“There is no enlightenment outside of daily life” – Thich Nhat Hanh.
“Living our life moment by moment allows us to put in our best effort and appreciate how fortunate we are”. Lama Zangmo
Since writing my previous blog called ‘Contrasts’ just two weeks ago, I have been doing the weekly challenge, which I proposed myself, of noticing life’s contrasts as they occur. I noticed that it became a habit and became ingrained into my daily life practice.
It was part of the process of writing that blog that life’s contrasts and how they make me feel suddenly occurred to me. And from this point a new way of life was born. At that time I didn’t realise quite what I was feeling. I wrote that I felt nothing when I looked out into the fog or at a blank page in front of me.
Having reflected on this somewhat and practiced some more, I noticed that there was a strange tightness within my chest with an expectation of something happening. Nothing translated as ‘something’ and ‘something’ translated as a pause in time almost pregnant with expectation. It felt like nothing and yet there was the promise of creativity, hidden potential and something stirring and a sense of hope. I suddenly recognised this as it coincided with the passing of the pagan festival of Imbolc – the awakening or ‘quickening’ of spring where a gradual transition of longer hours of daylight fill our days after the long dark nights of winter. Another contrast.
I then reflected on the ‘something’ and recognised a sense of aliveness that I hadn’t previously noticed. With this aliveness came sensations of softness in my body and the previous tightness (of nothing) dissolved. Yet there was also a sense of excitement which felt more like an energetic flow coursing through my body rather than anything else.
I don’t know whether it is the circumstance of lockdown creating a slower pace of life, or whether it is that I live in and spend more time in a rural landscape, but it seems I am becoming acutely aware of subtle changes in weather and the seasons.
The field opposite my house was filled with cows last year. They disappeared late autumn and I remember really missing their presence. There it was again; the something into nothing. I felt a real sense of loss when they went. Their presence was comforting somehow. Now there is something. To my delight the field has magically been filled with sheep, as if overnight. As if someone pulled a switch and turned on sheep. I notice a sense of aliveness again, not quite the same as with the cows, but definitely an elation and ease in my body.
The landscape has been rather bleak lately, with grey clouds and drifts of fog hugging the land, lots of deep mud and pools of water creating new ponds from the downpours of rain. This past few days I have noticed little green shoots peeping up through the soil in random places and around trees. Their presence reinforces the sense of hope and a joy begins to radiate at my heart. I spotted some snowdrops in the woods on my walk, again it seemed like someone had operated the snowdrop switch and there they were – pretty little things with their soft petals and welcoming presence, pert with purpose, yet calm in the ground.
In the mornings, the sunrise has bathed my bedroom with an orange light. Each sunrise provides a mindful reminder that this is another day, a precious day in my life that can’t ever be repeated. It is here and now. When it is cloudy I notice its absence, and the stark contrast, and how that makes me feel.
My observations have brought me to value the practice of bringing mindfulness into daily life. I am noticing a pulse in nature, the turn of the day and the energy of being fully aware and awake for the present moment. Thich Nhat Hanh describes it as becoming a continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment of daily life. ‘To be mindful is to be truly alive, present, with whatever you are doing’.
Every moment can be a mindful moment, where we embrace the precious moment in our lives whatever is happening, so we are fully present for it.
This earth is filled with a sense of wonder and by bringing a childlike curiosity to it I notice that I am seeing and sensing with fresh eyes.
Having spent some time with my 6 year old grandson last week, I became more aware of his connection with the earth. He is only ever mindful and in the moment and I have learned this from him from the time he was born. He has been one of my greatest teachers of mindfulness in daily life. I watched him timelessly and enthusiastically experiment with all kinds of ice which had been created by freezing temperatures in bowls, buckets, puddles, ponds and the most unlikely crevices and places. I shared his sense of wonder at the patterns and forms of ice.
He taught me to change from my tentative and irritated navigation along a very muddy path, to notice, fully experience and enjoy the splash, gloop noise and messiness of treading through the mud with a carefree attitude.
He taught me that it’s ok to be knee deep in sea water and how fun it is to race with the waves and see which wins. I learned that it’s ok to be out in the rain, or wet from the sea, or cold from the ice and that every moment was one to be experienced and treasured.
This renewed connection with nature and mindfulness in daily life practice has brought me gratitude and an aliveness and richness that I haven’t ever felt so strongly before. I am noticing everything.. and I feel as if I am only at the beginning of my mindfulness practice again. I can feel the excitement and anticipation of so much more to come.
In our Mindfulness Being Present Course we integrate mindfulness into daily life through walking and everyday tasks. We can become more mindful of how we feel as we go about our day. During our Responding with Compassion Course we cultivate a sense of gratitude for the things we appreciate in daily life. The course manual states that “We take time to notice and appreciate the simple things that bring us joy, like the feeling of the sun on your skin, the wind blowing through a tree, a bird perched on a branch, the smell of a spring blossom, the smile of a child, and so many other things”.
This integration enables us to fully experience each moment of our lives as it unfolds.
I shall leave you with Thich Nhat Hanhs quote on touching the earth which perfectly summarises how this new awareness has left me feeling.
“When we touch the earth, we become small, with the humility and simplicity of a young child. When we touch the earth, we become great, like an ancient tree sending her roots deep into the earth, drinking from the source of all waters. When we touch the earth, we breathe in all the strength and stability of the earth, and breathe out our suffering–our feelings of anger, hatred, fear, inadequacy, and grief”.
How does it feel to truly turn up for and experience every moment of your life? I invite you to set an intention to be as mindful and appreciative as you can for every moment for a whole day and see how it makes you feel. I would love to hear how you get on. Please leave me a comment after this post or write to me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jacky has contributed a chapter to the Mindful Heroes Book entitled “Turning Empathic Distress into Compassion – A Hero’s Journey for Family Carers”. You can hear an extract from the chapter where she talks about the results of her MSc Studies in Mindfulness on Compassion & Family Carers. You can download a free sample of Jacky’s chapter here.