on one level and totally blurred on another.
The afternoon got tripper. I decided to go out into the sunshine to the park, which took quite some time as I felt the need to keep stopping and smiling. I’m sure anyone watching me would have been convinced drugs were involved. By this point in the day I had lost any idea of ‘trying’ to be mindful I was living in the zone. Absolutely ‘out there’. I was experiencing a sensation of floating along whilst being in complete control of where I wished to focus my attention. London has some amazing outdoor spaces. On this particular autumn afternoon my mindset and the light combined to create a paradise.
I have read a little about ‘Bliss Fields’ and that is the nearest expression I can find to articulate how I felt as I lay on the grass and meditated. I could have stayed here for eternity. It all sounds so ‘New Age’ but I am a grounded urban reality dweller, all be it a Pollyanna-ish one. I was never one for drug taking, but if I could bottle this day I would, just so I could share it with anyone in need of an instant happy fix.
I meet my husband and daughter for a glass of wine in the early evening and aimed to explain to them my ‘enlightened’ day without sounding too whacky. That didn’t work of course….. they just think I’m odder than usual. And I did notice that although the first glass of wine tasted rich and delicious by the second glass the edge was wearing of my heightened awareness and I felt as if I was coming back down to earth. I felt quite like Alice in Wonderland; I had eaten the cake marked ‘HAPPY’ but discovered I could deflate back to ‘NORMAL’ with the help of a glass of red. Lesson being if you want to stop feeling blissfully happy knock the edge off joyful emotions with alcohol!
The next day it was business as usual. I didn’t feel any kind of come down, any remorse that I was no longer ‘open to the elements; life felt good, as it does most days with ups and downs, light and shade.
I don’t have the vocabulary to do justice to these feelings. I would almost rather not commit this day to words but I don’t want to forget. I did take photos all day to attempt to capture a visual story. I suspect it will be a while before I can capture the essence again. It has encouraged me to notice more every day. Mindfulness has become more integrated; I am just doing it, being it. I smile more, analyse less. The slightly out of mind and body way of being that day was a mini break that I think has changed my perception of the benefits of mindfulness. I still achieve ten minutes of focused daily practise of mindful meditation and schedule a mindful day once a month where I can reach my bliss fields. However it’s not the panacea to everything, I still have days of sadness, in fact I may experience my sadness even more acutely than before in paid attention so intensely. One of my concerns around the cult of mindfulness is that it may well be harmful to some people and there is evidence to support that it is not advisable for everyone. I can imagine that at times in my life when I was depressed, rather than sad, being mindful could well have tipped me into a place in my head that would not have been helpful. So if you are thinking of adding more mindful attention to your life please be aware of your own mental health needs and if you have experienced problems in the past please take care with any practices which encourage you to feel more. If you are thinking of joining a class or group to learn more about mindfulness ask the tutor about their views on ‘mediation for all’ and if in doubt don’t is the advice I give to participants who enquire about my mindfulness groups. I love the benefits of being mindful but paying attention starts with being most aware of your own inner self. Listen to your heart and your mind will know what it needs.
Originally published at medium.com