My husband is currently teaching a class on Mindfulness. Truthfully, though I hear him talk about the subject frequently and have a basic understanding of what mindfulness is, I have not been practicing it. Not well anyway. So this month when my husband began preparing to lead his class, I started picking the book he’s using up off the bedside table and reading along. And I gotta tell you it’s good stuff to read, hard to practice.
The first exercise Mindfulness: An eight week plan for finding peace in a frantic world had me do was to eat a raisin. But I wasn’t just supposed to eat the raisin, I was supposed to hold, see, feel, and taste the raisin. I was supposed to notice everything about the experience of eating a raisin. This was actually pretty easy to do cause raisins are pretty funny looking yet taste really good. I also did this in the presence of my kids who thought it was hilarious and came up with a million gross things raisins remind them of.
But when I moved on to the second practice of actually paying attention to the process of brushing my teeth, I was toast. I’d get about 10 seconds into the habit of brushing when my mind would flit to what had happened earlier in the day and then I’d remember, “Oh crap, I’m supposed to notice what it actually is like to brush my teeth.” I was aware briefly of the foaminess of the toothpaste and then bam, I was down a wormhole of distraction again thinking about all the things I needed to take care of the next day.
And that is basically the point of mindfulness. We live most of our lives distracted and unaware of what is actually happening around us. We miss so much.
One of the first steps in mindfulness is to wake up to our lives.
I was still struggling with this process when I took my hound dog mix on a walk today after the rain eased off. I left the house reminding myself to notice and pay attention to all that was around me instead of getting lost in my rambly thoughts as I so often do. Well guess what was the first thing I noticed when I looked around me? I was accompanied on my walk by none other than a mindfulness machine.
God bless the hound dogs, there is nothing they like better than sniffing. Well, except for lifting their legs to bless the things that smell best. My spotted buddy sniffed everything he could possibly smell. But his observations didn’t end there. His head cocked up at every dog that barked, every bird that chirped, and each car that cranked. He was taking in EVERYTHING.
After a while he inspired me and I began to really take in the birds as they sang their song set against a soggy slate sky. We noticed the cool, wet wind in our ears. We heard the trickle of rainwater as it fell down the runoff drains. There really was so much to wake up to.
Now I don’t know if my hound dog knows that his thoughts and feelings are just passing by like the weather. I am not sure if he knows the difference between “I feel lonely without you” and “I am lonely.” His big brown eyes don’t tell me that. But by golly his nose, ears, and tail scream “I am awake.” And thanks to him for a little while this morning, I was too.
*Stay tuned for more adventures in mindfulness.