The baby is sleeping a little later these days which translates into a few hours in the early morning to use as I deem fit. Mostly, I walk around the house looking for things to do because, as we all know, I don’t relax well. But occasionally, I take some of those peaceful moments to be more mindful.
This morning I removed my grandmother’s citrus juicer from its sacred place, grabbed a basket of beautiful organic oranges (a gift from a neighbor) and proceeded to make myself a wonderful glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. This is important to share because I have a perfectly good, very expensive, electric juicer sitting just a few inches from where I spent my time in mindful meditation this morning.
“How silly,” you might think. “You could have had that orange juice in half the time if you would have used that overpriced kitchen gadget.” Yes, you are correct. But I also would have disturbed the quiet of the morning (the overpriced gadget is very LOUD), created a mess with five moving parts I find completely annoying to clean, and…I wouldn’t have looked up from my task to find two bunnies playing in the yard. There is something miraculous that happens when one decides to take the simpler route.
At first, deciding to be mindful can be challenging. But I’ve found in my personal journey to seek simplicity in all things that true mindfulness can be really cathartic. When our attention is diffused we might be aware of something, but not really focused on it. Like me, with the bunnies. I know bunnies play in the morning. I just didn’t know these bunnies played in my yard in the morning. Get it?
Another thing about mindfulness is that it doesn’t take a degree in rocket science to become proficient. Sure, some take it to the extreme and build a hut in the middle of New Mexico to sit for days in formal meditation. Others…well…we make orange juice. I’m just saying that mindfulness can take place informally with everyday activities. Here are some ways I have learned to be mindful – and I hope you’ll learn from these too:
1. Focus on one thing at a time. Corporate America would have us believe that multi-tasking is a skill we need to move up the ladder. In reality, the multi-tasking as it relates to productivity is a complete myth. Resist the urge to do several things at once. In other words: “When walking, walk. When eating, eat.” (Zen proverb)
2. Don’t rush. Remember the tortoise and the hare? Slow and steady wins the race. The same can be applied to making orange juice by hand or with an expensive juicer. Take your time. Be present. Move slowly. Relax and focus. It is hard at first. Keep trying.
3. Forget your to-do list. The less you do, the better you are. My ‘to do list’ became a ‘project list’ after the baby was born. I only attempt one project a day. This way I focus on one thing at a time. Yes, it takes me longer. That’s the point. I also do a better job. (Today’s project: Vacuum. That is quite an accomplishment when living with an infant.)
4. Be present when you eat. This advice comes directly to you from a woman who sits with an infant in her lap trying to cut her food and eat with one hand 90% of the time. Look, I never said I was a Zen-Master, so we all have things at which we can become better. I’ll work on it if you will. One last thought on this: research indicates that mindful eating helps one to actually eat less.
5. Savor your chores. When you become mindful in the daily tasks you really start to learn to notice things you have never cared about before (shall I mention the bunnies again?). I have started folding laundry in the quiet laundry room instead of sitting in front of the television. (Didn’t realize I had so many socks with holes in the toes. Also, my ‘unmentionables’ are looking a bit ratty these days which may explain…um…never mind). Mindfulness while preparing dinner helped me realize my kitchen design was completely wrong for cooking. I ended up moving my refrigerator, microwave, and all my cooking pans to different locations.
For all of you, I encourage you to just keep at it. Mindfulness takes time. Be gentle with yourself. Decide to be completely present for one task today. Just one. Your mindful task will eventually turn into a mindful day and from that…a mindful week. Finally, you’ll realize a mindful life. But you have to
start with something. Maybe with a glass of orange juice?
This week’s challenge:
Spend five minutes each day doing nothing. Be aware of your breath. Be aware of the tension in your body. Be aware of your thoughts…your feelings…your desires. Did you emerge from your five minutes with more insight? More relaxed? More aware of the aches and pains? Take a moment to let me know.
Announcing the March challenge:
We are invoking my infamous ‘white hanger theory’ this month at our home. We wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time. This means that, literally, 80% of the clothes in our closets are unnecessary. The white hanger theory works like this: Each time you wear something this month from your closet, rehang it on a white hanger. Do this for three months. In 90 days, you’ll see most of your clothes are not on white hangers. Decide with what you can part. Don’t have white hangers? Then try this instead.
Need more encouragement? See how others have taking the plunge and cleaned up their closet:
PSS…I started to use ‘amiss’ instead of ‘remiss’ but I knew my editor would shake her finger at me if I chose incorrectly. So I Googled it. See how her presence improves me? We all have someone who makes us better, right?