A few days ago my thoughts were wondering all over the place. I was remembering things to do, making lists and composing emails. I was in the middle of walking meditation, where the aim is to remain grounded in the present moment, and instead my mind was jumping wildly from one thought to another.
In walking meditation I sometimes use the sense of touch to bring me back into the present moment. Becoming aware of my feet on the floor grounds me again. On that day of busy thoughts it wasn’t the psychical sensation that lifted me out of my freneticism but a sudden awareness of everything I had received.
The carpet my feet were padding into was donated. The floorboards beneath are two hundred years old, like the building. The hands that created the building are long gone but I am still reaping the benefit of their work. The sun was shining through the tall Georgian windows; I had nothing to do with creating the sun, and yet there it was sustaining me, and the whole world.
Two words came to mind, “just this”. Everything I needed was already there. Everything I needed to be at peace was already there.
When our minds are busy, or we feel disturbed, upset or anxious, we are often focussing on the one thing that has worked its way under our skin, and have forgotten about everything that we already have. Or we are comparing our lives to someone else’s (they always look happy on Facebook), and lose sight of what we have received and are receiving.
Directing our attention back to what we have been given and what already supports us is a great antidote to this, and a great way of finding a little peace. Thinking about what we receive connects us to the whole of the present moment. Instead of only seeing the crack in the windscreen, we remember to see the beautiful view as well. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t repair the crack, but it can change how we feel and make things easier.
We sometimes use discontent as a motivator. I don’t like this, so I’ll change it. I want to be thinner, or fitter, or earn more money, or whatever, and then we plough energy into accomplishing that goal.
For me the motivation that comes from dissatisfaction is unstainable. I put some energy into the project, and then I feel a little better, and the discontent goes and so the motivation goes, and the project flounders.
When I act from a place of celebrating what I have already the energy continues. There is always something to be thankful for. This morning I made the bed, or, I made it into my office, or I cleared my inbox. Reminding myself of the little victories brings an energy that can carry me into the next thing on my to-do list.
Writing a list of what we have received in the last week, or in the last 24 hours, is a great way of keying ourselves into this kind of awareness. Research has shown that it’s better to spend a longer time writing once a week, than writing a short list each day. Why is this? I think because writing a short list we can become complacent and list the same things over and over again. Writing a longer list encourages us to really interrogate our position. The list of what we have already received is endless.
Try it out for yourselves: think of what you have already received, and see how it makes you feel.
Or join my next mindfulness course and begin practising mindfulness and gratitude as part of a group.
This post originally appeared in All About Malvern magazine