Mindful Moments Along the Way
Updated: Sep 7, 2021
Have you ever noticed how the best things in life tend to happen "along the way"?
Just to name a few:
- chip trucks
- antique markets
- wild blueberries
- long conversations
- comfortable silences
- delicious discoveries
- hilarious screw-ups
- moments of connection
- the serenity of solitude
So...if these little serendipitous moments happen along the way, why are we so focused on where we're going or where we've been?
I, for one, am an overactive anticipator. It's a blessing and a curse, as I love planning things down to the nitty-gritty details - like selecting precisely which 12 varieties of sprinkles to set out for a children's cookie painting party or dying the icing just the right shade of Grinchy-green. I'm aware that these details don't matter to anyone else nearly as much as they do to me, but I find the preparations for the event are as much fun (or sometimes more fun) than the event itself.
On the other hand, upcoming events can also really weigh on me, my anxiety growing with each passing day until the event begins and I can finally settle in. This is especially true in professional settings or when I'm concerned about making a good impression. Even if I'm preparing to speak about a topic I'm confident in or deliver a workshop that I'm familiar with, the anticipatory anxiety can build and build until go-time, making me tense and distracted up until that point.
I'm also a bit of a daydreamer. When I was a kid, somewhere between grades one and three, I remember a French elementary teacher saying to me, "Jessica, t'es dans la lune" which translates literally as "you're in the moon" or more accurately, "you're spacing out". I prefer the French version. The teacher was absolutely right, anyhow. I was physically at my desk, but my mind had floated off to some other world and I was perfectly content to be there. I loved school but keeping my attention focused on what was happening in the room at all times was not my strong suit - at least not at that young age. These days, learning opportunities usually capture my full attention. It's everyday life with kids that I find harder to sink into, often finding myself stuck in my head or focused on the to-do list.
The thing is, to appreciate life's little happenings along the way - or even notice them - we need to be open. Attentive. Receptive. This usually requires slowing down, doing less things all at once, and deepening our breath so that we can fully inhabit our bodies and our senses.
My son Andrew, who is almost 4, is a natural at this! Noticing is his super-power and I'm so grateful to catch glimpses of the world through his eyes. One morning when we still had snow, on the way from the front door to the car, Andrew walked very slowly and then kept on walking past the car, toward the neighbour's house, stopping every few steps. Initially, I was annoyed, as we had somewhere to go and I didn't want to be late! (Sound familiar, parents?) However, for some reason, on that morning, instead of yelling at the kids to hurry up and get in the car, I paused. I crouched down beside my son and asked him, "What are you noticing?" And just as I asked this question, I heard it too - the sound of dripping water from the neighbour's downspout. We followed the source of the sound together and saw the small stream of water trickling out. This sparked a conversation about snow melting and signs of spring. We also managed to get in the car quite peacefully and this whole diversion didn't actually take up much time at all - a minute at most.
The impact of asking that one little question, "What are you noticing?" has stuck with me, though the snow is now long gone and we're getting into shorts and t-shirts weather.
How about you? Does your mind gravitate toward the past, present, or future? Does your attention easily ground itself in your surroundings, or float off to faraway lands? If mindfulness doesn't come easily for you, the next time you're about to start a task - say, while laying out ingredients to make a meal, or getting in the car, or starting a new project - ask yourself "What might I notice along the way?"
I would love to hear what you are noticing and savouring today! Share in the comments and we can support each other in this lifelong journey back to the present moment.