Learn to love life’s little pleasures

Take time to notice the details in your everyday routines and discover the pleasures you miss when you’re in a rush or when your mind is elsewhere.

The scent of my underarm deodorant reached my nose. I had rolled it on after the shower without thinking too much about it, just routine.

Will Wiles. The Way Inn.

Learn to love life's little pleaures
photo credit: Shower via photopin (license)

Each day, I invite you to practise mindfulness of at least two pleasurable experiences. If you’re having a shower, use all five senses to engage in it: notice the patterns of the droplets on the shower screen, the sensations of the water on your skin, the smell of the shampoo and soap, and the sound of the spray coming out of the nozzle.

When you’re eating dinner, pause for a moment before your first bite, and notice the different aromas of the various ingredients, and the colours, shapes and textures of the different foods. Then, as you cut up the food, notice the sounds made by your cutlery and the movements of your hands and arms and shoulders. And as you eat that first mouthful, notice the tastes and textures in your mouth, as if you were a gourmet food critic who has never tasted a meal like this before.

If you’re hugging someone you love, notice the sensations in your body, and the way you position yourself, and what you do with your arms, and the reactions in the face and body of your loved one.

Russ Harris. The Confidence Gap

Remain in the moment

We are all capable of living in Walter Mitty type worlds, of placing too much importance on what is going on in the mind rather than taking time to experience what is really happening in this moment.

The premise that we live in a constructed “virtual world” of our own making is of fundamental importance in mindfulness based stress reduction. Formal mindfulness techniques (body scan, sitting meditation, Hatha Yoga) are contextualized by statements such “everyone’s experience will be different and unique,” and a de-emphasis on generic goals such as relaxation or insight. Instead, the importance of “just noticing” events in the moment-by-moment flow of experience is emphasized, without trying to make anything in particular happen. Non-judgmental awareness is at the core of mindfulness practice, emphasizing clarity of perception and freedom from cognitive preconceptions.’

James D. Herbert and Evan M. Forman (eds.). Acceptance and Mindfulness in Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Understanding and Applying the New Therapies.

A flexible approach to planning

We can sometimes focus too closely on following a particular plan while a more flexible moment-to-moment approach can be more effective and help to get more done.

A flexible approach to planning
photo credit: Billy Wilson Photography via photopin cc

It wasn’t impossible to see a whole show on this scale, but it was difficult. It took work. You had to be systematic, go aisle by aisle, moving up the hall in a zigzag, giving every stand some time but not so much time that it diminished the time given to others. That used to be my approach, but I found that route planning and time management occupied more of my thoughts that the content of the show itself. I was lost in the game of trying to see every stand, note every new product and expose myself to every scrap of stimuli – the show as a whole left only a shallow track in my memory. In being systematic, I saw only my own system. Completism was blindness; it yielded only a partial view.

So I threw away my diligent systems and timetables and started to truly explore. Today was typical of my current method of not having a method – I would strike out into the centre of the hall, ignoring all pleas and distractions, and from there walk without direction. I would try to drift, to allow myself to be carried by the current and eddies of the hall, thinking only in the moment, watching and following the people around me. Beyond that, I tried to think as little as possible about my aims and as much as possible about what was in front of me at any given time. I would give myself to the experience.

Will Wiles. The Way Inn.

‘Present-moment awareness is the process of bringing flexible and deliberate attention to one’s experience as it happens. Clients are encouraged to maintain attention on experiences in the moment and to dispassionately observe these experiences, rather than falling into content about events of the past or fears and expectations about the future. Through this process, ACT promotes ongoing nonjudgmental contact with both psychological and environmental events as they occur, strengthening more direct and immediate interaction with experience and undermining the effects of language. The goal is for clients to experience the world more directly so that their behavior is more flexible and consistent with the values they hold.

Jill A. Stoddard and Niloofar Afari. The Big Book of ACT Metaphors: A Practitioner’s Guide to Experiential Exercises & Metaphors in Acceptance & Commitment Therapy

How to get ideas for writing

It’s easy to get an idea for writing, said playwright Lajos Egri. Find inspiration by taking a quiet moment to observe the world around you and within you.

How to get ideas for writing
photo credit: SergioTudela via photopin cc

To get an idea for any type of writing is the easiest thing. Look around you and be observant. Be observant and you will be forced to admit that the world is an inexhaustible pastry shop and you are permitted to choose from the delicacies the tastiest bits for yourself.

Lajos Egri. The Art of Dramatic Writing

‘The capacity to observe change is severely limited by the fact that much of our time is spent in incessant activity that does not provide a stable reference point. Encouraging “just sitting” is a simple way of quieting the body long enough so that that one’s focus can shift to other objects of consciousness, including the mind. Moving around and doing things requires a certain amount of cognitive processing capacity that tends to narrow the scope of attention to instrumental concerns. Sitting quietly, on the other hand, produces an interesting and somewhat paradoxical state of relaxed awareness, which in turn reduces cognitive demands and frees the resultant capacity for other purposes.

‘Quiet, relaxed awareness provides an ideal vantage point from which to observe change processes that are otherwise typically obscured. Manifestations are everywhere. Observation of the breath reveals phasic change from breathing in to breathing out. Observation of inner states reveals both regular and intermittent interoceptive sensations signifying a myriad of changes in underlying physiological processes. Observation of sights and sounds reveals a constant but often subtle flow of energy states captured by sense organs that are themselves constantly changing.’

Paul G. Salmon, Sandra E. Sephton, and Samuel J. Dreeben. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. In Mindfulness in Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Understanding and Applying the New Therapies.