“With awareness, our whole life becomes our practice.”
~Sharon Salzberg (via Twitter, 2 January 2016)
At the library last week, I happened upon a book called At Home With Madame Chic: Becoming a Connoisseur of Daily Life, by Jennifer Scott. It looked cheerful and fresh, and promised to be full of tips for making life more beautiful, etc – all of which fit the first-few- weeks-of-the-new-year/clean-slate/make-improvements headspace I was (and still am, sort of) in. So I spontaneously grabbed it, to take home and peruse.
And this was a pretty good choice! I’ll admit I’m not so much reading it through as leafing through it and just reading the bits that jump out at me me. But that’s been fun! She has some good ideas.
But then last night I stumbled into the suggestion I’m quoting below.
I have to say, as somebody who is actively looking for ways to bring more presence and mindfulness into my life, I think this is pretty brilliant:
“Tomorrow I want you to try this exercise: from the moment you wake up, make each and every movement of your morning routine slow and deliberate. As you walk to the kitchen, feel your feet in your warm and fuzzy slippers. After you pour your water and squeeze your lemon, slowly lift the glass to drink from it. Notice how the water quenches your thirst Put the glass down with intention. When you make the kids’ breakfast, breathe. Don’t let them rush you. While you are slicing the mango for breakfast, notice how it smells – how the knife glides over the meat of the fruit. Chop the mango (or whatever you’re preparing) with intention and love. Clear away the dishes slowly. If anything unexpected happens (your toddler spills her glass of water, the dog barks, the phone rings, you get a text message), deal with it in the present moment. Imagine you’re a character in a book and don’t know what’s going to happen next. Be excited and curious about whatever comes your way.”
~Jennifer L. Scott, in At Home with Madame Chic, pg. 137
I’ve been thinking a great deal about that Sharon Salzberg quote (from above) in the last few weeks. The idea that meditation is something that can- and perhaps should – be practiced in the course of daily living really appeals to me. And that that practice can be something that is an intrinsic part of life, wrapped up in everything else you do or think or say – that makes sense to me. The concept feels more right to me than making time for meditation – like, by sitting down on a mat. (Though that has its place.)
For me, seated meditation is akin to reading about something…as opposed to actually doing it. It can be relaxing, but it doesn’t get me to where I want & need to go – not the way lived experience does. (And I know it’s not like that for everybody…and that perhaps the act of working through this might be beneficial to me. But it is how I feel right now. I’ve rarely felt a strong benefit from seated meditation.)
Walking meditation has been more effective; I’ve found that to be a very refreshing and liberating activity. Yoga, too. But these, like seated meditation, while very helpful to me, are still separate activities. They, by their nature, end – and then I have to go on and resume daily life. And it’s a daily life Scott painted well in that quote above: complete with a barking dog, and kids requiring things of me, and the phone dinging for my attention, and work that needs to be done, and chores that need completed, and so on and so on.
This act of practicing presence in my daily acts that Jennifer Scott is suggesting – this is, I think, something in that direction that I’m looking for.
I didn’t expect to find this in a book that purports to (as the book jacket says,) “[reveal] the secrets to having a happy, stylish, and fulfilling life at home…” I fully expected something more frivolous. And advice on fashion and decorating and what have you does exist here as well. But these mindfulness ideas have been a nice surprise!
Later in the book, Scott uses the term, “meditation in activity,” quoting a Zen Buddhist named Hakuin Ekaku, who says:
“Meditation in the midst of activity is a thousand times superior to meditation in stillness.”
~from At Home With Madame Chic, pg. 205
I’m sure there are plenty of meditation practitioners who would argue this point. But for myself, it rings really, really true. I think it’s that that I most need to develop right now.
Photography helps me with this. I haven’t used the term, but I’ve written more than once before (here for instance) about the ways photography helps me to reach that place of “meditation in activity.”
But I can’t always have a camera in my hand (unfortunately! 🙂 )
And that can be rough.
That being my unavoidable reality, it feels like an imperative for me at this point in my life that I develop alternate tools for reaching this centered place – tools I can have with me all the time.
So I’m going to try Jennifer Scott’s idea tomorrow morning. It’s such a simple first step to what I’m talking about! (Why don’t I think of these things on my own?!) I’m going to try to start my day as she suggests, with that kind of fully-present mindfulness – and I’m going to try to carry that with me as long as I can.
I’m not sure how I think I’ll do…which makes the exercise even more interesting to me. It’ll be an experiment! A really, really worthwhile one.