Earlier this year I adopted a kitten, named him Pantalaimon, and trained him to walk on a harness. Before we go any further, yes it’s adorable, and yes you can probably walk your cat too, but beware because now my cat demands two walks a day like a freakin’ dog and my morning routine completely revolves around his morning outing.
I live in a small apartment, but we have access to a courtyard, some patches of grass and flowers, and a tree-lined sidewalk. From the beginning, I tried to coax Pan to spend time in these pleasant areas, but to my dismay he was (and still is) primarily interested in hanging out in the parking lot behind our building.
Really, Pan? The world is your oyster and yet you choose, in true alley cat fashion, to prowl the parking lot and force me to awkwardly drink my coffee by the dumpsters. … Great.
At first, I did my best to distract myself from this unfortunate situation – listening to audio books, finding new podcasts, catching up on phone calls. But over time, as these distractions grew tiresome, I slowly became curious and began to see the parking lot through Pan’s eyes. I began to notice all the little things that draw him there that I had previously skipped over.
First of all, it is quiet, sheltered away from the rumble of street traffic.
The rectangle of asphalt is lined with trees. Throughout the year I’ve watched some of them turn to yellow and red and then bare, while others have stayed green and held small drifts of snow. Among the tree branches are an abundance of squirrels that frolic to and fro. Pantaliamon loves to sit and watch the drama above, his little body vibrating with the hopes that one might venture down close enough to pounce upon.
In between the tree tops, there is a large swathe of sky. Often, it’s a great blue expanse across which the wind and the sun and the moon slowly drift. On other days I have watched the dark shadows of migrating storm clouds or smoke clouds. Air tankers buzzed overhead when wildfires were near. Birds fly between the rooftops and power cables.
And aren’t there just an abundance of birds! Crows, magpies, doves, finches, blue jays, and woodpeckers, just to name a few. Of course, Pan knows the best places to watch them. By following his lead, I now know the two different corners of the parking lot where the neighbors hang bird feeders. To these, they all flock, taking turns swooping down to get their fill and then retreating to the nearest branches above. Unsurprisingly, the squirrels congregate in these corners too, feasting upon the scraps that scatter underneath the bird feeders.
I have become familiar with the neighbors and workers that pass through on regular schedules. We wave to each other. Some stop to pet Pan. In one house lives a wild little blonde girl who runs out barefoot and smiling to shower him with adoration. She feeds the squirrels too, making her yard another prime squirrel watching venue. On special days, we run into other neighborhood cats, or bunnies, or occasionally raccoons.
Oh the many hours I have spent standing in this parking lot this year, and over time, oh how it has transformed into such a magical little place, so full of life and beauty and the rhythmic flow of days and seasons.
What did it take for that transformation to happen?
Slowing down. Becoming curious. Opening my senses to perceive in a new way, taking things in not as my habituated adult self but as if I were a youthful hunting feline.
This freshness is sometimes called Beginners Mind.
Other times it’s called Mindfulness.
But regardless of the terminology, it is the richness available to us in ordinary life if we just allow our senses to open.
If you often feel rushed through your day, under constant stimulation, or without enjoyment in your daily tasks, you may benefit from a mindful fresh perspective similar to what Pantalaimon gifted to me. Sometimes this occurs spontaneously when we see the world through the eyes of a pet, a child, or an out-of-town visitor. Other times, we may need to cultivate it on our own.
Interested? Try out the Mindfulness in Daily Life Practice below.
Mindfulness in Daily Life Practice:
Choose one task that has become habitual for you, perhaps a task you find boring or that you often couple with daydreaming or phone calls. Washing dishes, brushing your teeth, or walking to the mailbox are all great examples, but you may choose anything.
For one week, approach this task as if you have never done it before. Imagine the way that a young child gets excited about participating in chores, or the way that a traveler is intrigued by the routines in foreign countries.
Let go of all your distractions during this time (that’s right, no podcasts or phone calls) and give this task your full attention. Move a little slower than usual. Pay attention to all your senses.
Notice the angle of the light, the smells, the temperature of the air or water, textures of soap or paper or whatever you may touch, the movement of your body parts.
Every day, try to notice one new or different thing that you did not notice during this task the day before.
At the end of the week, how has your experience changed?
What might it be like to cultivate this mindful awareness throughout your day?
~ As somatic counselor, I love using mindful and body-based practices to help my clients transform their daily lives into something they love. If you would like support in this process, please reach out for a free consultation. ~