So, I was in my kitchen this morning, trying to meditate but my dog had other ideas. Little did I know that Esther, my golden-doodle was trying to teach me a very valuable lesson in mindfulness!
I sat at the island, on a bar stool, my back straight, eyes closed, breathing deeply and evenly, allowing my breath to fill my body with cleansing energy.
But she kept barking in the utility room.
‘FUCK OFF ESTHER!’ I shouted, mindfully.
I closed my eyes once again, breathing more deeply, sucking in more cleansing energy but she started up again.
‘Esther!! Shut the fuck up!! I’m MEDITATING!’
I tried again but it was no good. She was determined to sabotage my moment of mindfulness.
Esther You Bitch! (female dog)
At first I was annoyed that my plan to meditate was ruined by her neediness (she is a very needy doodle!) and I reacted in a mindLESS way. I was angry that I couldn’t get a moments peace in my very busy life. Esther was being loud and demanding while I needed calm.
But this is unhealthy ego-centred thinking, which leads to unhappiness. It’s a victim mentality and comes from a sense of no control. I was trying to control the situation but Esther had other ideas.
Of course I did let Esther out of the utility room and abandoned my plan to meditate. I let her out because I love her and I accept that she is part of my life. She has no understanding of meditation whatsoever and just wanted to be with me. Who can blame her?
So, I thank Esther for todays lesson – mindfulness isn’t about getting what you want, it’s about accepting what you have!
Mindfulness Lessons From Esther
In this utility room analogy Esther is our day to day life situation. When I say life situation I mean, what is going on around us all the time: bills to be paid, emails to answer, clothes to wash, jobs to complete etc. She is all the people who are demanding something from you who perhaps don’t care about your state of mind.
Happiness lies in accepting all of that stuff and embracing it as something that just ‘is’. Bills are a fact. Shopping is a fact. The weather, car tax, school, partners. These are all facts. Some of them can be changed but first of all we must accept everything in our life situation as fact. Some we chose, some we didn’t.
Ignore Life And It Just Gets Louder!
I could have left Esther in the utility room and chosen to meditate with her barking in the background. If this was my choice then that too would have been mindful as long as I accepted that it would be challenging and a bit cruel to Esther.
If I try to ignore Esther, she will just bark louder. And she can bark REALLY loudly! I could go outside where I can’t hear her barking but I still know she’s there and when I do come back, as I will have to, she may have wee’d on the floor. Nobody wants that.
Being Mindful As A Parent
Parenting isn’t easy. I am often writing a song in my studio and one of my kids bursts in and asks me something. They know not to do this but they are kids and they forget easily (ignore most of what I say). On a bad day I can get properly annoyed with their interruption. I can take it as a sign of disrespect for my work and my authority. I think to myself,
They can see I am busy but they put their needs above mine. Whatever this is about, it’s almost certainly not as important as my deadline. FFS.
But I am not being mindful, I am reacting to my feelings of anger. Instead if I think for just a moment more I am in a much better place with it….
There they are, wanting. Here I am, working. It is what it is. Okay. Deal with it and move on. On a good day I pause, I notice how I am feeling and then I take a breath before responding.
‘I’ll be done in 20 minutes, please don’t eat 4 bags of crisps in the meantime….. my little darlings.’
Mindfulness Is Acknowledging Your Stress And Dealing With It
If I try to run from the fact that my children’s needs often clash with my work, I will be super stressed and feel trapped. Many parents who drink to ease these feelings of stress and lack of control would massively benefit from some mindfulness here.
You cannot control anything in life apart from the way you think. So be mindful to develop a calm and accepting perspective. Observe negative thinking, accept your life situation in that moment and choose your thoughts.
Stop Trying To Stage Manage Your Life
If you think of mindfulness as a stolen moment of meditation and calm then you are both right and wrong.
Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village website explains mindfulness in this way…
Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment. It is the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment of daily life. To be mindful is to be truly alive, present and at one with those around you and with what you are doing. We bring our body and mind into harmony while we wash the dishes, drive the car or take our morning shower.
Mindfulness Is An Ongoing Practice And Esther Is An Ongoing Dog
Mindfulness is not about stage managing life to create stillness for yourself. Well, this is quite a relief isn’t it? Because if you need absolute peace and quiet to be mindful then most of us would agree that it ain’t ever gonna happen. Thankfully the calm we all want from mindfulness is actually available in every moment of our day.
Yes, there are times for silence and meditation but mindfulness is really an ongoing practice, which exists in a hectic world of work, family, noise, Esthers, traffic jams etc.
I am calling it a practice because it’s something we keep on developing: trying, getting wrong, trying again and so on.
Mindfulness In Every Day Life
So how can we be mindful in our everyday lives? Over the coming days we will look at some mindfulness techniques you can easily incorporate into your every day life. From mindful driving to mindful conversations.
If you have an area of your life you find particularly hard to be mindful in then let me know. We can all share in each other’s experiences.
Yours mega-mindfully, Liz x