Mindfulness seems to be the new buzzword around the Internet and it is even creeping into everyday life like some new fad that is going to change our lives and make us somehow happier.
I have to be honest, when I first started reading about what mindfulness is and how it can change people’s lives, I didn’t believe it for a moment. The concept is so simple and incredibly easy to understand and practice that it cannot simply be that good.
Or can it?
First let’s look at what mindfulness is and just as important, we will also look at what it isn’t.
Mindfulness is about being aware; being aware of your current circumstances at any given moment. Okay, so I’m aware I’m sitting here writing this article. And? No, it is a little more than that. Not much, but simply knowing you’re doing something is not enough.
One of my favourite foods is toast. I am a real sucker for nice bread and real butter. If you ask any of my caregivers, they’ll tell you I am fussy. I don’t like soggy warm bread. I equally don’t like dried-up burned toast. It has to be somewhere in the middle and buttered while hot and evenly without missing the corners.
How hard can it be? Seriously, I have had so many different examples of what people perceived to be toast that simply don’t resemble anything of the kind.
Getting back to mindfulness, one morning having been given a nice wholemeal piece of toast, I set about eating it mindfully… `doing one thing and becoming totally aware of what you are doing without other distractions’. How many times have you eaten your breakfast, drunk your tea, without even realising or tasting it as it went down? Well, that’s normal.
On this occasion, I decided to eat my toast and become completely absorbed into everything that was going on in that moment. Not only did I have in my hand wholemeal bread that was a result of farmers, bakers and years of perfecting recipes, but also butter and everything that went into that as well. It all came together in this moment to give me that taste that I so enjoy.
Okay, you’re now thinking I’m crazy or mad. You’re probably right, but, try it.
Even better, try to be unhappy and miserable while you are enjoying it.
Another example that I remember so vividly but completely unaware of why it is still so significant today is when I was first pushed in my wheelchair outside the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Unit to breathe in the fresh air after almost six months of being in bed. It was 23 years ago and I still remember the coldness even on a relatively warm day in my nose from each breath. In that moment I don’t think there would have been anything that would have crushed my spirits. To many, that is an ordinary moment, but, it was made extraordinary because of the importance to me at the time.
We don’t need to wait for the moments to become important to start to enjoy them.
Now, the next time you see a sunset or take a bath, do it mindfully so you can be present. With gratitude, enjoy the moment for everything amazing within it.
We spend so much time worrying about the future, thinking or discussing the past, while taking no notice of what is actually going on in the moment.
Try really enjoying music and having a conversation. I rest my case, although before I go and let you at least momentarily do something mindfully, I would like you to know how much it will change your life if you can just do this a few times a day. Suddenly you will become more grateful and you will see the joy in the most mundane and normal things we do.
Now I truly understand the quote by Friedrich Nietzsche… “ and those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
For many years I thought I was different when I saw the extraordinary in the ordinary, but now I realise I was just seeing gratefully for what is real.
If you become more mindful, I can guarantee you will be happier.
Updated for 2023