“Be where you are; otherwise you will miss your life.” – Buddha
Those wise words of Buddha are dancing on my landscape of life right now. As I complete the final edits of my book before it goes to press, and plow through all the rest of my to-do list that goes with the publishing process, I am definitely “being where I am,” but I feel like I am missing my life. That is, the other part of my life. Or, maybe this is my life right now until I complete this project. The deadlines have cut into my free-time rituals I enjoy, but I know it’s temporary and for an important cause: the birth of my book, Twelve Mindful Months.
Creative projects like this keep me present – where I am – just like when I’m writing or taking photographs or walking in nature. These rituals feel like a meditation, a full immersion, a way to honor my soul’s needs. So, if rituals keep us present and mindful, maybe routines cause us to check out and be less mindful?
This morning I had a mindfulness wake-up call. During my shower I could not recall if I’d already put conditioner in my hair or soaped my feet. I guess I’d really checked out. The shower is a daily routine I think we all enjoy, but how often do we zone out, planning our day maybe, and miss the moment?
Thirty-two years ago this month, upon returning home from a 30-day Outward Bound course of living on the ocean and islands without plumbing, I vowed never to forget the ecstasy of my first hot shower. There were many other comforts of home we didn’t have on that trip, but the shower was the one that I missed the most. We spent the month immersed in nature, sleeping on the earth under the stars, without even a roof or tent above our heads, beginning each day at sunrise with sun salutations, a run, and then a plunge – a daily bath – in the icy cool waters of the Atlantic: rituals to express reverence for another day, and for our bodies and our health. I’d always loved the outdoors, but that experience taught me how to really see and feel and appreciate the simple things nature offers, but maybe more importantly, appreciating those daily routines we take for granted.
Writing a book on mindfulness made it easy to stay on the mindfulness track. I was fully immersed as I wrote the manuscript, and it naturally became part of my DNA after 3 years of rewriting. The words I typed on mornings before work echoed in my head throughout my day; so it’s no wonder now, as I am removed from writing the text, mindfulness doesn’t come as easy.
I realize no one is ever perfect, and there will be plenty of times I will catch myself doing things unmindfully, but that’s the key. If I can notice myself not being mindful, then I am being mindful. Like when I meditate, having an awareness of the thoughts that penetrate, but then letting them go. Each time I am aware, I am present.
Today as I tackle my “to-do” list, I will do only what I need to do, allowing time – even a short amount – for the rituals that keep me balanced, like yoga, meditation, a walk outdoors. As I practice these rituals and see the beauty in nature and everywhere, I will seek the beauty in the nature of my routines as well. And I will be where I am. This is my life, and every moment – of both rituals and routines – is a blessing.