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Wendell Berry wrote, “The world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling, and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our feet, and learn to be at home.”

I’ve been dipping my toe into mindfulness and found the water pleasantly warm and surprisingly enticing. Modern mindfulness if I can describe it as that, seems to argue that it’s helpful in tackling anxiety or stress, to try to acknowledge the uniqueness of each moment by accepting it with a non-judgemental mind-set that helps make you aware of simply being alive in that moment rather than being the sum total of our history and the daily demands and stresses around us.

Now initially that all sounded dubiously New Age-ish until that is I found myself walking through Hammersmith, London last Thursday lunchtime.

I’d had consecutive meetings from 7.30 in the morning. I was behind schedule, very late in fact, and unprepared for my next meeting. I felt stressed and anxious. My head was down and I marched. And so, thinking about the reading I’d done the evening before, I stopped and tentatively and inexpertly thought about that moment.

The sun was shining, the trees stood in sharp silhouette against a bright sky, across which clouds raced. There was birdsong above the sound of traffic. And yes, it was refreshing, and dare I say it –  beautiful. In that moment I let out a deep breath, and found myself smiling. I looked up, continued my walk and coped well with the afternoon.

Now I’m not saying for one moment that Thursday lunchtime made me a convert to anything. It didn’t, however a simple exercise in looking, in silencing myself, in standing, staring and appreciating what was around me, even for a few moments, did have tangible and positive benefit and the experience made me want to do it again.

I’ve tried a few other DIY approaches over the weekend too; like making time to do something I know relaxes me, in my case it was a working on a painting; I’ve noted down the good things that happened in the day – there were more than I would’ve perhaps otherwise acknowledged; and I’ve also started a list ‘Can-Do-Now’ activities that I know help cheer me up. These are all small steps. But I think it’s right and proper that they are, if I’m to have any chance at all of making deep-rooted changes to my mindset and approach to life, I need to do it respectfully and one step at a time.

I’ve mentioned this famous poem by William Carlos Williams in posts before, it’s a favourite of mine, and captures in just a few words the importance of acknowledging and valuing the staggering beauty to be found in the minutiae of life all around us.

The Red Wheelbarrow 

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens

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