I try to get up some mornings in a mindful way. If you knew how difficult I have always found it to get up in the morning, you would understand why it can’t be every morning! I have never understood why I have been designed in such a way that I feel worse after a night’s sleep than I did when I went to bed. But that is how things are, and how they have been since I was about thirteen, so I must set my grumpiness to one side and be gentle and patient with myself before embarking on another attempt to be mindful all day!
Imagine how efficiently you would breeze through the day if you managed to give everything you did your total attention. No daydreaming, no going over what happened yesterday at work, no doing stuff with half an eye or ear on the TV or radio.
But getting efficiently through the day is not really the point.
Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen Master, defines mindfulness as “the energy of attention”. It does not necessarily make work any quicker. In fact, in my case, it is just the reverse. When I am mindful about getting dressed, it can take me ages.
I carefully pick up each item of clothing, and become aware of its weight and texture. I feel it on my skin, I am aware of my body movement, the dance I do every morning.
When I am not mindful, getting dressed is just one of those things I have to do. It can be a bit of a nuisance, a work activity full of challenges and frustrations. But when I am mindful, it is a delicious pleasure, full of magic.
Dressing when blind is a struggle, a series of small (and not so small) challenges. It sets the day off to a confrontational start. Me against the buttons, me against shoe fastenings, me against colours that “just don’t go together.”
This way, though, the mindful way, gives me each button, each lace, each sock as a gift from the Void, to touch, feel and relish; each movement an opportunity to dance, to become intimate with my body’s mechanisms.
The Ancient Greeks and Romans included this mindfulness as part of the philosophy of Stoicism. The Stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, wrote:
Early in the morning, when you are finding it hard to wake up, hold this thought in your mind: ‘I am getting up to do the work of a human being. Do I still resent it, if I am going out to do what I was born for, and for which I was brought into the world? Or was I framed for this, to lie under the bedclothes and keep myself warm?’ ‘But this is more pleasant’. So were you born for pleasure: in general were you born for feeling or for affection? Don’t you see the plants, the little sparrows, the ants, the spiders, the bees doing their own work, and playing their part in making up an ordered world. And then are you unwilling to do the work of a human being? Won’t you run to do what is in line with your nature?
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 5.1