Well, no.... just kidding about all my problems being gone. (Yeah... that was just to get you to keep reading… sorry, but can you blame me? It's the internet, and I'm up against cat videos!)
But, in all seriousness, even though my problems still remain, taking the time to drink a cup of tea outside, and dip into some mindfulness, actually has helped me to view all my problems with a renewed perspective.
It is so easy for me to get swept up in the to-do list! Even if I could pause time, it legitimately feels like there would never be an actual end to the tasks that I should be doing. Computers and smartphones become part of this for me - the tasks feel infinite, and so it's hard to ever pull myself away from these devices without feeling like I'm falling behind.
Today was just such a day, when I had ended one task, and began pondering what was most important to tackle next.
As I struggled with this decision, I started preparing a cup of tea. While the tea was microwaving, I looked out the window, and noticed how beautiful the leaves looked gently quaking in the breeze. I longingly gazed outdoors for a moment. As the myriad shades of green struck my eyes, and a slight breeze caused tiny stochastic movements in the blades of grass, I felt a little bit of tension leave my body. In the next moment, rather than re-entering the grind, I found myself going outdoors, as if drawn by an invisible force, arranging a chair and sitting - just sitting, breathing, and being - in the midst of the moment.
Mindfulness - intentionally paying attention to the present moment without judgement - is a simple idea, perhaps, but more easily said than done. A complex world exists around this seemingly simple concept. Research studies abound with rigorous findings showing all the ways that mindfulness is positive for our health and wellness, and further resources direct us to the best ways to achieve these benefits. Entire groups and publications have emerged, devoted to supporting and disseminating these techniques and research, such as Mindful Magazine and the American Mindfulness Research Association.
As a research nerd, I am convinced! Mindfulness will not only improve my mood, but also help me feel healthier in general, and will make all my problems go away! Ok…still no with making all my problems go away... but the science is clear that mindfulness is freaking awesome!
However, I have a confession. Even as a therapist, even as a consumer of this compelling research, I still struggle to implement mindfulness. I feel like I should be better at this! I totally understand the concept of mindfulness - I'm fully on board, and I also teach these concepts to others. But that's not really what this is about, is it? Mindfulness is not an intellectual exercise. It's not about reading the book and acing the test. It is a felt experience, and one that takes practice to cultivate. And not just practice here and there, but consistent practice, with time and patience. Unfortunately, it's easy for this to feel like another intimidating task on the to-do list.
Then, I found myself drinking a cup of tea outside.
This refreshed my felt understanding of mindfulness. Within only about 20 min, I had a restorative experience outdoors, and not on a perfect beach or an epic mountain, but on the back patio of my office, on a hot and humid day in Ohio.
I checked in with my body, noticed some tension, and breathed into that sensation. I looked around and observed the colors and movement surrounding me, then tuned in to the sounds, near and far. I felt the sun and the warm breeze on my skin, and felt the alternating sharp and spongy blades of grass between my toes. More than once, I noticed my mind gravitating back to the to-do list, like a stretched rubber band trying to tug its way home. I breathed, tried to cultivate kindness with myself, and gave myself permission to come back to the present, promising the rubber band that we'd get there in a moment. But first, for those 20 min, my mind got to curiously explore the freedom of the present moment. For those 20 min, I felt connected to my environment in a full and grounded way. There was no stress of the future and no ruminating over the past - only observations, sensations, and breath without judgement. I know that the to-do list is still there, waiting for me in all its stressful glory, but my mind relished the salve of taking a short break from it.
And, it's almost as if.....
.... just for those 20 min...
.....while drinking a cup of tea outside....
all my problems were gone.
Rose Kormanyos, MA, IMFT, is a Licensed Independent Marriage and Family Therapist, and the owner of Redwood Counseling in Sharonville, Ohio. She specializes in working with couples and survivors of adversity. She can be reached at www.redwoodcounselingcincinnati.com