Mindfulness meditation gives us a choice about where we place our focus and what we choose to pay attention to. It can help us make the most of our lives by being present to truly relish pleasant experiences, that may otherwise flit past the busy, overthinking, zoned out or even giddy mind. Sometimes it is likened to strength training for the mind, when we meditate, we allow thoughts to come and go, as we repeatedly guide the mind back from thinking to a point of focus, an anchor, which might be the breath, body, movement, sound, or the other senses. When we practice mindfulness meditation regularly, it strengthens our mindfulness muscle, which allows us to return to the moment with more ease when we’re not meditating and are going about our daily lives.
The application of mindfulness to a pleasant event can, not only make the experience itself extra special, but can assist in creating a long-term memory. For example, I applied mindfulness skills to a seaweed bath experience recently. The seaweed bath was an hour-long feast for the senses, but I soon became aware that I wasn’t settling, my mind was elsewhere, full of thinking about all that had happened already that day and busy forecasting plans for later that evening. After a few minutes, I made a conscious decision to focus my attention on my present moment experience and the words “I am here” floated into my mind. These words were and are very helpful still, as a little reminder to come back to where our physical body is, to bring the mind back to what’s happening here, now, around us and within us.
So, this is what I did, I made a choice to pay attention to this lovely treat and I had an unforgettable, moment by moment experience. There was an opaque window in the room, up high and I could see the silhouette of plants outside, blowing in the wind. I could see the flame of a little nightlight on the windowsill flickering in the wind too. It was a powerful sensory experience, I noticed the salty taste of the water, the natural scent coming from the seaweed. I watched the vibrant green fronds of seaweed waving under the water and the individual droplets of water appearing on my arms and hands. It was such a field of live physical sensation, with so much to pay attention to, like the feeling of warmth and the movement of the water, the rugged touch and texture of the plant and the hard surface of the bath. I could hear sounds of the water splashing, the wind outside and low music playing. My senses were awake, and I was fully embodied, present there in those moments.
How easy it would have been to let my mind wander away from what was happening. And I could have spent the entire hour, or most of it, thinking about what was coming next, but I made a conscious choice to keep coming back to the experience, to awaken my senses. To embed memories, we need to be present for the making of them, inhabiting our bodies, for as many moments of our lives as we possibly can. My seaweed bath experience was special because I chose to place my attention there and gently but repeatedly brought my wandering mind home, every time I noticed it had drifted. The application of mindfulness to daily life can help us to stay with the moment whether, pleasant or unpleasant. And even though it is easier to stay present in pleasant circumstances, we are encouraged to stay with unpleasant moments also and not turn away or distract ourselves, but that is for another day.
For me, learning to stay with the present moment and lingering on pleasant experiences adds to our overall contentment and we stop constantly wanting more, or searching for distractions that can take us away from what’s happening in the present moment. Being here now helps us to value the quality of our experience, whether it’s a treat or an everyday activity, over the quantity of experiences that we have and we are happy to live slower and simpler lives. These lines from ‘The Cure for it all’ by Julia Fehrenbacher fit well here. “Go gently today, don’t hurry, or think about the next thing…Sit. Close your eyes. Breathe. Allow the river of it all to pulse through eyelashes, fingertips, bare toes. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe until you feel your bigness, until the sun rises in your veins. Breathe until you stop needing anything to be different”.
My next monthly ‘Simplicity and Ease’ workshop is on at CECAS at Myross Wood House near Leap. The next workshop is on Sunday, May 14, from 2-5pm and offers a gentle introduction to compassion-based mindfulness, using indoor and outdoor settings.
Drop-in compassion-based mindfulness sessions at Myross Wood House, Leap (CECAS.ie) on Tuesday mornings from 10am-11am. €10. All welcome.
Phone: 087 2700572 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Facebook