This year’s Contemplation by Design Summit at Stanford University wraps up tomorrow, but I’ve greatly enjoyed attending as a participant, volunteer, and (this year), speaker. It’s been a wonderful reminder of the importance of building everyday mindfulness into our lives, and how easy it is, in fact, to do this.
To get a sense for what’s been happening on the Stanford campus these last 10 days, you can view the program of events here. However, even more interesting is the wonderful array of resources and videos from previous years. You can watch keynotes by Jack Kornfield and Alice Walker, and find inspiration for resilience, letting go, and compassion.
The tagline of the Contemplation by Design (CBD) program is “the power of the pause”. As early November heralds the time of year when, frankly, life can start to feel unreasonably hectic, the reminder here to make the small but conscious effort to insert mini pauses into our daily lives is invaluable.
I compiled this list partly from the inspiring experiences offered during the CBD summit, and partly from my own preferences. Don’t forget, the days when you think you’re too busy to take a break are the days you need one most.
10 Suggestions for Everyday Mindfulness:
- Notice the rustling of leaves on a tree. At this time of year, watch those leaves gently float to earth.
- There’s water behind my house and I feel honored to observe pelicans, egrets and herons as they fish. Watch a bird, while it watches for lunch, and you’ll feel a sense of peace and connection to nature.
- Fountains, streams, rivers and lakes make wonderful pausing partners too.
- Watch an artisan or skilled craft worker in their measured, incremental creation of something they are deeply passionate about. Ever been amazed by a potter at their wheel, or the delicate magic of glass blowing? You might be similarly gifted and able to pause as you create. The sand mandala created at Stanford this week was, of course, the ultimate example.
- Linger over morning tea. Actually, linger over tea at any time of day!
- Introduce a mindful eating moment. If you’re going to indulge, elevate that treat to the importance where you give it your full attention and truly enjoy it, carefully and intentionally.
- Poetry will help you pause, too! The Director of the Contemplation by Design program, Dr. Tia Rich, recommended the poem Sweet Darkness to me. I believe it featured in this year’s CBD fiction and poetry session, led by Jonah Willihnganz.
- Step into a museum, library, church or other quiet place for just five minutes. Notice the hushed atmosphere, inhale and observe what it smells like. Take a little of that peace with you as you go about your day.
- Take a stroll. Leave your phone and earbuds in your pocket, and aim to notice three new things about your route.
- Check out the night sky. Our levels of both busy-ness and light pollution tend to interfere with our readiness to stargaze. However, look up for just a few minutes and you’ll gain a powerful sense of perspective of your place in the universe.
A book I thoroughly enjoyed on this topic is Mindful London by Tessa Watt. Naturally this is ideal for Anglophiles and London residents, but to be honest, the suggestions here can be applied in any urban environment.
I listed just 10 “pause prompts” above, but I’m sure I could have kept going. What did I miss? What are your favorite ways to initiate a pause and cultivate everyday mindfulness?