We often make things so much harder than they need be. Starting a practice like mindfulness, in the beginning, sounds like not such a big deal, and then it’s harder than we think, and then we beat ourselves up and think, “Well, there’s something else I’m not good at…” and toss it away like one more good idea someone had, and a whole lot of people wrote books about, and who really does it anyway?
The worst part about that is how very unkind we can be to ourselves. At every turn we are judging ourselves and coming up short. That is not the way I practice, it’s not the way I live my life.
In fact I think a better word than mindfulness, to make it easier perhaps, is just to call it noticing.
I was walking outside in the garden one day, barefoot as I usually am, and I noticed the spent blossoms of one of my beautiful herbaceous hibiscus lying in the grass. They are perennial but soft stemmed, not woody, Hibiscus moschuetos, and they die back to the ground in the fall and come up again in the spring to bloom all summer long with huge blossoms, some nearly as big as a dinner plate. Each flower lasts one day. If I didn’t walk around the garden every day I would miss so much, but I am out many times a day with the dogs. On this particular day something touched me deeply about this simple picture. My bare feet, the grass, sparse because my property is shaded by woods and there is no such thing as a lush green lawn here. And then the spent blossoms. I looked long and felt very tenderly toward these simple things. I noticed them.
Tonight I was walking back inside with the dogs and I stopped short. Coming up to the cottage I noticed how the studio windows glowed in the dark night, warm and welcoming, and then I looked above the roof line and gasped, my breath caught. The sky was so blue I just stood there staring with awe. Had I just briskly walked into the house as I do many nights after the dogs have done their business for the last time and we are headed back into the house where they will settle and I write until very late, I would have missed this, this extraordinary blue sky that seemed surreal, and my little cottage so dear to me, the room that I spend most of my time in from the outside, this night brought tears to my eyes because in my 60th year I have come home. I have waited for a lifetime to find a place where I would really feel at home. I am here, I have landed, and tonight, standing outside, I drank it all in with such gratitude it filled me up and my cup ranneth over.
I was noticing.
Perhaps, if this is a new practice for you, you might try this. As you move through your day take the time to notice things, as if you were on a mission to gather as many treasures as you could, filling a basket over your arm, every day an adventure where the smallest thing might be the great discovery of the day. The really special things are often ordinary things seen in an extraordinary way. Like my cosmos…
I have been writing a lot lately about my beautiful sulfur cosmos that somehow, like Jack’s beanstalk, kept growing up and up and up until they literally reached and then passed the roofline. I will never understand how this was possible but so it was, and may never be again. Now the flowers are beginning to bend with the weight of the blossoms, and time, and the breezes that blow through the garden, and tonight, again, when I was out with the dogs, I noticed some of the flowers had fallen over and were coming through the green picket fence, such a simple thing really, but so beautiful to me.
I stopped. I noticed them. I took a picture. Another treasure to put in my basket.
It’s late now, past midnight, and I am very tired. My eyes hurt. I have been writing a lot today, I am noticing this, and to take care of myself I will stop here. We must take time to notice the way our body feels in the world, we must have great tenderness and love toward our miraculous bodies. Please don’t judge them. No “too fat or too thin or too this or too that,” just notice how it feels, and do whatever makes it feel better, gently, with great kindness, and love.
So I will leave you here tonight dear friends. And I hope maybe tomorrow you will think, not of having to take on some great big “practice,” something that might feel uncomfortable with too much emphasis. Just walk through your day, see what you see, and treasure it. The world is so full of precious things and tiny miracles. Look for them, they are waiting for you…