A young woman I know had been learning how to meditate, and when I spoke to her about a practice she could do, carefully noticing the myriad shades of green in the garden and delighting in them, she said, “No, no. Mindfulness training teaches we must notice without judgment.” True enough, but the way she interpreted it was, I am afraid, a way to leach the awareness of joy and delight out of her precious young life!It is true that we near-unconsciously attach narratives to people and events in a good/ bad evaluation almost all the time. Mindfulness teaches us to sidestep this tendency, just ‘being’ in the experience; admittedly easier said than done, but still something we can train ourselves to do. In no way does the teaching ask us to blinker ourselves against the beauty around us.When we rush through our days, barely noticing the sights, sounds and smells around, we also become enmeshed in mind-chatter, reliving stuff from the past, assessing, weighing, and yes, judging, or anticipating with hope or fear things that might happen in future.Actually, true mindfulness occurs in what we call ‘off the cushion’ moments, in the world of the everyday. It is easier to feel calm on the cushion, than wildly agitated moments later when someone pushes ahead in a queue!A wonderful key to everyday mindfulness is savouring. When we savour something, we are fully present with it, and appreciative of the experience.Some tell us that these are two different things; mindfulness asks you to observe the present moment without judging it and then let go of it, while with savouring, you observe a specific type of moment, a positive one, and then you try to stay with it, wrap it around yourself, not let it go. Yet savouring isn’t all that different to mindfulness, in as much as it is taking notice of a particular experience or sight, and being present within it.For many others, it is just another aspect of mindful awareness, not a different process. As one wise teacher puts it, appreciating ordinary, everyday beauty, can actually transport people into a mindful state because you have put yourself in a space of connection and presence. This simple yet powerful practice can lead to a sense of wellbeing, better mental health and improved relationships. Training ourselves to savour also helps bypass or ignore what would otherwise get your critical or ‘judgy’ attention.Marguerite Theophil
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