Spiritual practices seem to have an air of seriousness about them. Reverence. Solemnity. Mindfulness is no different. For a lot of people it’s serious business. You see it in their faces.
“It’s important to be mindful,” one might say straight faced with a furrowed brow. I can be serious, I care about mindfulness, feel it is important, and practice it, to the best of my ability, daily. But I am also irreverent, silly even, and I like to laugh. You really have no choice living in a house with 4 pugs and 5 parrots. I challenge anyone to wake up with 4 pugs bouncing all over them and get up in a dour mood. I don’t always have easy days but they are sure to be funny somewhere along the line.
Today was a happy day. I walked outside with the dogs photographing the trees overhead, a canopy of leaves that almost made me dizzy bending over backwards to capture the sheer glory of living in these woods. I took pictures of tiny bright red leaves — we have very few leaves that change colors here on the coast of North Carolina. They die, turn brown, and that’s pretty much it, but there will be the very small bright red ones and I hunt for them like they were gold bullions.
Too, I walked around, nose to the ground, looking with delight at all of the little mushrooms that had popped up overnight. I imagine it happens everywhere but in woodsy areas there seems to be a proliferation of fungi. There certainly is here, and they pop up overnight after a rain, especially when it’s grown warm and muggy again as it has these last days.
But today was a day for fun, and in addition to the other things I took great delight in my trip back to what I call (My voice here drops an octave and with all due seriousness I will whisper…) The Wild Flamingo Wood.
This is actually one of the great delights of the place. At the back of the garden, next to The Magic Ship, in a woodsy corner, the wild pink plastic flamingos took up residence just after I moved in. They seemed to multiply and get rowdy. Luckily one day in a junk yard (I almost never ever leave my house but I will, on rare occasion, take a pill and head out to a little junk and consignment place that I love to gather stuff for the garden. These outings are few and far between but fill me with joy. There may be hope for me yet!) I found a wonderful piece of fence that had been in front of one of the old Victorian mansions downtown that had become derelict and was torn down, most of the fence was already gone, but this piece, the gate and a bit on each side, had sat in the junkyard for some time. I asked nervously, “How much?” The guy knows me and I cart off all kinds of junk for the garden. He said, “You can have it Maitri.” I fair squealed with delight!
He loaded it up on his truck to drive it to my house along with an old wooden mantel I asked for in a junk pile that is now attached to my fence in the main rose garden, and a bunch of other old junk, along with the glass houses in the garden that the people sold at giveaway prices because they had been there for 2 years and nobody would buy them. It was a sweet elderly couple who made these little houses out of old windows and I just love them. It was a real haul that day for almost no money, but my prize was the Victorian wrought iron fence, what there was of it anyway. It fit exactly perfectly in front of the flamingo wood and then they got really rowdy and I have to leave the gate locked and now nobody in their right mind will go back there.
I call Tanner my Baby Puppy. He is 4 years old and the youngest pug I ever adopted at almost 2, 2 1/2 years ago. He is brave, and daring. Today he skulked in behind the flamingos and took his chance.
These flamingos have no moral character and you wouldn’t want your children to spend time around them but as long as they stay behind the fence I think we’re pretty safe. Of course there is the odd flamingo that has apparently been out carousing all night and he is often found beak down in the leaves. I don’t like the pugs to see this. Tanner will probably have nightmares tonight…
Where is the mindfulness in all of this, you ask? It is in the joy. Standing there remembering coming here to barren ground, the landscape empty, devoid of life and color, and now standing here in a lush, colorful garden where everything has been painted, as one of they guys who help me remarked one day, so bright it looks like a Dr. Seuss book out here, I indeed feel joy. And I spend time there, hunting through the leaves, watching the pugs frolic around me, looking at the little bugs crawling around in the leaves and the dew on the pink plastic of the flamingo’s bodies, and I am touched. I think we are likely most mindful of all when we are steeped in joy, because you have to really notice things, really be present and alive in the moment, you have to penetrate the surface of life and dive in like children leaping into a pile of leaves. I play in my own leaves here in the fall. I laugh and watch the pugs race around full of energy in the cool crisp autumn weather. I feel more alive and in my body, fully awake and alive and over the moon in love with the world right here, right now, in my own back yard, and I laugh with glee just, just because.
I call this Happy Mindfulness. Sometimes it feels more serious, but if it isn’t also happy some of the time I don’t think you’re doing it right. At least that’s my theory. And I’m pretty sure my beloved teacher, through his books, the adorable little Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, now in his 80’s, who survived horrors in his life but has a countenance of such peace, and love, and child-like joy about him, would back me up on this. Happy Mindfulness is a key to my staying sane in this crazy bi polar world of mine. So many’s the day you will find me back at the edge of The Wild Flamingo Wood, and I will be deep in my practice, even if nobody can tell besides the flamingos, the pugs, and me.
Try it, I bet you like it.