Oof – I didn’t mean to take another week off from blogging. Yet here I am, bashfully reentering the blogosphere. For some reason, writing felt like an insurmountable task. I was bored with the blogging schedule I’ve been following for the last year and couldn’t figure out how to break through the staleness, so today’s post is full of what I’ve been pondering since last Friday’s blog post.

a foxglove in my flower garden!

I finished The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh last week and friends – it clicked. In the beginning I was skeptical about many of the ideas he presented – especially about being mindfully present during the most mundane parts of life, such as washing dishes and sweeping the floor. My evening tidying sessions are typically spent with my earbuds in and an audiobook on – I couldn’t imagine that this Buddhist monk would know anything about what it’s like for a stay at home mom who desperately wants a window of time to herself.

But as I continued to read, I began to realize that this is my life. Washing the dishes, folding the laundry, sweeping and mopping the floors, cleaning the toilets, wiping macaroni & cheese smears off the windows… And I’m thankful for it. Why distract myself from it?

That’s part of the reason I’ve pulled back in a lot of ways – because all of that multitasking wasn’t helping me find stillness. I listened to audiobooks while vacuuming, tidying, and folding laundry. So I missed out on those moments of my life, however quotidian they may have been. Every morning while watering flowers, I had my earbuds in. And then I missed out on the joy of noticing the intricacies of my flowers:

It seems like everyone is quilting and sewing right now. So many of my friends are reading like fiends, keeping up with their writing and blogging schedule, joining poetry groups, and talking about books on Zoom. And I’m not. I’m trying not to feel left out which is ridiculous because I’m choosing this stillness, but I’m feeling the fear of missing out really badly right now!

The Miracle of Mindfulness retells a short story by Tolstoy about an Emperor who believed the answers to 3 questions would allow him to live a perfect life:

What is the best time to do each thing?
Who are the most important people to work with?
What is the most important thing to do at all times?

Sounds familiar, I’m sure. My notebooks are full of angst about where I should devote my time and energy. Spoiler alert, this is what the Emperor learned from a hermit:

“Remember that there is only one important time and that is now. The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion. The most important person is always the person you are with, who is right before you, for who knows if you will have dealings with any other person in the future? The most important pursuit is making the person standing at your side happy, for that alone is the pursuit of life.”

We (I) don’t have to make life so complicated. There’s no need to worry about how to “best” spend my time or rush through any of my chores or responsibilities at home to get to my own evening activity. Whatever is front of me is important enough to get right, whether it’s cooking a dinner or watering the flowers. Giving a child a bath, reading a bedtime story, or recognizing an open half hour for some yoga.

So my priorities right now are simple – my family, my home, and my health. I’ve prioritized exercise in my “free” time over the last couple of weeks and that has felt really good, despite wanting to read a zillion books and sew beautiful quilts. I’m reading when the moments present themselves and not rearranging all of my other tasks to make time for it – I’m trying to remember that it’s all important and it can all energize me, if approached openly.

The Miracle of Mindfulness was the perfect book for me right now. Hands down, it’s the best book I’ve read on meditation and mindfulness. It’s full of mindfulness exercises that I’d heard of tangentially and finally have spelled out for me. I was planning to drop this book at The Little Free Library that’s near my house, but I think I’ll be holding on to it for a while longer because I’m still referencing it. But as soon as it’s run its course, I’ll be leaving this little gem for a neighbor to find. I love sharing books this way!

In the book, Thich Nhat Hanh recommends picking one day a week to spend in mindfulness — no real changes to the structure of your day, other than being fully present to all of your life’s gifts and challenges as they are. Tell me: is this something you practice? Or would/could consider practicing? I’d love to hear about how you make mindfulness a part of your daily life!

20 thoughts

  1. Summer is a busy time and it’s ok not to blog. Don’t make yourself feel guilty, your family is a high priority. It’s too easy to sit and watch TV in the evening. Last evening I went out on the porch and listened to the birds sing. It was quiet and peaceful, a good way to relax before heading off to bed since it doesn’t get dark here until 9:30 now. Enjoy your weekend and don’t compare yourself to other people, just work at your own pace, be a turtle!

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    1. I’ve been thinking of myself as a snail since reading The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating — a turtle works, too!! 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement. The flowers are helping me through!!

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  2. I loved this post, Katie, and am glad to hear you’re finding more time for stillness and presence. (The words you’ve chosen for yourself through these recent years have been good guides.) I loved The Miracle of Mindfulness when I read it before and your post has made me want to reread it. I often start my day with a walk in the woods and try to be mindful as I do that. And I’m one who loves quiet, repetitive tasks — washing dishes, stacking wood, mowing grass, working with excel spreadsheets (not!)! They offer themselves so easily for mindfulness — tho’ sometimes also for earbuds! I am glad you are working to not pressure yourself — and look forward to reading how this unfolds in your life. Thanks!

