Practicing Mindfulness and Eye for Beauty

Mindfulness techniques seem to be the new trend nowadays. Of course the concept is not new, being rooted in both Eastern and Western spirituality.

Since I’m still on a quest to integrate the Benedictine way of living in my daily life this year, in order to gain awareness, peacefulness and a healthier daily structure, I will share with you some monastic secrets of being mindful.

What is mindfulness anyway?

Let’s start with saying what it is NOT: mindfulness is NOT: sitting on your meditation pillow all day and doing nothing. Neither is it only thinking about God / a Higher Power and floating away on your boat of self-centered happiness.

Here’s a definition from an online dictionary:

mind·ful adj.

1 bearing in mind : aware

2 inclined to be aware
— mind·ful·ly adverb
— mind·ful·ness noun
e.g.: a truly considerate person, always mindful of the needs of others

Related to MINDFUL
Synonyms: alive, aware, conscious
Antonyms: insensible, oblivious, unaware, unconscious, unmindful”

Benedictine Mindfulness

Being mindful in a Benedictine way, is more about connecting than about isolation. It is about paying attention to what is right in front of your nose. It’s giving people and things their due attention and care, both the mundane and the spiritual. In that sense Benedictine Spirituality is profoundly “down to earth”, which sets it apart from many other forms of spirituality

In the excellent resource on Benedictine living: Wil Derkse’s book “The Rule of Benedict for Beginners” I found a beautiful example of two mindful Benedictine nuns in the Hildegard Monastery:

“We see [the nuns] during different moments of their daily rhythm: singing God’s praise in the monastery church (in polished Gregorian), working: the precise work of the goldsmith, the thorough cleansing of the lamp shades, meticulously teaching a private class of [philosophy] by the abdis (…) to a young novice, arranging flowers for the altar, working in the wine cellars, attentively reading private literature in their rooms, a phone conversation in the monastery hall, during which the nun retreats to an alcove to give the caller his due attention, installing new electric wiring, during relaxed leisure activities…”

What is most striking in these examples, is that the nuns give everything and everyone their undivided and due attention, whether it be cleaning a toilet or conducting a conversation, scrubbing the floor or arranging the toilets, praying and meditating or leisure activities. Everything is attended to in the right way.

“To attend and get things right” –

Iris Murdoch

A specific area of attention that comes into view if you look at the nuns is the beautyfying of their environment:

“Beauty and order are contagious” and the reverse is equally true.

“A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever” – John Keats

Monasteries are an oasis of care and cultivation, the proverbial neat handwriting of the nuns or monks, carefully arranged flowers, every tool put in its own right place.

Little things do matter; they contribute to an atmosphere of peacefulness, order and beauty.
Outward order creates inward order and inward order paradoxically creates space for focus and creativity.

How can I be attentive/mindful in my own life?

  • by being fully aware in the present moment, taking care of the very task at hand, ignoring distractions as well as possible, yet being responsive to what the situation requires at a given time.
  • by treating every task as equal, and as an opportunity to give God (/your Higher Power) praise, be it scrubbing or praying. Everything done with an attitude of gratitude.
  • by making sure to practice outer order with love and an eye for esthetics, especially in the small things.

Goal

Today I will be mindful by: acknowledging urges to procrastinate or otherwise follow my impulses, doing my household chores with as much love and care as my writing, making sure my living room looks orderly, pretty and inviting.

Are you on board with me?

Please share with me how you practice Benedictine mindfulness today. Do you have tips and tricks?

You can do so in the comment section below or on Facebook.

In gratitude,

Ester

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Stop – Take a Breath


Balance, mindfulness, serenity, clarity, sanity…they were having a vacation at the beginning of this week.
What made them come back?

Take a breath and hand it over

Lately I have been haunted by a feeling of lack of time, life slipping through my fingers. I was browsing to much aimless minutes and hours on the internet without creating something, I felt dry inside.

Then I applied the S.T.O.P.- technique: Step back, Take a breath, Observe and Proceed. I noticed my feelings by being mindful of them: I felt restless, irritable, discontent, tired and emotional.

Hurry keeps you away from feeling, emotionally and physically. The body is slow, feeling takes time. –

Rob Brandsma

I handed them over to my Higher Power whom I call God. I parked it at his Divine parking lot and waited for answers on what to change.
I started cutting down on my aimless browsing and devoted that time to creating, which made me feel more spiritually alive

Park your guilt elsewhere

Yet a feeling of guilt about accomplishing too little in a week kept nagging me, thereby locking me in a vicious circle of blocking even more.

Over the years I noticed that fear (false evidence appearing real) and guilt (go under in lame thoughts) never brought me anywhere except in misery and life block (an insidious variation on the famous writer’s block). They also lead me into my dreaded enemies procrastination and his comrade fear of failing….
This is what I did: I acknowledged my guilt, parked it again in the Mighty parking lot and waited as patiently as I could.

Rest!

One important thing was bugging me: a feeling of exhaustion.
I can be succinct about what I did about it: If I feel physically tired: I REST. It helped to clear the sky in a very lovely way. I had a siesta of a whooping 3 hours this afternoon. What a luxury!

I slowed down, became mindful: also by rigourously single-tasking, handed over the guilt and monkey busy-ness, started to create again and took it easy, so things really shifted for me today. I feel more rested, more clear-headed, more serene, more connected to what’s good and wise and I am more happy.

Zen dog

My dog Kiara is my mindfulness teacher. I’ll tell you why!
In her cute little doggie universum, all that counts is the here and the now.

  1. She doesn’t even think about the past, although I adopted her from Canary Islands and she didn’t have a past of roses and doggiebones.
  2. The thing that makes her most happy is being together with her two bosses Martin and Ester. When the pack is complete she goes bonkers with joy!
  3. When she is tired she naps.
  4. She loves routines and cosy dogbaskets or fluffy pillows.
  5. She doesn’t think about the future much, that I know of anyway…
  6. She certainly does not care about what other people may think of her!

Yesterday it all came together:
Martin, Kiara and I went upstairs to our guest/study/movie-room to watch the BBC documentary ‘Life’. As we lay on the guest bed, Kiara snuggled tightly between our legs and went into a deep doggie meditated relaxation. Snout down in the pillows and blankies.
It was so peaceful for us: the documentary, the cosy relaxed dog, romantic us. Really simple life, mindful en enjoying every minute!

Please leave a comment below or tweet me, I’d really appreciate that. What do you do to be mindful and have a simple life?

If you’re Dutch, check out my Dutch blog Groen en Lief.

Related post: about me and my rabbits: ” The spiritual power of next action thinking”.

The drawing is from awesome artist Edward Monkton. Do visit his site!