Before tackling the veg drawer, I put my head through the door of Larry’s study, gauging whether he is interruptible. “Can you ring a mindfulness bell for me?” I plead. He turns round from the computer and laughs. Sometimes we have “work periods” together in the flat, like you have on residential group retreats. Every so often, one of us will sound our big singing bowl and we stop in the middle of what we are doing, toilet brush or vacuum attachment in hand, for a mindful breathing space. I suppose it is quite funny that I should need a formal invitation to stop, that simply recognizing the need for a break is not enough to make it happen.
I think we probably all know what it is like to push on with a task, overriding any mental and physical signs of tension, just wanting to cross the finishing line. Tick, done! Certainly, a sense of completion has its own reward, but we goal-oriented, time-governed modern people are missing out on a whole lot of other satisfaction on the way. Above all, the glorious experience of living life as it happens, in this very moment. In fairness, even in the Buddha’s pre-industrial times, human beings needed reminding to be mindful. As modern brain science confirms, the default setting of the mind is to go on autopilot and rehash past and future scenarios, which does of course have its uses. Sometimes we learn from past experience or pre-empt future mishaps. However, allowing anxious or overly critical thinking to run unchecked can be stress-inducing.