Updated: Sep 9, 2019
You remember them, don't you? Those nights when the power would go out and we'd all be huddled around a board game (the only entertainment available), playing Monopoly, by candle light? You remember, don't you, the sense of titillation, as if we'd inadvertently been thrust into a situation that was slightly outrageous; the sudden surge of human connection, born out of some primal instinct to protect our own in the dark; the way time appeared to slow, as we stared, mesmerised, into the flickering flame, until sleep overtook? You remember, don't you?
Well, it turns out that losing the supply of water to the family home, can have a similar effect!
Last weekend, one of the water pipes to our home sprang a massive leak - we're talking a submerging-of-the-entire-patio kind of leak! There was nothing for it, but to head out into the cold, midnight air, bare-footed in my pyjamas, to try to find the mains supply to the house and kill it! As I held the torch with my teeth and reached into the unfathomable garden bed to find the tap, I was positive I could hear Bear Grylls heartily applauding my intrepid survival skills. :)
Of course, every plumber in the phone book was otherwise occupied for the weekend - why do these things always happen on weekends? - so, my son and I resigned ourselves to the fact that we would be sans water until Monday morning. A mere 48 hours!
Once again, our survival instincts kicked in, as we came up with creative ways to negotiate this scenario. But what also kicked in, by necessity, was a heightened sense of mindfulness. I mean, think about it - we have been trained like precision-machines to automatically flush the toilet immediately after each visit, and you might be surprised by the number of times we instinctively reach for the tap to wash our hands in the course of a day.
It required great feats of self-restraint, impulse control, pausing to think, and becoming present to the situation, just to re-train ourselves off auto-pilot.
Mindfulness is often made to appear more complex than it is, but it's really just about our capacity to pay attention. The Smiling Mind app, defines mindfulness as "paying attention to the present moment with openness, curiosity and without judgement" and, as we discovered, there is nothing like a break in routine to force mindfulness upon us.
Similarly, when we went to the park to collect buckets of water, there was something very primal about waiting for the bucket to fill, knowing that this would be our source of liquid sustenance for the next few hours. We can easily take for granted the fact that water just appears in our taps and toilets, out of our garden hoses and in our showers. But imagine if water was something for which we had to labour, as so many in the world still do? Our little jaunt to the park was nothing compared to the miles some people (often children) have to walk to retrieve water, but it did serve to make us more appreciative of our modern conveniences, nonetheless.
Finally, after 48 hours of having been about as Bear Grylls as I could handle, I leaked our plight to the neighbour (see what I did there?), whereupon he graciously offered us a shower. All I can say is that was one of those showers that is now forever etched into my psyche! (I have a few favourite shower memories, just as I have a few favourite sleep memories, but those are for another time). The point is we remember those special showers, sleeps, or any experience that has an impact, because during those moments we have become more mindful; more present to the full spectrum of the experience - the pressure from the shower rose, the water's consistency, the scent of the soap, the sensation of the day being washed away........
To conclude, during the course of those 48 hours, my son and I discovered that mindfulness can help boot us out of auto-pilot; it can help us feel more grateful for the things we take for granted; and it can help us become more present to those life-giving experiences that are going on all around us, all of the time.
What are your everyday experiences of mindfulness? And, if you've lost touch with these, might I recommend a long, hot shower, focusing on the blissful, salubrious benefits of water!