I got up early this morning and sat quietly, listening to the early morning chatter of the birds and the rhythmic ticking of the clock. Gazing across the room and out the window at a grey cloud-filled sky cleared and calmed the mind. Thoughts and ideas appeared, inspired, and passed.
I love mornings like this. Meditative, quiet. I am just one small part of the greatness of nature, the infiniteness of time and space. Small but not feeble, powerless or defeated, I have my place alongside everything else. My actions, if careful and deliberate, can soothe, repair, and rebuild. Not only myself, my family and my home, but it can gravitate outwards to our communities and environments.
But it can be hard to carry oneself with mindfulness and grace throughout the day. For me, it doesn’t come naturally. I feel an almost constant frenetic energy that doesn’t make me move faster or more efficiently but fills me with a sense of “running out of time” and “never doing enough”. The pressure that we can place on ourselves to be productive can be crippling. Not earning a regular income for our family and devoting myself to the care of our home, our many animals, garden, children, and all their needs, have left me with a diminished sense of worth and value. It is not an entirely self-imposed sense either, unfortunately. Outward pressures contribute to this feeling. There is an expectation that we are everything to everyone, able to do it all without complaining, without assistance. To ask for it is a sign of weakness, an admission that we are not good enough and are not equal.
How can we be of service to others and make decisions that affect positive change when trapped in the turmoil of questioning our self-worth, purpose, and place in the world. We need to detach from the conditions and expectations we have set up for ourselves and the tests we have put in place that do nothing but highlight our shortcomings instead of promoting the value we bring to the world. For our homes, our communities and this planet, we need to return to a state of mindfulness and grace.
I don’t say all this as if from a pulpit. It is a quiet rant. I have no wish to demand that others feel or think the same way, even if I use the word ‘we’. But I know, instinctively, that harnessing and unifying our quiet inner strength has the power to magnify and multiply our efforts. I know I don’t have all the answers. But I know I want and need mindfulness and grace in my life and have made the conscious decision to pursue it. With time, thoughtfulness and reflection, I hope my journey takes me there.
Far from an ethereal state, I think mindfulness and grace are connected with nature and to the earth. It is about slowing down, removing the extraneous elements of life, and focusing on things like getting our hands dirty, waking up with the sun, and being mindful of the changes in the seasons. Cultivating mindfulness and grace is also about showing kindness, generosity, respect, courteousness and consideration, compassion and acceptance, patience and being non-judgemental. I strive to carry these attributes with me, even when the path is a bit jagged and unclear. Though I am not perfect, and my kids have called me shouty often enough!
Sometimes it can be hard to find mindfulness or grace in the world. Wherever I look, there are messages promoting intolerance, distrust, competitiveness and getting ahead of the crowd. While these messages are present elsewhere, it is particularly prevalent in social media. Social platforms are awash with condemnation and judgement. People feel comfortable targeting others for their choices, their words and actions. It would seem everyone else is to blame for the sorry state of the world. When did we become so self-righteous and arrogant? But don’t get me wrong. There are some beautiful voices out there too. Voices that speak with such positivity and goodwill that it is music to the soul. So I guess it depends on where you are looking. Seeking the positive and ignoring the negative is in itself a skill!
While we can all take breaks from social media, and our recent lockdowns allowed us to remove ourselves from society, they don’t change negativity in the world. But how do we achieve a state of grace and mindfulness amidst all the negativity? By stepping back, focussing on the simple acts of everyday life. I don’t always find this so easy a task. Sometimes when I read or hear something that I think creates division and hate and is unkind, it churns away inside, and I feel restless and agitated. I can’t work effectively or think clearly. My mind is frayed, and I am a bit all over the place. I don’t always react so sensitively. I guess it is all part of the infradian rhythm. Mostly, I can see the negativity for what it is, acknowledge it, and move away. Life is too short for dwelling on the negative. We can only step forward doing our best with what we have and where we are.
I sit here now and am conscious of the oven timer ticking, puzzles assembled, the smell of banana bread baking and the rice steaming. Almost like an act of mindfulness, I feel my mind clearing as I write this. I have come full circle. From early morning calm, dissolving to racing thoughts, I return to calm with this exercise of writing my musings on ‘paper’. I regain my focus on the present and am again aware of being mindful and living with grace.
I need to feel my bare feet on the ground and my hands in the dirt, feel the glow of acting with kindness and the soulful words of goodwill to keep this state of mindfulness and grace kindled. I need to be mindful of being mindful!
We all need kindness and acceptance, even from ourselves. While I intentionally seek mindfulness and grace, I can not expect to achieve that when beating myself up. It is a delicate act.
As always, I wish you health and happiness, and grace within your lives. Until next time, take care.