It’s with great pleasure that I introduce the first guest post on my blog, written by the beautiful Erin Patel of Coffee Talk with Erin : Bookgirloz. Erin has been a great support and encouragement over the interwebs, and I’m in love with the personable, understanding and intelligent voice that I find in her writing. I’m very excited to feature her today and I hope you enjoy her post on being Mindful in the City as much as I do – ‘cos we all need more of that! Give it up for Erin!
Mindful in the City by Erin Patel
Modern city life can be overwhelming. Whether you are a mother, student or a business owner, we are all busy. Even small children have schedules like mini-adults, being shepherded from activity to activity on a daily basis. We have little opportunity for downtime and this can slowly affect our ability to live purposefully.
How often do you lie in bed at night, sleep evading you because your mind is recounting the day’s events or making plans for tomorrow? You may dwell on something a colleague has said. Your thoughts begin to build up until your body stress response is activated and you are suddenly nervous or angry about something that five minutes ago wasn’t even on your radar. Our minds are designed to wander, it is how we create and imagine. This said, going through life with a wandering mind means that we are operating on autopilot.
Think of all the things that you do without intention. Do you take the same spot in your yoga class, sit in the same chair in board meetings, drive to a destination and hardly remember how you managed to get there or check your phone as you walk when you haven’t received a call, email or text? Do you eat when you aren’t hungry? Do you find that you are dwelling on events that you have no control over or that are insignificant in the scheme of things?
The idea behind mindfulness is to be present in the moment. My definition of mindfulness does not involve travelling to an ashram in India (although Elizabeth Gilbert had the right idea in principal) or going on retreat. It does not have to involve meditation if you do not want it to, although I highly recommend that you try it. It is choosing to be mindful in your actions rather than acting without thinking. We each have to find our own way to be mindful in order for it to fit in with our lifestyle.
Here are some of the things I have done recently in an attempt to be more mindful:
As I run a brush through my hair with gentle strokes, I take a moment to enjoy the sensation.
My children and I leave early for day care and stomp in the autumn leaves lining the footpath. Rather than rushing, we point out the colours of the flowers and the leaves and we sing songs.
A cup of coffee at my local café provides another mindful minute or two. Instead of reaching for my iPhone, I wrap my cold hands around the warm mug and spend a few moments focusing on the taste of the coffee.
Recently I was at my local Medicare Centre where I had to wait for over 30 minutes with my overtired baby. A 3 minute meditation took care of this and allowed me to control my frustration. My calmness also calmed my baby. The aim was not to erase the emotions, rather watch them come and go like you would the clouds in the sky. I took notice of the effect that these feelings had on my physical body. Focusing on my breath allowed me to relax slightly.
At the end of the day, dinner is usually one big massive rush in my household. I’m tired, I’m feeling rushed and I am watching the clock, trying to make it to the kids’ bed time. Mindfulness is not about berating yourself and ignoring your emotions. It is about being kind to yourself and observing the stressful emotions as a passing sensation. In times like these I try not to worry about whether they eat everything on their plate. Trying new recipes and introducing new foods is an act of mindfulness in my view. On nights that are particularly difficult, I remind myself that scrambled eggs and salad is not a failure.
Before bed, I spend ten minutes focusing on my breath. When my mind wanders, I draw it back to the breath. I immediately fall asleep and my slumber is deep. It is a reminder that mindfulness is something that is achievable and, like exercise and healthy eating, should be a part of my everyday life.
Do you practice “mindfulness” in your daily life? What works for you?
Erin Patel is a young mum, aspiring writer, blogger and healthy living advocate. She lives in the inner west of Sydney and has a rather large obsession with books and coffee. You can read all about her at her blog Coffee Talk with Erin : Bookgirloz