Welcome to December, friends!
As we move into this last month of the year, we are faced, yet again, with the reminder of how starkly different this December will be compared to others before it. What are your holiday traditions and how will these be affected by the increased social distancing protocols, gathering restrictions, and shut-downs? In this month traditionally characterized by parties and get-togethers, how will you fulfill that need for connection and celebration with others? Have you wondered how you will find rest and reset without the same access to your regular end-of-the-year rituals?
There is a way, I think, that we can find rest and reset in the mundane tasks of the day. It’s all about how you approach the simple, repetitive tasks that we usually complete without even thinking about it. Any simple activity – walking, cleaning out the fridge, vacuuming, gardening, even getting dressed – can be done mindfully. What difference does it make when you engage in an activity mindfully? Well, for one, it’s a distraction for your mind from any negative or worrisome thoughts you may be having. Second, it allows you to fully immerse yourself in the activity and experience it for what it is more fully. Third, it allows your body an opportunity to relax in the present moment.
How many times have you walked into a mall and could barely remember walking across the parking lot? Perhaps you were filled with thoughts of the past (that argument with a loved one), or plans about the future (what you are intending to purchase in the mall/store). You lost a few minutes of experience by paying attention to something other than the present. What would happen if you paid attention to the walk across the parking lot, on purpose, without judgment, from moment-to-moment? If you noticed the sensation in your heel in your shoe as it made contact with the pavement, then shifted weight onto the toes to allow a forward step. What if you paid attention to the sun, wind or snowflakes on your face and how the temperature felt across your skin? The way your arms feel inside your sleeve and move against your body in stride? The colors of the cars, traffic signs, and buildings as you pass?
Would you arrive at the mall/store just a little more relaxed? A little more present to the shopping experience? A little more clear-headed to make good buying choices? Feeling a little more positive about the tasks ahead?
This coming season, we may find ourselves more limited in social and recreational options available for mental and physical health. But we can work with what we have. Try one mindful activity per day, whether it’s shovelling snow, having a shower, eating breakfast, or savouring a Lindt chocolate. Use the 5 senses to heighten your awareness and engagement: what do you see, feel, hear, taste and smell? Imagine being a scientist watching the “experiment” and narrate the activity with objective words – out loud if it helps sustain attention more easily (“I see the soap bubbles shining in the kitchen light, smelling like lemon, and feeling warm and soft against my skin”). No need to judge the activity as “bad” or “good”. Just accepting it as it is, at this moment, without judgment. You might end up enjoying the activity in a way you never have before. And feeling just a little bit better as a result.
Going to wash those dishes now….
Thich Nhat Hanh Mindful Dishwashing video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pwi1s_Z63yc
Especially for those we work with:
1. A wonderful activity to do with folks over video or face-to-face (with masks and 2m of distance!) is Thich Nhat Hanh’s 10 mindful movements. It’s a wonderful way to practice mindfulness of movement and get a little exercise too! You can find it at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzA6Hu840to
2. Here’s a sitting yoga video that is good for all of us who have been sitting more during this coronavirus pandemic. It’s made for classrooms, but far as I can tell, applicable to everyone who sits in a chair at some point: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SuZ__tRSfpY