I recently took a six week mindfulness course with the wonderful Cayce Howe. He started and ended the course with two pearls of wisdom that stay with me. At the end of the first class, he assigned all of us a simple homework assignment: take one mindful breath per day. And at the end of the last class, a second, seemingly simple assignment. Choose one thing you do every day and do it mindfully. I chose brushing my teeth. So, while brushing my teeth, I was supposed to fully be present, engage all my senses, and marvel, in a sense, at all the factors which allowed me to be in my home, brushing my teeth…clean running water, a roof over my head, money to buy toothbrush and toothpaste, the fact that I had a healthy body to care for at all.
One mindful breath, and mindfully brushing my teeth daily. Easy enough.
I can’t tell you how many days have passed since then that I have not noticed my breath, or brushed my teeth in an unconscious hurry as I rushed through my morning.
It strikes me that when we embark on making positive change in our life, we go big or go home. We radically overhaul our diet or resolve to exercise daily or meditate for an hour every morning. And yet, perhaps where we need to start is the smallest, most microscopic step available to us. With intention, with curiously, with full presence. As Cayce reminded me, “Don’t worry about meditating for thirty minutes or an hour. Meditate less, but do it fully. I am more concerned that you are still meditating in five years, then whether you sit or breathe a certain way.”
I think we underestimate the power of one mindful breath, or one mindful activity. When we are overwhelmed or struggling, one breath can bring us back to our body, or where we stand in time and space. We can create a pause within the storm from which we can reflect on what is next. We can notice something we didn’t notice before. We can choose a response that is derived from compassion and wisdom, rather than reactivity. We can discover a sense of gratitude, wherever it exists, in the here and now.
I welcome you to join me in starting over, in recommitting to the smallest step that is available to you right now.
With love, Monisha