It’s funny how Mindfulness can sometimes desert you when you need it the most...
On my visit to the garden centre I was greeted with a coronavirus queue, snaking majestically out of the door. My heart sank, and settled somewhere around my knees.
Resisting the urge to reach for my phone, I realised that this unexpected waiting time provided me with a little pool of quiet time.
In the past, I have fallen into the trap of thinking that mindfulness is only possible in the right environment. For me, that would be at home in my meditation space, on my stool, with my ‘special’ cushion. I have often been guilty of using the wrong environment as an excuse not to practice when I haven’t had time or been away from home.
I have practiced mindfulness in aeroplanes, on trains, in the supermarket queues and at work. As well as in the quiet environments, that we might think would be more conducive to mindfulness. In fact, I would say that I get more benefit from being mindful in busy environments, because these are often the places that can increase stress and anxiety.
It is possible to be either totally mindful or completely distracted in any environment.
You could be in the quietest, most picturesque place, yet be caught up with your thoughts and worries, or be in the noisiest, busiest place, yet be fully aware of the present moment.
Being mindful is not dependent on a particular environment, on being alone, or on having complete silence.
Just make a deal with yourself not to pass judgment on what’s happening. ACCEPT What is here is here. You’re not going to be able to change the length of the queue. Allow what is. It doesn’t mean you have to enjoy queueing. But you’ll make yourself unhappy if you spend the entire time wishing you were somewhere else, instead of right here, in this queue, in this present moment.
You can use this time to bring your awareness on your:
When I stepped into the mindfulness of my surroundings, I became aware that despite the queue being very long, it was in fact the two metre social distancing gaps there made it so long, not the amount of people in the queue!
The following are a couple of steps to help you achieve mindfulness.
- Focus on your breathing. You may notice that your breathing is shallow and fast because you’ve been rushing around. Now you have stopped still, you can control your breath by slowing it down. This tells your brain that you are relaxing. It may only be for a few moments, but it’s enough to invite your body to relax. You will begin to feel more balanced and relaxed as your body introduces feel-good endorphins.
- Now focus on is visualising deep breaths. Imagine that they roll right up from the earth, through the soles of your feet and right up through your body, out of your nose, then back down your nose through your body and out of the soles of your feet. Focus on your breaths as they move up and down, in and out.
If you are feeling particularly stressed, you can tie in your breaths with a phrase, ‘I breathe in calm’ and ‘I breathe out tension’.
After 20 minutes or so of mindfulness, I finally reached the front of the queue. In the past, I would have been hot and bothered, but this time I felt far more serene. My time in the coronavirus queue could hardly have been described as ‘pleasant’ but neither was it particularly unpleasant. It was 20 minutes of my life in which I had been fully aware of being alive in all its majestic glory. And that is infinitely better than the alternative.