I have been practicing mindfulness since August last year, when I took a mini 3-week sabbatical before moving to my new home in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It began in small lake towns, vacation communities, where I wandered through stores filled with art, and rode a borrowed blue bike to drop-in yoga classes. I eavesdropped in small cafes with great cinnamon scones and even better pour-over coffee. I watched a group of Seniors dance literally by the light of the moon in a paved pavilion on the water. I ordered five books (and new gym shoes) and had them shipped to me in the condo that was my sanctuary. I bought the pullover Navy hoodie at Walgreen’s with the Michigan map on the front on the night when the cool air reminded me I was not in Florida anymore. I bought candles and pottery and pasties made with rutabaga and steak and crust made from a grandmother’s recipe at the Muskegon Farmers Market.
Mindfulness: The very word is a moment of Zen. It is one of those terms I’m beginning to understand by osmosis as much as any study of it. I like to think that if I can describe it, perhaps I’m doing it. And no matter the name, this practice is sustaining me during these times when the news of the day can unexpectedly unleash anxiety and mourning and rage in both myself and those I encounter.
Mindfulness is sitting in the dark during a power outage, choosing to write rather than rest because the darkness is thick around me and I can hear my inner voice more clearly.
It is planning to meet one friend for dinner, and another for a walk, and showing up for all of it: the anticipation, the meetings, and the memory after we’ve finished.
Mindfulness is doing the work to make my biking a natural and legit mode of transportation with comfy hand grips and a book bag and rack and a mount for my GPS-phone on my handlebars. It’s the whoosh of the early morning air hitting my face, and the sound of two retired men laughing after hollering to me to be careful and not go so fast.
It’s going to the library, to the room where everyone is reading at long tables with lamps suspended above them, so that each patron has their own light. It’s savoring a book in that set-aside space so that I feel like I’m inside of what I’m reading instead of scanning, as the words are on a billboard, and I on a moving sidewalk.
Mindfulness is trying the mix of the cream from the top of fresh milk and organic honey and crushed oats as a face mask, and believing that it has stopped the aging of my skin, and not apologizing for my vanity.
It’s tearing up while thinking about things I want to say to my children at their wedding, and knowing I will keep most of those things quiet in my heart because they would make me tear up.
Mindfulness is looking around at the people at King of Kings Lutheran Church every week and feeling my senses come alive with the holy catharsis that is singing and praying and communing with people bound together by decades of loss and love; joining and separating; bedrock foundations and broken hallelujahs. It is tears mingling with hushed words, laughter with gusty refrains. It is walking out feeling the shift, that cannot be grasped, only experienced, that signals transformation.
It’s wailing at injustice and reading what challenges; fearing the worst and working for the best and praying for our past and present and Lord knows, our future. It is taking nothing for granted.
Mindfulness is little boxes drawn every day on my calendar, prompting me to care for my body, mind, spirit, to read, to write, every day, to check them, turn the page, and write another row, little boxes as reminders that help me set rhythm to my days, body, mind, spirit, check, repeat. Every day. It’s an intentional routine drafted with simplicity.
It’s singing more loudly. It’s photographing every single flower in bloom and smiling, nodding, noticing everyone with whom I am sharing space.
It’s reaching farther within in order to reach out.
It’s eating the ice cream for lunch because the power outage remains and it’s slamming ice on the pavement so it will fit in the coolers and keep the milk cold.
Mindfulness is sitting on the park bench that is legacy to a person I never knew, but who loved so well that in the space they once occupied they now invite strangers to come and rest.