Getting started with mindfulness for everyday living

Starting anything – a new journey, a new practice, a new day or even trying out a new recipe – is a journey of peeking into the unknown with a trust in our self that we are open to the adventure of the journey.   We do this every day in countless ways that we are not even aware of most of the time.  We take the extraordinary act of living an ordinary life for granted.

Mindfulness brings back the joy of adventure in our daily lives.   With great tenderness and curiosity, we are invited to be present to every thought in our mind and every emotion in our heart regardless of them being pleasant or unpleasant.  Without judgment, we watch our selves start living our lives with grace and gratitude.

Hiking and walking in nature have offered me great teachings on mindfulness.  Today my lesson begins when I sit down to tie my shoes.  I am amazed at the awareness and knowing that teaches my fingers to pull the laces just right – not too loose to come undone and not too tight to constrict my feet.  It has come from learned habits formed in childhood.  There is wisdom of the mind and the body that knows how to take care of me.  I don’t’ even have to think about the pressure on the laces, my body and mind know what they need.

And yet, so many times, when I have been in a hurry and not paying attention to the simple act of tying my laces (often thinking ahead to the hike and the trail instead of being present to the task at hand), I inevitably start off with discomfort on my hike which often goes unnoticed until it becomes a bother…  it takes attention away from the beautiful hike – unconsciously I start to look for a spot to redo my laces.  I miss the flowers blooming, the butterflies fluttering or even the occasional low hanging branch that I should avoid because of this small stressor of trying to right something that I would not have needed to do if I had not been preoccupied with my thoughts of the future.  And now that I am in that future, there is the smallest little judgment about the past popping up – I should have tied these laces better… how many times have I tied laces before… and so it goes into a spiral that will become its own vortex.

Pause.  Breath.  I am curious about the difference between the times when I tied my laces right and when I did not.  The difference is simple.  The wisdom and learning of my body kicks in when I am calm and present to the simple task of tying the lace – and I do it “right” when I do it with attention and care.  When my mind is distracted, I still have the muscle memory of tying the lace but it is done with carelessness, which most likely will create a need for attention and judgment in the future.

This is of course the simplest example of how we often generate needless loops of suffering which leads to stress in our lives.  This example is also a gentle reminder as we start on this path of mindfulness.  The first thing we learn in mindfulness practice is to pay attention to our breath.  It is the simplest thing to do – since we have been breathing all our lives.  And yet as we start paying attention to it, it can be amazing how hard the simple act of staying with the breath with mindful non-judgmental attention can be.

The invitation of this practice is to gently learn again and again to come back to these simplest and hardest of things.  Just being present with whatever you are doing moment-to-moment.  And realizing that every moment we have is nothing short of a miracle!

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