What colour is your toothbrush?

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(image from http://www.123rf.com)*

I wonder how many parents, particularly of babies and young children, feel like they are never truly present when they are speaking to other adults. I certainly don’t when I’m jiggling a wiggly Matteo around while trying to keep an eye on Luca, calling out things like ‘stay away from the road’, ‘put the worm down’ etc. every few seconds. This is a form of multi-tasking that doesn’t make me feel that I’m accomplishing a lot…. it’s more like a simmering pot which is about to boil over (and culminate in ‘right that’s it, we’re going home!’). It’s interesting, however, that multi-tasking in general appears to be losing some of its former glory and appeal with the rising popularity of stress reduction practices such as mindfulness.

Mindfulness, to use the words of its pioneer Jon Kabat-Zinn, means ‘to pay attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally‘ and it was while I was researching the subject on the internet some time ago that I came across this question:

What colour is your toothbrush?

Hardly earth-shattering I know but I didn’t have the faintest clue. While most people nowadays probably have electric toothbrushes, I prefer the old-fashioned type….the ones that always have a distinct colour. So this is a utensil I use twice a day – and even often stare at in the mirror while using it – but I just couldn’t remember its colour. It made me wonder how many other, more important things I wasn’t noticing in my everyday life. Just how much of my life was I living mindlessly on autopilot?

There is no doubt we live in a frantic world – certainly much more so than the world I remember from my childhood which didn’t have internet, mobiles, shops open 24/7 etc.- and I’m sure most of us can relate to a slight feeling of irritation when we are hurriedly jumping from task to task and someone interrupts us with something like ‘did you see the blossom outside?’ Yet maybe it would actually be good for us to pay more attention to these things, particularly when we start to feel our stress levels rising. Certainly if you or a loved one have been very ill you will know how vivid these things can become. At least that was my experience when my father was seriously ill 3 years ago. I will never forget looking at the beautiful blossom and wondering if my dad would ever get out of hospital to see it again. He did and I endeavoured, from them on, to savour the simple things in life more. But it’s not easy.

I have actually lost count of the number of older women I have met at the supermarket checkout who have looked longingly at the boys and said to me ‘best days of your life…..make the most of them before they grow up’. I always try to take heed but, before long, I am back to feeling that life is a permanent schedule that I have to rush through to keep up with. There are so many things I do on autopilot every day and below I have listed 5 of my regular mindless actions which I now use to bring more mindfulness into my daily life:

  1. Brushing my teeth. (of course) Being something we do first thing and last thing I use this time to remind me to start my day with mindful intention and end it with mindful calm.
  2. Showering.  I find it very distracting to shower with the boys around so I tend to do it at night when they are in bed. I try to concentrate on the feel of the water and the smell of the shower gel. I also use a body scrub which helps me to focus on different parts of the body.
  3. Driving. Granted this is easier said than done with kids in the car but I try to re-focus my attention every time I reach traffic lights.
  4. Listening. Like many people, I am terrible at remembering names. I used to put it down to a bad memory but now I know it’s because I am usually lost in my own thoughts when I meet someone new. What do they think of me? How should I introduce myself etc. Now I try to really focus on what they are saying rather than preparing my response.
  5. Reading my children a bed-time story. I hate to admit to this one but I find it’s so easy to constantly worry about what’s next on the to-do list that I have rushed through this in the past. Now I try to make this a time when I’m fully engaged in what I am doing for my child and bring the story to life as much as possible for them.

I hope, if you haven’t already, that you will be inspired to find your own daily mindfulness reminders.

Ps my toothbrush is green!

 

*Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_artisticco’>artisticco / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

 

 

 

 

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