Posts Tagged ‘mindfulness’

I don’t think I’ve multi-tasked for days.  Well, I’m currently eating three squares of dark chocolate orange whilst writing this but really multi-taking…nope.  I realised this when I’d finished my gardening for the day (seventh and unfortunately final day of my first WWOOF placement here is Tassie) and found myself trying to carry mug, water bottle, trowel, spade and numerous bits of wire all over to the shed at one time.  Then I simply dropped them all, picked up two and did several trips across the sun-soaked garden instead of the intended one, admiring the rose beds as I went.  At this point, I also realised how slowly I have taken to walking, enjoying each footfall, knowing that whatever it is I’m doing will take as long as it takes and that’s ok. 

Which naturally got me to thinking of the usual routine back at home.  I’m sure the reality of downing morning coffee whilst charging phone whilst driving to work whilst planning a lesson whilst decided what to do in the pre-work gym session whilst trying to text someone about something you forgot to text the previous evening etc. etc (or thereabouts) is nothing new to anyone.  Nor the reality of lunchtimes being a thing of the past. 

When I first arrived at the school I’m currently taking a sabbatical from, my colleagues-soontobe-friends and I enjoyed ‘tea club’ each afternoon after lessons had finished and before we started all the other work.  One friend used to prance from classroom to classroom singing ‘Tea, Tea!’ and we’d all pour over to the staffroom, exhausted from the afternoon’s teaching and have a good laugh.  That lasted a year.  Now, we sometimes grab five minutes together at breaktime but even that is often ruled out by additional meetings or needing to follow up behaviour or learning issues.

Anyway, it’s great to be going at a slower pace.  How on earth is anyone supposed to foster presence and mindfulness when your presence entails four or five things all taking place at precisely the same time.  I used to think yoga retreats and the like were a bit pointless – it’s all very well being relaxed and centred for two (very expensive) days but surely it vanishes into thin air as soon as normality resumes, I thought.  But I’m beginning to think that maybe it sinks a little deeper than that.  Especially with consciousness and awareness of what it is you’ve captured and how it can be nurtured.  I hope so anyway.  I leave this beautiful Huon Valley idyll tomorrow and head for Hobart before back to the chaos of Sydney the following day.  If nothing else, I’d like to think I can capture at least parts of the day for single-tasking.  We’ll see.

I first remember putting my finger on what exactly it was I loved about yoga when dashing out of a small yoga centre in a town in Mexico.  Dashing because my fellow-teacher and I had snatched one golden hour to ourselves during a month-long student expedition through Mexico and Belize and now that hour had almost turned into two.  Anyway, it was whilst hot-footing in down a busy street, coffee in one hand, bag in the other, that I mused with my friend about how yoga left what I’d subconsciously been calling a ‘deep internal calm’ within yourself…even when sprinting through crowds of slow-moving Mexicans.

Having read and experienced far more now than I had then, five years ago, I recognise this feeling to be in line with some of the ideas of Being, Consciousness, Presence, Mindfulness.  Back then, I just knew it felt good.  Which I suppose is all that matters.  Only that now I am more conscious of what is going on I am more able to hone and develop that feeling, even when things are hectic.

Today I felt that deep internal calm.  Not induced by yoga or meditation as is often the case.  No, today it was weeding.  I have been enjoying my fourth day of my first WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) placement here on Cloud River Farm, Huon Valley, Tasmania.  I’ve spent the best part of my five hour working day weeding ground around three flower beds.  Though its description lacks glamour, the task was quite simply blissful.  Soil covered hands, numerous downpours and raging backache aside (or included even), I have felt nothing but calm, compassionate and – for the most part – present all day long.   When presence has strayed, my memories have been those of playing in the earthy den behind the oak tree as a child or gardening with my Grandma before potato sandwiches for lunch.  I can’t help but think of a day up in Brisbane in January when sitting in my English Language Teacher Training class and responding to a classmate’s question ‘So, how are you finding Brisbane?’ with ‘I miss the earth’.

And yet despite being a little preoccupied with fond memories of times gone by, I’ve also been fairly present, remembering regularly the importance of this moment: the sounds, the smells, the feel of compost between my fingers.  I have moved with purpose and felt the earth beneath my feet.  I have taken my time, enjoying the task and not rushing to an end-product. 

Whilst some of my mind has been taken with the past, some too has been playing with the future – born out of such a welcome sense of wholeness, my ‘deep internal calm’, perhaps.  I got to wondering how this feeling of calm, balance and compassion can be nurtured in the hustle, bustle and sometimes worse of a working day at a high achieving comprehensive school in the south of the UK.  If I am to return to my job there in a year’s time, I do not want to leave my advances in understanding about how to be more present, mindful and compassionate in the past – I want to take them with me.  A colleague I greatly admire is open-minded and inquisitive enough to find alternative lifestyles and ways of thinking deeply interesting.  But caught in the mainstream schooling system, she fails to see how many of the ideas and approaches are sustainable.  I’m keen to tackle this challenge.  I don’t want my sabbatical to be a ‘holiday’ before ‘returning to reality’; I want the time I currently have to read, think and experience to be the foundations for the rest of my life – new ways of being that aren’t just ‘holiday mode’ but become everyday mode.  Though I don’t want to dwell overly on the future, I am intrigued to discover how possible it is to retain this calmness when plunged back into the midst of an often raging storm.