It aint easy being a mindful saint.
Updated: Jan 30
In 1982 I qualified as a Sea Kayak Instructor. Its been an immense pleasure since. In surprising ways. Sure, I taught kayaking skills and it was great fun. But mostly, I enjoyed simply being with my paddlers. Reassuring them how to sit still on the water and really feel connected with nature. Personally I felt engaged with the flow, the sound of my boat rocking up and down and birds flying by. A feeling of connection to something bigger than myself.
I spent most of my 1980´s kayaking on incredibly picturesque, nature-infused oceans and white-water rivers. Then a change came. A move to the hustle bustle of a big city. Things quickly felt different. The concrete. The bustle of humans through it, felt more like a psychological transaction than an engagement with nature. In the office where I worked for my pay, the daily topics of conversation (or even just facial expressions and body language) centred a lot on likes-dont likes, wants dont-want, powerplays etc. There seemed little time or inclination to have a break from it all and boy was it a shock to my rural system. Later on came the sensory overload from the internet and smartphones. My mind said, just do your job. My body screamed; ´lemme outta here!´ Fast forward a few more years later, and through the #mindfulness courses i attended whilst enrolling for 6 months as a day-student (at the Manjushri Kadampa International Meditation Centre in UK) I was able to learn in-depth theory and practice of mind science, from one of the worlds most venerable Buddhist scholars, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Amongst many insightful and life-changing moments, I learned the art of looking inside and the self-regulating skills of my daily mindfulness practice, including how to deal with incoming sensory overload. I learned to notice sensory triggers, instead of reacting to them or the story in my mind about them, and to respond in an awakened, appropriate and calm way.
I have since travelled all over the world to share the same potent skills and benefits, through my own mindfulness programs. Even while kayaking.
Big cities can be stressful for all of us of course, especially in these even more chaotic times. I wouldn´t expect anyone to be a ´perfect saint´ every time I meet or breeze past them, not even if they have a daily mindfulness practice. We all get triggered in differing ways. I teach and practice mindfulness every day, but I´m no saint either and can throw the odd glare (or muffled comment) someones way, on my moodier days. The difference is I quickly notice myself - and simply restore equilibrium with a choice of mindful tools I have, and move on. In stressful sensory hours or days, heres 5 tips to live like a mindful saint in the big smoke: - Treat every day as a new opportunity for self-care, to live pleasantly, or at least help someone else to live well and pleasantly. - Deal as consciously as you can with daily stuff. Question it. Every bit of it. Is it true? - There´s no need to shame yourself when you have not had a particularly saint-full day. - Just do slightly better tomorrow.
- Find the mental space to engage with nature (aka your true self) as often as you can.
Ian Matthews, Healthy Minds & Wellness Coach, Founder of Zenbok. www.zenbok.org
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