I am writing this blog post sitting on a tiny stool carved from a log in a tepee. As I look around, I am surrounded by trees and spring flowers in brilliant shades of pink and yellow. In front of me is a little wooden bridge over a stream and the only sounds I can hear are the birds singing and the stream as it flows over the rocks. Sunlight dapples the leaves and a gentle breeze ruffles my hair. I am completely alone but I have never felt less lonely.
How easy it is to be mindful in this place. Nothing disturbs me and I feel totally at peace.
Rewind one week and the environment couldn’t be more different. I am in the middle of a queue to see an event at the Hay Festival on bank holiday weekend. It’s the busiest day of the festival and I am queuing for the most popular event. There is a cacophony of noise around me. Excited children are getting louder and louder and tired, stressed-out parents’ tempers getting shorter and shorter. Armed police patrol the area adding to the tension. Behind me the queue snakes back further than I can see. My feet ache from standing most of the day. I am surrounded by people but I feel lonely.
How easy is it to be mindful in this place?
In the past I have fallen into the trap of thinking that mindfulness is only possible in the right environment. For me, that would be at home in my meditation space, on my stool, with my ‘special’ cushion. I have often been guilty of using the wrong environment as an excuse not to practice when I haven’t had time or been away from home.
I have practised mindfulness meditation in cars, on trains, in the supermarket and at work as well as in the quiet environments that we might think would be more conducive to mindfulness. In fact, I would say that I get more benefit from being mindful in these busy environments, because these are often the places that can increase stress and anxiety the most.
It is possible to be either totally mindful, or completely distracted in any environment. You could be in the quietest, most picturesque place, yet be caught up with your thoughts and worries, or be in the noisiest, busiest place, yet be fully aware of the present moment. Being mindful is not dependent on a particular environment, on being alone or on having complete silence.
Next time you think you haven’t got time or are in the wrong place to be mindful, try just dropping inside the breath for a few moments and you might notice that you can benefit from just a few minutes of practice wherever you go.
This 3 minute breathing space meditation is useful to learn so that you can use it wherever you are:
Jo is a director of Mindful Future and an accredited Breathworks Mindfulness Teacher. Breathworks is one of the leading Mindfulness organisations in the UK