For some reason I woke up at 5 a.m. last Monday, so I decided to get up and start the week. As I stepped on the back patio to let the dogs out, I noticed the sky at the western horizon was lighter because the moon was setting behind the mountains. The air was crisp and fresh.
I picked up our cat Jackson and held him over my shoulder, which he likes. His purring was both a sound and a vibration, and I felt his soft fur and warmth against my cheek.
In the kitchen I poured coffee in a white cup, and noticed the way the light came through the liquid and how it swirled into the hot milk.
These simple observations caught my attention. Was I especially aware today because I’d gotten up early? I wondered. Was this mindfulness?
Later I sipped my coffee and thought: What if I kept this up and tried to really pay attention to everything today? Thus began my day-long experiment.
‘Mindfulness’ is one of those words that I kind of gloss over when I read it. I know what it means and it sounds good, but I don’t really think about doing it.
During my experiment, I really tried hard to focus on the moments as they happened.
As I stopped at a high-traffic intersection I drive through every school day, I noticed the trees for the first time, and looked at the clouds.
Later, I heard the sound of my colleague’s smile through the phone.
I felt the bracing cold of ice water as I sipped from a glass.
I smelled the fresh aroma and felt the warmth of a fluffy bedspread as I pulled it from the dryer.
When I walked outside to get the mail, I saw the first crocus blooming in the front garden.
That afternoon, I drove my teenage son to a quiet swimming pool parking lot in the next neighborhood so he could practice driving. Always self conscious, he was relieved that we had the lot entirely to ourselves. I looked over at his determined face and felt a rush of love as he tentatively drove in halting loops around the lot, gradually getting more comfortable behind the wheel.
Then we saw an older man walking our way.
Please, I silently implored him. Please don’t mind if my dark-skinned son drives erratically in your nice pool parking lot.
The man smiled at us briefly and continued on his way. I made a mental reminder for myself: Sometimes not staring at someone is such a kind gift.
Up the hill and back, around the circle, and out on the street a few times, my son made good strides. “Driving takes a lot of focus,” he said after he’d parked the car perfectly between two yellow lines. And then this: “You’re a really good driver.”
There is a tiny window of time during the beginning driving stage, a flash when the teenager is briefly awed by the parent’s skills. What a moment to be alive.
I looked up and noticed the cottonwood trees beyond the parking lot, covered with buds showing just the faintest hint of green. March is historically Colorado’s snowiest month, but glory hallelujah, spring is coming.
Back home, I was hyper-aware of a preponderance of simple pleasures:
A mellow dinner with my son.
Laughing at the hilarious premise and cast of Schitt’s Creek on Netflix.
Slipping into a bed with clean sheets.
Reading to the sound of snoring dogs.
Turning out the lights and lying in the darkness, sending up prayers of gratitude.
Did Mindfulness Make a Better Monday?
The idea of mindfulness is so simple, it’s hard to believe that practicing it can make such a profound difference. And yet paying attention turned my regular day into a truly extraordinary day.
Mindfulness made me more thankful for all the blessings around me.
Making the effort to be more aware felt so surprisingly good. I’d love to permanently change my autopilot ways.
How About You?
Do you practice mindfulness? Do you have any tips or thoughts to share? If you try an experiment like this, I’d love to hear your experiences in the Comments section of this post.