“To see the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower. Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.” William Blake
Often in life, especially as adults, we can think that we already know exactly what is going to happen in any given day, week or moment. We also tend to prize the mind that knows more than the mind that doesn’t. If we already think we know everything, life can actually end up feeling a bit boring, routine and dull. In contrast, the mind that doesn’t know is open, curious and interested. I remember long walks with my children as toddlers, well we didn’t actually cover much distance but boy did they look at EVERYTHING on the way. It must have been mind blowing for them: every mossy stone turned over, every snail prodded, every hole looked into. As we grow up we can unconsciously cease to hold this awe and wonder at the world, this lust for life. But if we can cultivate the open, don’t know mind, it sets us up for noticing the joy and wonder that is possible to spot around us in every moment even, and especially, in difficult times.
The ‘don’t know mind’ occurs naturally with anything new. This week I have been lucky to have a whole range of new experiences. I was extremely fortunate to be offered a weekend of ‘Mindfulness in Nature’ in Scotland by the irrepressibly joyful, kind and wonderful Catherine Brannan, a fellow Psychologies magazine Ambassador. Let’s not forget that new can also equal anxiety or fear beforehand, and the ‘don’t know mind’ can feel a scary and vulnerable place. For me, I also felt the trepidation at doing something that I would never have given myself permission to do only a short time ago, to put down my family responsibilities and go and do something that in all honesty felt just for me. I had no idea what to expect from this weekend, I had never met any of the people before and the prospect was, I’ll admit, full of trepidation. At the other end of this experience, it is plain just how valuable it is to expand our comfort zones and walk into what we fear. I honestly have laughed more this weekend than I can remember doing in a very long time, which is truly the best medicine of all. I now have four new fabulous friends - Cath, Clare, Haulwen and Maryann - who feel like old friends, and my mind is filled with beautiful memories of time spent outside in brain resting landscapes of hills, beach and forest.
This weekend has brought home to me how true it is that we all have our own unique gifts to share with the world, no matter our background or life experience. It reminded me of the line from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, “No matter what he does (or she :-)), every person plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.” We all have the same basic wishes for our lives: to be happy and free from suffering and for a safe place to live for us and those we love. It was a real privilege to be around people who shared their gifts with such kindness, openness and generosity. Together, we silently ate our breakfast in the woods, filling our senses and tasting every nuance both in the food and from our surroundings, attracting pheasants, squirrels and deer close to us. We mindfully walked on the beach at sunset and enjoyed a magical midnight meditation under the full moon in the woods. In fact, Cath encouraged us to bring mindfulness and presence to all our experience throughout the day – even the washing up - and it encouraged us to tune into this sense of joy and wonder at all there is around us that we can so often rush through and miss in our hectic lives. I honestly think this is why we laughed so much, the real noticing of all the joy around us and in each of us.
As the weekend drew to a close, Cath gave each of us a few blackcurrants wrapped in a little clingfilm. For some moments I was confused, although I love fruit it seemed an odd parting gift...and then suddenly the understanding hit me as she said to put it somewhere where it would remind us to be mindful...i.e. to stay in the current moment, or currant moment! And we were laughing again. I have been reminded that joy is there all the time waiting for us to notice, reach out and grab it. In reality this experience was not just for me. I return home resourced, stronger and happier and this joy spreads (just like its opposite can do). No guilt needs to be felt. This is true if we can cultivate joy by keeping a curious, open and interested mind. We’re always just on the verge of the future and so in reality we do not know what this next moment will bring. Each time we practise joy, practise giving ourselves permission, or practise the ‘don’t know mind’, whatever it is, it gets easier each time. What’s not to like?
Wishing you a joy filled week.
“Intense presence makes it simple to live a life of joyful passion.” Melanie Eclare
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