Mindfulness as a tool to finding more beauty

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Mindfulness as a tool to finding more beauty

“Look, it’s so pretty. Mummy, it’s so green and colouful.”

Euan has stopped to look at a bush right outside our appartment building. It is coming into bloom and small white flowers, which are turning yellow, are coming out. It is mid-March and after a mild and sunny winter the days alternate between warm and spring like and cold, grey and wintery. Today is sunny, but not that warm.

In the moments before the flowers grab his attention, my almost three-year old boy had been whiney and grumpy. He was in one of those moods where he doesn’t want to do anything. The journey down from our 5th floor apartment to the park on the corner, was accompanied by a whiney, almost cry.

We are going outside because I hope some fresh air will do him some good. I wasn’t expecting that it would be the flowers that would cheer him up.

Is mindfulness just another way to help you notice beauty?

I have been reading (and writing: here and here) about mindfulness and how to enjoy being here and now. The reality for many of us might be that here and now is full of dirty nappies, and unwashed dishes and stuck in traffic or rude people on the bus. It might even be full of less mundane things which are genuinely hard to bare.

Mindfulness is touted as being a way back to the present moment, when we are distracted and unfocused. For me it has been learning to process the many complex emotions that mothering in a foreign country, has produced. Mindlessness is often just a way to escape the things we don’t want to think about.

Last year, I wrote in this essay about how journalling has been an effective tool for me to get in touch with the fear, doubt, guilt and at times anger, that have come bubbling to the surface in the days at home with my son. More effective than a gratitude list, or mindfulness meditation, which are both often quoted tools for counteracting the discontent of our busy modern lives.

But perhaps, what Euan was showing me in that moment when he turned from first-class-toddler-grump into happy-little-boy-enjoying-life, was the importance of nature. The vital importance of beauty.

Put Yourself in the Way of Beauty

I was watching Marie Forleo, on Marie TV the other day. It’s not something I normally do as she’s kind of annoying, but her guest was Cheryl Strayed. She was talking about being a writer. I’ll embed the video at the end of the post, it is well worth watching.

She talks about her book Wild, which I read last year. The book is about her hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, with a backpack she can barely carry and no knowledge of hiking. But it is really about her process to come to terms with her mother’s death and the break up of her marriage.

How do you carry on when life hands to you things that seem impossible to bear, she asks. Her answer is that there will always be beauty. And you can see the quote from the book to the left.

Why do writers write, poets poet and painters paint?

Life will always be hard but there will always be beauty.

 

Beauty is essential, not an afterthought

In our face-paced, urban existence beauty can seem frivolous. The urban environment in Japan is often ugly. Powercables strewn everywhere, houses packed tightly into every available space, and concrete everywhere. Coming from semi-rural England it always struck me that even so-called beauty spots in Japan will be paved and there’s a vending machine in easy reach.

There was an article some years ago about how many Japanese children had never seen a sunset. The highrise buildings and life spent indoors get in the way. But even when they are outdoors I see children playing on handheld Nintendos rather than enjoying their surroundings.

And before it sounds like Japan-bashing, I doubt it is a Japan only problem. My point is that even when we are surrounded by nature, we don’t always see it. You have to see sunset before you can allow it to remind you what it means to be alive.

 

Watch Cheryl Strayed below, or click here to buy Wild:

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  • The mind of a toddler is fascinating in that they can go from throwing a tantrum to spotting to admire a beautiful flower. And just like that, the anger is gone. I don’t think we can do that as adults. I guess we hold on to things in our minds a lot more. Perhaps we can learn a lot from our youngsters.

    • Kamsin

      There’s definitely a lot to learn from little kids. I wonder if sometimes we teach children than expressing emotion is bad and by the time we’re adults it’s much harder to let go of the negative emotions we carry. I still think nature is great therapy and can help us forget that whatever we were annoyed about probably wasn’t really that important.
      Thanks for commenting.

  • I liked the way you used ‘mindlessness’ against ‘mindfulness’ – that’s a powerful comparison. And the book ‘Wild’ sounds interesting. Thanks for the thoughtful post. 🙂

    • Kamsin

      Thanks for your comment. I really enjoyed Wild, although some parts when she’s talking about the trail got a bit boring. And as metaphors go carrying a backpack you can barely lift isn’t that subtle but she makes it work!
      And yes, I’m seeing some backlash against mindfulness, as it’s such a buzz word, but who wants to be mindless?

  • Love the first and last line(s). So important to remember this, especially here in the United States of Trump. So glad I found you through the wonderful #weekendblogshare (!)

    • Kamsin

      Thank you for commenting. I’m sure those of you in Trump’s America need all the hope and beauty you can find!

  • I’m divided on the whole ‘mindfulness’ thing. I suspect it played a big part in my 2016 breakdown.
    I’m all for noticing the beauty and wonder, absolutely essential. But I got overwhelmed by how people do awful things to our world and I couldn’t do enough to save it. I thought the best way to save the world would be to reduce the burden on it. Dark dark place.
    #dreamteam

    • Kamsin

      I’m interested in why you think mindfulness had a negative effect on you? For me, it allows me not to get overwhelmed. The world is a crazy place, especially with the events of the last year but when I’m not practising mindfulness then I get overwhelmed. For me mindfulness is not worrying about what is out of my control but focusing on here and now and the immediate things I can do that have a positive impact, even if that’s only small.
      Anyway, thank you for commenting. 🙂

  • What a beautiful quote. Toddlers are great for reminding us to pay attention, for them everything is still new and fascinating. Whenever my little girl stops to look at something I always try to see it through her eyes too and it’s amazing the beauty that can be found all around us in the smallest of things x
    #DreamTeam

    • Kamsin

      Thank you for commenting. I absolutely believe that small children have as much to teach us as we have to teach them.:-)

  • I love being mindful as you do just appreciate the little things and moments. Kids are often great and it and help us too! X #twiklytuesday

  • Children are just great at making us realise these things. How they can swing from one thing to the other. How they just forgive and forget! They are wonderful at making us see sense sometimes! Thanks for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

  • That’s a really interesting view point. I agree that being mindful can really open up the world to you. The one that’s always been there, but we have just been to busy to notice. Thank you for sharing with the #DreamTeam x

    • Kamsin

      I definitely think the world has a lot of beauty to offer and we need to take time to enjoy it. Being busy and productive is great, but not if it comes at too heavy a price.

      Thanks for commenting.