It has been one of my aspirations for this year that I live a happier life, and many schools of thought (ancient and new) believe that one of the keys to a happy life is living in the present, or a sense of mindfulness. This is often a difficult thing for me. I have a little bit of anxiety and a tendency to worry.
This is not a new thing for me.
Those of you who have known me for a long time probably know that the movie Jurassic Park made me believe that there were Velociraptors behind the bathroom door. I was eleven when I saw that movie in the theaters. I was in sixth grade and I was afraid that dinosaurs were hiding behind the bathroom door. I was reliving the movie– a movie that I did not actually LIVE, but I only saw. Sheesh.
Back to mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the act of living in the present. Leo Babauta wrote an interesting post on zenhabits about mindfulness while cleaning the house that got me thinking today. Here is just a portion of it:
“As I wipe the counter, I notice the crumbs and dried spilled liquid. I feel the rag going over the bumpy surface of the counter, and gradually feel the surface smoothing out. I feel the tension in my shoulders and jaw, and relax them. I become aware of my breath as it comes in and goes out. I rinse the rag out carefully, cleaning it and watching the dirty water run down the drain.
This is practice for a mindful life. It is also life, already, not practice but the actual event. Wiping things down, mindfully, is just as full of wonder as any other moment in my life.
I do the same as I wash dishes, declutter my closet or shelf, wipe down the sink or toilet, sweep. Each moment I spend doing these things is joyful wonder, and I am grateful for the moment I’m in.”
He goes on to discuss the Principles and Guidelines that he uses to guide his practices (including gratitude, focus, and how to make things easier on yourself like “keep scrubbers nearby”). I could see many of these practices not only making your house cleaner, but also keeping your mind a cleaner place as well.
One of the most interesting and helpful pieces of advice that Leo Babauta gives is to rid oneself of distractions. Turn off the television and radio. It’s so easy for us to feel like we are living in the present, when really we are just listening to the radio yammer away. I find myself ruminating and reliving my past more often in the kitchen than anywhere else in the house because that is where I listen to talk radio. I used to listen to talk radio on my long drive home in the car, and guess what? I used to ruminate and worry the most there.
My place of quiet, present mindfulness is in the garden. When I read the post this morning on mindful simplicity, I realized that I had a place already where I was present consistently. When I go into my garden, I examine the soil’s consistency and see every root that comes out of the ground (or doesn’t come out of the ground). I notice when a cherry tomato has split open, or when a branch needs to be trimmed. I get down close to the earth and see the smallest bugs crawling around, and feel the tension of the soil against the stems of the plants as I try to prop them upright. I hear the birds as they call to one another over my head, and smell the ripeness of the peppers.
That is mindfulness.
As a reader and and writer, I am prone to living in the past and the future. I examine and re-examine the events of my life and the lives of others, and I want them to make sense. I want to put order onto the chaos and fight the entropy of yesterday and tomorrow and control the web. The funny thing is that with all of that fighting, one would think that the solution is to speed up. I’ve found that the best plan, at least lately, is to slow down and enjoy it. Find joy in watching the tomato slowly ripening on the windowsill.