Yes, despite occasionally coming home to this type of situation:
I have learnt something from him.
This is how it happens every day: As soon as I grab the key from off the rack – the one with Choco Cat attached – he gets so excited, he can’t hold back his wiggles. He whines, prances back and forth from me to the door, jumps repeatedly and pushes against my legs. He can barely contain himself whilst I try to fasten his harness (it’s tough going, fastening a harness on a wiggly, impatient pup). I’m going to fetch the mail and he gets to come along to wee and do his doggy business. Going outside is one of his favourite things.
I was watching him one day and he (between weeing on everything his little one-foot-high stature could reach) was fully alert. He was sniffing the air. His eyes were wide open. He was paying attention to everything that was going on around him. He was in the moment. He was present. He was experiencing life. He was enjoying his experience. This wasn’t just a necessity for him, like “Oh I have to be out here so I can do my business and then I can get back to my important nap/food/toy.” (Sometimes I wish he would feel this way so that I can get back to what I need to do) His mind doesn’t wander, “I wonder what my toy is up to right now… I could really use a pedicure… I sure hate that dog from upstairs; I will be giving her a stern ‘barking at’ the next time I hear her go outside… I remember one time when I was riding in the car…” No. Although he is out there for necessity, he is taking advantage of the opportunity to explore and experience.
So like an express train, barreling down the tracks, it hit me. I should be more like my dog. Immediately I ran inside and started ripping the paint off my bathroom door. Kidding. No, what I mean is: So much of my day is spent on auto pilot. When I get up in the morning and start my routine of dental/bodily hygiene, dressing myself, breakfast, etc; I’m not thinking about these mundane tasks. I am thinking about anything but. When I drive to school, I’m thinking about what I must do once I arrive. I’m thinking about what happened over the weekend. I’m thinking about interpersonal relationships. Most times, I don’t even remember the trip. And what do I do when I get to class? Why, I pay attention, of course! I wouldn’t want my grades to slip. But interesting that; why only pay attention to “the now” when I have to? Wouldn’t I enjoy so much more if I was actually experiencing it? Know what my dog is thinking about whilst he’s eating? His food.
Since then, I have tried emulating him in this manner. On my commute to school, instead of letting my mind wander onto anything that can take it off the traffic, I mindfully considered the traffic. I felt like I was running with the pack or herd instead of racing against them. It felt like a dance. It’s funny how with my mindset change came energy change – off the other drivers. And we were all comrades. I took in my surroundings. I enjoyed seeing the city in all its diversity. I arrived to school in a very positive mood. Over the next few days, I invested more mindfulness into my walks throughout campus. I am already greatly mindful when it comes to these walks, as I love watching college kids (a very interesting lot) and I immensely enjoy feeling the change in textures beneath my feet. But this switch to greater mindfulness had me smiling at what I was feeling beneath me. The warm, rough asphalt to gritty sidewalk to smooth red bricks, slightly uneven, to the cool grass. I must’ve looked like a loon. But I was too busy diggin’ on these sensations to think about that.
This increased consciousness thing was awesome. What else could I do while paying full attention to it? Everything. I even washed dishes, fully mindful and not allowing my mind to wander. When it was in my hands, that dish was the only thing that mattered. And I gotta say: it was pretty interesting.
I know I’m not the only person who goes through life on auto pilot. So I’d like to offer a few suggestions to build your mindfulness so that you may open your eyes and experience life as you’re living it. These are just a jumping off point for you. They’re to remind you to consider every moment as its own treasure. Being alive is a gift. Don’t ignore the seemingly insipid. You’ll miss out on a lot.
1. Taste your food. No really. Taste it.
Don’t just eat because you have to in order to survive. Take your time. Close your eyes. Focus everything on what is in your mouth. Think about all the flavours you can taste in what you’re eating. Avocado? Taste the butteriness. Nuttiness. And what’s the texture like? Silk. Squeeze a lime on it? How does the citrus play with the avocado? Etc.
2. Concentrate on your morning routine.
Notice the water hitting you in the shower. Is it warm? Hot? Cold? How does your skin react? How does it make you feel? How does it feel when you comb/brush your hair? Pay conscious attention to the way your clothes brush against your skin as you slip into them. Etc.
3. Some time during the day, sit and take in your surroundings.
Whether it be on the big comfy chair in a bookstore, the middle of a food court in a mall, a park bench, or your backyard… just sit and watch. Feel. Listen. Smell. Breathe deeply. Don’t think about anything outside of what’s going on in this moment. What are your senses telling you? How does it make you feel inside?
4. Take your shoes off.
I’ve preached this before, I know. But you definitely need to do this, if it’s the only suggestion of mine you try. Feeling the world in this way – through the soles of your feet – is magical. There is a wonderland of temperatures and textures out there that few experience and it’s a shame. Spend some time outdoors, barefoot.
5. Practise yoga.
This is the best way to focus on yourself, how you’re feeling inside and out. It’s a good one-on-one with yourself. Concentrate on your breathing. Listen to yourself. Listen to your body.
6. Let a piece of art take you in.
Music? Focus on your feelings on the piece. Listen to the intricacies. Pay attention to the instruments you don’t usually focus on. Pick one out and only listen to it. Then bring it in with the rest of the song and notice how it plays with the other instruments. …. Painting/drawing? Trace the lines with your sight. Try to get inside of the artist’s head. What was he/she feeling when he/she created it. How does it make you feel?
7. Don’t hide from the weather.
Is it raining? Windy? Sunny and hot? Snowing? Too often, I see people running from “adverse” weather, hurrying to take cover. Why? I don’t understand it (especially rain. It’s only water. It will dry.). Instead of running from your car to indoors and vice versa, walk. Take in the weather for the experience that it is. Pay keen attention to how it makes you feel. What is your skin’s reaction? Can you allow it to be refreshing?
8. Talk to strangers.
The people you come into contact with daily – be genuine with them. “How are you?” often gets thrown around as just a greeting with no care as to what the answer is (this has always bugged me). Communicate with people. Care about the answer. Have a real conversation with someone you don’t know. Get to know them. Make interpersonal connections.
9. Try studying something you love like this.
Try some of these starting today to live your life. The more you practise, the more you’ll be experiencing, appreciating and enjoying each moment. ♥