One of my tasks in this year’s boot camp is to raise my level of meditation. This includes increasing the number of moments in the day that I am genuinely mindful—fully aware of what I am doing and feeling and thinking and sensing at that particular moment. Sitting and meditating is easy by comparison, because it’s easy to schedule. Both are a pleasure—but it’s often difficult to snatch that quick flash of mindfulness in a busy day. (That is exactly the point.)
The most practical way to become mindful, I’ve found, is to associate mindfulness with particular activities. My son Geoff, for example, says he aims to be mindful in two situations: every time he walks through a door and every time he takes someone’s blood pressure. Two well chosen opportunities: one is a moment of change and movement, the other a moment of focus and stillness.
Paradoxically (because mindfulness should be accessible at any moment, I suppose), mindfulness comes easier when it’s a habit.
At Capital Choir we have begun singing a powerful new song by Felicia Edgecombe, our director, with words by Jeffrey Paparoa Holman. Since first reading the poem, I’ve appreciated this simple activity as never before: to stand and drink from a glass of water.
The people of Christchurch know what a privilege this is. Jeffrey’s poem forces us through a relentless sequence of events and feelings experienced by Christchurch people during the last few years. The horror began with a massive earthquake that shattered the city, but that was only the beginning of hell time. The poem and the song, end with this deceptively simple line:
We stand and we drink from a glass of water.
Stability. Water. Normality, life itself returning to a traumatised city.
Stability. Water. We take them for granted, most of the time. For older people, stability and water are even more significant and precious. Each time I stand and drink from a glass of water, I try to think of nothing else. I look at the water—what an extraordinary modern blessing, clean clear water running out of a tap! And the glass—unbroken, just the right size and shape. And I notice that I’m standing firm and straight and steady. The ground is firm. I stand. God I’m lucky!
These are mindful moments, refreshing, stabilising. A flash of awareness incites gratitude. And how much time do they take? None, because we have to drink water anyway—especially when we are older.
After the tremor
Jeffrey Paparoa Holman
after the tremor the neighbour
after the terror the stranger
after the stranger the doctor
after the doctor the soldier
after the soldier the looter
after the looter the vulture
after the horror the ruins
after the ruins the kindness
after the kindness the sirens
after the sirens the silence
after the silence the weeping
after the weeping the comfort
after the toppling the creaking
after the shaking the shaking
after the shaking the questions
after the rage and courage
after profound desolation
after the nurse and the undertaker
we stand and we drink from a glass of water
Image from The Art of the Dresden Gallery (1907) by Julia de Wolf Gibbs