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We hear so much about mindfulness and the benefits these days. Everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon. But is it a bandwagon? The reason I love mindfulness so much is because I was practising mindfulness before I had even heard of it. Everyday mindfulness is, for me, one of the most beautiful parts of this magical concept.

Long before Jon Kabat-Zinn formalised Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction as a therapy everyone was mindful, every day. If you have read my “About” page you will know that it was my Grandad Joe who introduced me to mindful living. He unknowingly passed on almost all of the skills I now use while taking walks through the countryside, camping or whittling a stick. He taught me about the seasons and the importance of being present. Listening to the sounds around you. Eating slowly and really tasting your food. Stretching and looking after your body. Sitting quietly in nature. Grandad Joe was a zen master.

Grandad Joe
As I grew older Grandad Joe taught me about nature; the names of birds, trees and flowers. He taught me about foraging and how to fish (which I hated, because I couldn’t kill the fish and panicked if they didn’t swim away immediately!). We spent hours talking and making things out of wood; walking sticks, bows and arrows and even a doll’s cot for my sister.

Practical, physical work necessitates mindfulness.

If you get distracted while using a saw or a hammer you are probably going to hurt yourself. If you are whittling a stick with a penknife and you don’t pay attention it hurts. Our ancestors had no choice but to be present, be mindful.

I adored Grandad Joe, he was such a gentle, kind man. He oozed wisdom and calm. He could be stern when he needed to be too, but to my sister and I, and all his grandchildren, he was the original BFG. 

 

Grandad Joe wasn’t alone though in his attitude. I think it was amplified by the fact he grew up in the countryside but I believe that mindfulness is only necessary since our lives became so busy, so filled with technology and so static. Previous generations didn’t need to be present, they had to be.

My grandmas were too busy baking bread, washing the clothes by hand, looking after the children, cooking, sewing and sweeping the floors to be thinking about what happened yesterday or worrying about what might happen tomorrow for too long. My grandads were too busy working manual jobs, gardening, building things and mending things they had to concentrate and stay present otherwise they would have been injured. 

Of course being mindful doesn’t mean you have to wash your clothes by hand and leave the conveniences of modern life behind but it is often in going back to a simpler time that we capture the essence of mindfulness again effortlessly. We escape the captivity of screens and remember to see the real world.

When I was in my twenties, just after I started teaching, I suffered from depression. The doctor signed me off for two weeks. I was heartbroken and relieved simultaneously. I was off work, but I wasn’t physically ill. Bored and not wanting to spend too much time in my head I decided to decorate the spare room.

It was the perfect remedy. When you paint a wall you have to concentrate on covering every bit of the wall with the paint, cutting in neatly and you are completely present. 

“Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing” 

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

Last weekend I revisited this magical therapy as I painted the children’s bathroom. I spent Sunday colouring lilac walls in with white paint. Not thinking about what jobs I had to do this week, not thinking about what we were going to have for dinner. We have a great arrangement in our house. I decorate and hubby cooks, not at all the 1940’s stereotypes that worked for my grandparents, but it works for us!

It was as calming as going on a retreat.

I have many little everyday mindfulness rituals:

  • Decorating
  • Baking – particularly bread, the kneading is so therapeutic
  • Gardening
  • Journaling
  • Crafting
  • Reading
  • Showering
  • Washing up
  • Cleaning

None of these things are in addition to my daily routine, they just seamlessly blend with my every day life. It isn’t always about what you do, it’s about how you do it.

Being mindful isn't about what you are doing, it is about how you do it. Click To Tweet

Drinking a hot drink, for me a cup of tea, is a great opportunity to be mindful too. I’m not suggesting for a minute that every cup of tea I drink I manage to drink mindfully. As I write this I am mindlessly sipping on my tea, but particularly on a cold day, there are few things as magical as really taking time to appreciate a nice warm drink. It is so comforting.

If you are unsure what I mean by mindfully drinking, try this:

  • Pick up your hot drink.
  • Feel the warmth of the drink in your hands, you can close your eyes if you like.
  • Now hold your drink up to your mouth but don’t drink, just let the steam warm your face and smell the drink.
  • Take several big deep smells of your drink and slowly breathe out as though you are cooling your drink.
  • When you are ready take a sip: Is it cool enough to drink? Feel the warmth of the drink in your mouth? Feel it moving through your chest and down into your stomach?
  • You can repeat these steps as many times as you like.

Whatever you are doing today, think about the jobs you do mindfully.

What jobs could you do in a more mindful way?

Simple everyday changes can make a huge difference to how you feel.

5 Mindful minutes

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