Mindfulness is my playground, it's my way of coming home
Finally it happened. I had been putting it off for years but I could no longer hold back the march of time. I turned 60 on the longest day of the year. Time to trade in my mid-life crisis for something more interesting. Time to go on a different kind of adventure.
There were many paths I could take, but the one that seemed most compelling to me was to live mindfully in the coming year.
By this I mean to live with a fiercer quality of attention than has been my custom. To live the year as if it were my last.
Some of you know that I have been dabbling in the practice of mindfulness for about 10 years now. I attribute whatever modicum of sanity I have largely to those moments in the day when I take time to go quiet and be still.
On good days, I rise before anyone else in the house begins to stir, sit on a cushion and try to be aware.
I do okay with this routine until life throws some compelling crisis my way or until my routine is disrupted by having to attend meetings far from home.
When this happens, both my life and I can easily lose any kind of shape. I eat poorly, drink too much, and exercise too little.
Before I know it, I’m living a life that no longer feels like my own.
And recently this has been happening more than I care to admit. I can drift on, do my work and get by, but I would like to aim higher.
I want to live my life out of an inner centre of silence, gratitude and curiosity, and deal with whatever comes along in as creative a way that I can.
I want to investigate those parts of me that hold back from giving my all, those places in my life where I am painfully aware of my inadequacies, where I find it hardest to accept who I am and where I feel most alone.
I want to see what difference it makes when I live my life consciously rather than float around half asleep or half awake.
I want to find an answer to a question I was once asked at the end of a talk I gave: “Why would anyone want to live in the present moment, when all there is in that moment is grief, stress and pain?”
In that moment I couldn’t give him a satisfactory answer.
I see my desire to put my heart purposefully into one thing this year as an echo of what many others are doing in their lives.
Everywhere there is evidence of people taking the story of their lives in new and challenging directions.
Some are taking to the streets in running shoes, some to climbing hills on bikes; some are writing songs, poems and books and some are painting their world for the first time; some are learning for themselves a skill they have long admired in others; people are rediscovering what it means to play as an adult.
Mindfulness is my playground. It’s my way of coming home to what is most invigorating about being alive.
To silence, to those edgy frontiers in my life where mystery lies, where creativity is born, and to where I remember what’s important in my life.
I have no idea where this path will take me. I have no idea whether my weekly journal of my adventures will be of interest to you, my reader.
All I can promise is that I will be honest with you, and describe as accurately as I can what difference it makes, if any, to try living mindfully.
Let the games begin.
Tony Bates is founding director of Headstrong – the National Centre for Youth Mental Health