My morning routine in the fall and winter starts by putting a kettle of water on to boil. I then create the most incredible oatmeal that I can with ingredients from our cupboard and pantry. Apricots, apples, coconut flake, almond butter, walnuts, berries, flax seed, chia, whatever I can find. It is kinda like playing Chopped for breakfast. Then I add two scoops of fresh ground organic coffee to my french press and usually have a few moments to brush my teeth before the water boils. At least, this is how I used to do it.
On more than one occasion, (yes I just admitted that) as my mind raced through the upcoming events of my day, a heaping table spoon of coffee grounds has gone directly into my amazing oatmeal creation. You cannot salvage the oatmeal after this happens. Especially when their is honey involved. Trust me on that one.
I have solved this problem by changing the system. I now prepare the french press and set it aside before I begin to create the oatmeal. Easy fix, over and done, right? Did I really solve the problem?
What is the real problem that causes me to be so careless one instance with something that I have been so careful with the moment before. I would never consciously ruin my breakfast in such a manner. The problem is that I am acting unconsciously.
Even as I tap out this article, I find myself drifting away and thinking about problems that are coming my way. Or potential problems that my mind has created. My mind creates reality over and over again every day. That sounds profound and strange, but it is true. The vast majority of problems that I face in my mind never happen in real life. They are fiction.
It is amazing that I am able to dream up so many variations on reality, but is it really useful? Is it productive when these fictional representations of reality cause stress, worry, anger or grief? Is it worth it when I get so distracted with them that I ruin my oatmeal?
Mindfulness is the practice, or art if you prefer, of controlling our mind. Sounds easy. Give it a shot for a few moments. Unless you are actively training your mind through meditation, it is amazingly difficult to control what the mind is doing. If you can hold an empty mind for five full minutes without getting distracted by thoughts (fictions) about your day to day life, you are far further along the path to self realization than I am. You are probably also a pretty happy person.
Used to be that when I thought of meditation, I saw visions of sitting on a yoga mat deep in the woods with a peaceful smile on my face. That sounds nice, but it is a fiction too. Truth is that you don’t need to go be an aesthetic in the woods to find the benefit of mindfulness meditation. For me, I simply work to put 100% of my focus on the preparation of my morning coffee and oatmeal. Working gently to stay in that moment even when my mind starts to wander.
Not only do I get a calmer mind from practicing these five minutes of being present each day. I also get to eat great oatmeal without coffee grounds.