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    1. Thank you, Jordy! Walking in the woods every morning is a perfect way to practice mindfulness – it sounds so lovely. I wish it was easier for me to do here at my house! But like you, washing dishes is always a task that’s available to me, ha. I miss you a lot, Jordy. I hope things are going well for you!

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  3. I so appreciate your conundrum and words and applaud you for sharing but mostly for taking care of you. Thank you for sharing and the referral to The Miracle of Mindfulness – a title I’ve not yet read but am adding to my collection, today! Enjoy your time! Cheers~

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  4. I think so many of us struggle with the “shoulds” of life, especially those of us who are moms who have so much on our plate. But I think you’ve discovered something really important in this book — that none of those shoulds really matters. What is most important at any given time is what we’re doing in the moment. I’ve really tried to focus on that more in the past year, and it’s something I keep giving my husband a hard time about because he is so often mentally somewhere else. I think our society places so much emphasis on multitasking and on efficiency. Think of how different our lives would be if we were encouraged to slow down and do one thing at a time!

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  5. Katie – once again you have written a post that is going to speak a lot into the lives of your readers. I remember reading a book about a woman who wen to live with an Amish family. She was amazed at how present they were in every task. I have been thinking a lot about unplugging and paying attention. Thanks for dipping back in today.

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    1. Juliann – thank you for such a kind comment. I’m glad this post hit on something you’ve also been pondering. We are such kindred spirits!

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  6. Always glad to read a post from you. Don’t worry about frequency! It sounds like this book has really touched something in you, that’s wonderful. I believe we ALL feel FOMO sometimes. I know I do. (“Am I going out enough? Am I making plans with friends enough? Am I too much of a hermit?” these are things I think often.) Social media, even book blogs, make it really easy to compare ourselves with others. I get insecure about how many books I’m reading compared to others! It’s so dumb! LOL. It sounds like you’re figuring out how to give yourself a break. I’m getting there too, I think. 48 day meditation streak helps! Also morning affirmations. Daily practices. But also maybe time for podcasts when you want to! 🙂 And there are WAY too many podcasts to listen to them all too, just like books. 🙂 Anyway, thanks for your thoughtful post.

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    1. 48 days! Go Laila!! You’re so right about making all of these things daily practices. I started reading The Gifts of Imperfection this morning for my early morning contemplation book and Brené Brown is all about DAILY work, which I’m excited about. And I’m convinced that social media is the devil and I don’t ever want to go back, haha!

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  7. I am so pleased you read this book. It’s not one I know but I couldn’t agree more. I get upset when I see people walking with headphones in their ears when there are flowers to see and birds to hear, or parents playing on their phone with their baby in a pushchair, or people running/ cycling with a poor dog trotting along next to them when they need to stop and sniff. So important to do just one thing and be present. Enjoy your family and life today, it will be over too soon as they fly your nest.

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  8. I have to practice mindfullness (or rather: Should practice it regularly) for mental health reasons, because my brain is happy to run amok on some days when I’m not grounded. I try to do this by unplugging the laptop (no smartphone (yet), so that means that there is no internet to distract me), but yes, I have tried to turn the music off during the last two weeks or so to be more “in the zone” or “in the moment” and be comfortable in silence. Keep this up!! I hope you recover your balance soon again. 🙂 (Also thank you so much for all the gorgeous flower pictures!!)

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    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the flower pictures! And I’m impressed that you’ve been able to resist a smartphone – I wish I was that strong!! I’m happy to hear that mindfulness has been so helpful for you. It’s amazing!

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  9. This post is absolutely beautiful, Katie! I remember those feelings so well… it just seemed there was no time at all in the day for *me* and by the time I sat down at the end of the day I was too exhausted to read, or sew, or think most days. And there were not “smart phones” or the internet (at least not for me until I was 37 lol) and audiobooks were not a thing… and despite those things all being missing from my life, I still did not feel like I had enough time. But I can only tell you that that time is so fleeting… and there are days when I would welcome back those days!
    The best thing about your post is that you have me thinking about what will I add back in to my days now that we are re-entering life post-quarantine days. Thank you so much for your words, your thoughts, and your honesty!

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    1. Thank you, Kat. I often think about how lucky I am that audiobooks are so prevalent now. The fact that I can so easily (and affordably) listen to a book while I’m driving is mindblowing! These creature comforts are wonderful, I just want to be careful about how I use them!

      I’m glad this post has you thinking about post-quarantine life. We all have so many decisions to make right now!

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