My friend reminded me of a quote the other day from my favourite book by Alice Walker and my favourite movie of all time, The Color Purple: “ I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But, any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.”
Now, I’m not about to get all religious on you, it doesn’t matter to me what you believe in, whether there is a god or not, but, don’t you think its a crying shame that you might witness something around you so exquisitely beautiful and you don’t notice it? We’ve all only got one life, every moment counts!
I’m not a doctor, I’m not a psychiatrist and I have no credentials for talking with any authority on this subject, other than Ive tried it and it works for me.
One of the benefits of being active on Instagram is that it makes you more aware of your surroundings. You’re constantly looking for photo opportunities and so, tend to be much more observant than you used to be. You notice the beauty of the frost on the window pane, the russet tones of a crumpled autumn leaf, the reflection of a cloudless sky in your chrome garden lantern. Without realising it, you’ve already started practicing mindfulness.
It’s so easy to stroll through life not really noticing very much. Our lives are so busy nowadays, there doesn’t ever seem to be time to stop and just be. It’s so easy to get caught up in our own thoughts. Our minds can become so full of negativity and anxiety, worrying about what might happen in the future. What if I don’t meet that deadline, what if we cant pay that bill, what if my child doesn’t pass that exam? We’re all so busy worrying about the future we’ve completely forgotten about the moment we are actually in.
Being in the moment, paying more attention to the now, to the world around us and to our own thoughts and feelings can help with our mental wellbeing.
Whenever I used to hear the word “mindfulness” I would roll my eyes, placing it very firmly in the same pigeon hole as veganism and Scientology. Then, something happened to me that changed my life and I naturally just started noticing the world around me. The deep cerise of the Monarda flower in the photograph above, for example, it’s pointy petals and the intoxicating fragrance of Bergamot.
For the first time in years, I was awake and present. I’d been coasting for so long, going through the motions. I was caught up in my thoughts, living in my head and allowing my thoughts to control my life. I looked into mindfulness, realising that I had already started practicing it and that it wasn’t mumbo jumbo after all.
By being in the moment and listening to the world, my body and my mind, I was able to recognise my thoughts and when I was allowing them to take over. This helped me to stop habits that I had gotten into like sulking after an argument or feeling not worthy.
“Knowing directly what is going on inside and outside of ourselves, moment by moment.” – Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre. This quote really sums up what mindfulness is to me.
Now it’s time to start noticing yourself. Why am I thinking what I’m thinking, why am I being moody, why does my knee hurt again? We repeat thought patterns over an over. Why do we keep having the same argument with our partner? Is it their behaviour, or is it our reaction to that behaviour and the way our minds think about it afterwards? I’m so guilty of this. My hubby, Mr C will say something that I think is unkind, so me being me, I will say something straight away, often not thinking about the words I’m using. Afterwards, he thinks that discussion is over and all was resolved. I, however, am still angry and hurt, so I ponder and I ponder, sometimes for hours as I go about my day. Why did he say that? What did he mean? I cant believe he doesn’t know me after all these years! If he knew me, he would know that what he said hurts me. Perhaps, he doesn’t love me? Now, I’m more mad and upset than I was before! It goes on and on!
Who’s upset though? Mr C has moved on and is going about his daily chores. Me? Well, I’m in despair! I’m going about my daily chores overthinking everything, creating an epic drama in my brain where I’m divorced and living a life of squalor in some bedsit. Who’s the fool?
So often, I will try and come back to the conversation later with Mr C and he’s perplexed. “What are you talking about? Oh my god, your not still on about that? We sorted that this morning!”
So he’s had a lovely day and I’ve made sure that my day was hideous by repeating my thought patterns over and over. Of course he loves me, he just said the wrong thing. He didn’t mean anything by it, but I decided to make it a great big thing and wallow and brood.
Practicing mindfulness makes you recognise these traits, these repetitive actions. It makes you question yourself and your thoughts. Are my thought patterns healthy? Do my thoughts help me? If the answer is no, then why the hell do we keep repeating them? The only person upset is you!
Mindfulness isn’t the answer to the worlds problems, but it would go some way to making us a better, kinder, happier world. If each and everyone of us became that little bit happier each day, imagine what we could all do in a year! We are all human beings, its just that somewhere along the way we all forgot the art BEING.
USEFUL BOOKS (Mostly available on Amazon)
The things you can see only when you slow down – Haemin Sunim.
10% Happier – Dan Harris.
Waking up – Sam Harris.
Mindfulness: A practical Guide – Mark Williams and Danny Penman.
The little Book of Mindfulness – Dr Patricia Collard.
The Mindfulness Journal – S.J Scott and Barrie Davenport.
Online help: www.nhs.uk