Mindfulness in daily life

 

Everyday special moments

One of my favourite times, when I am away at a residential retreat, is the early morning meditation. There is often a deep sense of stillness in the meditation room, while outside the birds are becoming increasingly active, and the light slowly transforms from almost black to a light grey and eventually into the golden light of dawn. For that first hour of meditation, there is nothing else we need to do except be present to the magic of the unfolding of a new day. It is so simple – we’re sitting still, the sun comes up, nature awakens to the day ahead – and yet it can feel very special.

Of course, everyday life is not a retreat, and the mornings can be quite hectic, especially if we a parent or caregiver who is assisting others with their morning routines. Yet the potential for a magical moment is always there, and every dawn is different, as is the bright light of the midday sun, or the sparkling glow of a gentle drizzle, or the vastness of the night sky. The opportunities for magical moments haven’t disappeared, but we are often too busy to notice them.

When we watch a movie, we know when a special, deeply meaningful moment has arrived – through the soundtrack, the camera work and lighting, the slowing down of the narrative, the close up of someone’s face or the wide-panning shot of nature. A romantic candle-lit dinner also re-creates some of these elements – hopefully the lighting is warm and dimmed and will soften our faces, the music is mellow yet gently stimulating, the food activates our sense of enjoyment, and there is no sense of needing to quickly get through the meal and onto the next tasks on our to-do list. Hopefully the evening will long be remembered as something which was very meaningful.

Holidays can also be full of special moments – and years later we might still remember the lunch with that spectacular view, the walk along a high cliff, the visit to a small art gallery full of unexpected treasures. What all these experiences have in common is the opportunity to spend time away from everyday tasks, while at the same time being deeply engaged with what is happening. This is why it can be more difficult to find these small moments of magic in our everyday life – when we do take a moment to pause in the midst of a busy day, our ruminating mind can often take over, and we may find we are not really present to the experience.

I have found that over the years of mindfulness practice, it is becoming easier, even when I have a lot on my plate, to occasionally pause, be present with a sense of wonder and openness, and notice what is happening around me. To me, this is actually one of the greatest gifts of mindfulness. It’s not that my whole life is one long moment of mindfulness, but rather that the opportunities to be present and appreciative can come even during days when I feel quite overwhelmed with how much I’m supposed to be getting done. This feels very nourishing, and I am very grateful to have these small but precious moments throughout my days.

Mindfulness practice idea:

Each day, take a few minutes out to pause, take a breath, and notice what is happening around you with a sense of openness and wonder. If your mind is very busy, try imagining that you have gone away for a mini holiday. Give yourself permission to be nourished for these few moments.

Anja Tanhane