Being mindful in the every day is a key Buddhist principle.
I’m not a fully fledged Buddhist, but I do meditate a little and I do admire those who manage to follow the Buddhist path; those who are mindful in all that they do. They always look so “together” and peaceful.
The crux of meditation for me is getting myself into the habit of being mindful and always in the moment. This isn’t always easy for a serial nostalgist for it relies on me forgetting about the past as soon as it’s gone and forgetting about the future because it may never come.
Of course this is the immediate past, the last five minutes and the immediate future the next five minutes if you like. I’m not suggesting that you forget the day your daughter was born or that you avoid planning for the future. We do however, get bogged down with all of that and we don’t properly experience the present; being mindful even when we are doing seemingly mundane things is an essential part of happiness and freedom.
A few days ago I found myself being in the moment while driving and that was a bit of a shock to be honest. I realised that for the most part when I’ve been driving a 2 tonne piece of metal around at 50 or 70 miles per hour over the last however many years that I haven’t really been concentrating on the task in hand; I’ve been thinking about the past, being nostalgic for better times, or projecting the future, never actually just driving a car! Today I had to drive just a few miles to the nearest small town, only 6 or 7 miles and then back. I had to go to the post office and the doctor’s surgery.
First I enjoyed the drive, it was a nice sunny morning, and I became aware of what I was actually doing. I didn’t drive too fast, but I suddenly remembered (slight nostalgia creeping in) a time when I had been given some rally driving experience. Holding the wheel with hands at ten to two and not crossing them over when turning; changing gear a little later than usual, braking a bit later than normal for corners, accelerating out of bends; it was actually a very enjoyable drive, so much so that I looked forward to the drive back.
Then I was in the post office and having a nice chat with the lady there and discussing the various things that were going on around us.
On to the doctor’s surgery and in the waiting room I had to record my attendance by using a touch screen and I actually remember admiring the simplicity of what at first seemed like an unnecessary system and lack of humanity.
I was then sitting reading a magazine and instead of flipping through it I focussed on a couple of features I really liked the look of, made a couple of mental notes to look up the writers on the web.
My name was called to see the nurse, I had to give her some blood and it all went off with some really refreshing, gentle chat and a few jokes. She asked me which was the better arm for getting the red stuff out of. Not being a regular I said I didn’t know and that I tried hard to keep it all in there instead of getting it out much.
Then there was the drive back and more amateur (and mindfully safe) rally style driving. Now if I try to recall that drive I can remember what I saw around every bend, I can visualise the entire drive in minute detail; I was driving…just driving.
How many times have you been driving home only to reach a point where you don’t actually remember what stage you’re at and what landmarks you have passed already? I’m sure we are all conscious of our circumstances and can spring back to instantaneous reaction when required by road or life conditions, but it’s a thought isn’t it?
Being in the moment for me was a revelation, a light bulb moment if you like. Enjoying the simple pleasures that happen around you every day instead of wishing you were at some magical moment in the past or at some unknowable place in the future is good for your soul, and your life expectancy, if my driving experience is anything to go by.
Photo thanks to: ૐ Dey Alexander ૐ