What is Mindfulness?
“Paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”that’s how Jon Kabat Zinn, who introduced us all to mindfulness, describes it.
- By saying ‘non-judgementally’ he means keep your mind open to everything you see, hear, smell, touch and feel.
- By saying ‘in the present moment’ he is telling us to not let any other thought enter our mind other than what we are experiencing in that moment. In other words, don’t worry about the list of things you need to do when you get back home or something that happened an hour, month or year ago.
Routine parts of our day can be a mindfulness practice. Try it while you make your first cup of tea in the morning. Relax, be absolutely focussed and aware of everything you are thinking and feeling while you ‘create’ it. Click the kettle on and listen to the water growing in strength the hotter it gets, watching the little wisps of steam dance in curls out of the spout. Be aware of how it goes strangely quiet for a few seconds, then turns angry as the bubbles seem to be fighting to get out. As you pour the water onto the unsuspecting teabag, watch the water change colour. Think about the movement of the teaspoon as you stir, feel the cup on your lips and the warmth on your face. Be absolutely focussed (obsessed!) with what you are doing, leaving NO space to think of anything else other than what you are doing.
PhotoWalks as a Mindfulness practice?
I often go on a photowalk with Georgie Dog (my little Yorkshire Terrier) to find pictures and enjoy the fresh air. I never really thought about it being a mindfulness activity but when Elyse asked me to write this for Birchfield Collectives first quarterly journal it got me thinking.
Let’s try it ….
We’re going to walk through the lovely grounds of Delapre Abbey in Northampton. We’ve talked about how we are not going anywhere in particular and that we are not in a rush to get to that ‘nowhere in particular’. We are going to walk slowly, enjoying everything we see, giving everything our full attention. We are going to keep things simple, enjoying the fresh air and creating a calmness. The photos we take will be for us and no-one else.
We start to walk, thinking about our steps and the ground we’re walking on. We’re not in a rush. Our minds are clear, we’re not letting any thoughts in other than the ones in this moment. We are focussing all our senses on where we are walking, what we are seeing, smelling and hearing.
We turn a corner and a cold breeze catches us. You enjoy the sensation and lift your face up to it, I pull my scarf up to keep it out. We stop for a minute, to watch a group of leaves run past us, then look up to see others holding on to their branches while the wind shakes them. We move closer to look at the leaves, the little ‘veins’ that run through them, so pretty, we think about Mother Nature and how clever she is. I take a photo.
You are surprised by what catches your eye and each time we stop we talk about why you, or I, did. You notice a small hole in an old tree. We move around it, thinking about the way we are moving, noticing all the different parts of it, the textures and the colours. You take a picture and we talk about the magic of the photos moving into your camera. How we can now take this old tree home.
There’s a bench, we sit down, closing our eyes for a few seconds to listen to the sounds around us. Our breathing, a bird, the crack of a golf ball being hit, a little tinkle of a bell, we talk for a few minutes about the dog it may belong to. You open your eyes and look up, noticing the clouds and pointing out a vapour trail. We both take a photo.
Looking at the grey sky I have a creative idea that I want to think about, but not right now, I make a note in my phone, then let it drift off. When we’re relaxed, thoughts and ideas wander in and out so much easier, I suggest that you do the same if you need to.
We start to walk again. A puddle. We move around it to see the different reflections, touching the water to see how it changes them. I take a photo.
Time has flown and we start to head back to the car. We talk through what we have seen, experienced and enjoyed, talking about the photos we have taken and remembering why we took them.
We think about how we feel. Calmer, more in control, energised, less stressed?
I find it difficult to block out all the chaos and noise in my head but I do find it easier when I am out walking. Now I have written this I am going to start thinking of my photowalks as a mindfulness activity.
- Let’s make more of an effort to SEE the world around us and enjoy every moment.
- Let’s be HAPPIER.