I see him every morning. The man that walks to work reading a book. My first thoughts were “wouldn’t it be funny if he walked into that lamp post?” and then my second was “I wonder how many books he reads a year”. But then ultimately my thoughts turned to what a shame it is that he is not in the here and now. He is not mindful of what is going on around him. By being face down and absorbed in that book he is not noticing his immediate surroundings. He isn’t mindful of what is going on.
I have been meaning to write about mindfulness for a long time. I am a huge believer in it, of being aware of smells, sounds, what is happening around you. How can that man be aware of that when he is reading a book? How can he notice the changing colours of the leaves? The birdsong? The smell from the house on the corner that is owned by the lady who makes wedding cakes and always has the window open?
This was also going through my mind as the world went crazy last night for the Robbie Williams video that went viral. If you haven’t seen it, it’s here
Robbie sharing with us the fact his wife was in labour with their second child. There are actually five videos. First of all I thought “typical Robbie always the showman” and then I thought “she is going to kill him” before it struck me that he is not IN the moment. He doesn’t appear to be in the here and now, focussing on his wife. It is all about him, and him being centre of attention. He is demanding her attention in parts of that video he is not really paying her any attention at all.
Is he mindful of the pain she is going through? Yes, I know he is just trying to help but what about asking her what she wants? Or just keeping it private? It is always possible of course that in her birth plan it stated that he was to dance to his own videos in an effort to get her through labour, but to share? Is that really what Ayda wanted? Was Robbie mindful of her at that point?
I guess we will never know but my point is that mindfulness should be about being in the moment, focussing on what is going on around you. I am really not sure Robbie Williams does that. Sitting quietly with his wife and saying how much he is looking forward to their son arriving. Just holding her hand. Helping her through the pain. Mindful of the fact he is in a hospital and not centre stage at Wembley.
Do we do it when we watch X Factor and tweet along? Are we actually watching X Factor or are we too busy tweeting about what we just witnessed and missing something else? I know I do it with Strictly, where I tweet something and then because I am looking down I miss something the judges then refer to.
How many people on the daily commute are really mindful and aware of what is going on around them? Plugged into ipods or reading the paper and not taking in the changing seasons, or noticing what is going on around them? Next time you go for a walk look at the people around you. How many are on their phones? Just generally oblivious to where they are. I bet quite a lot of them.
I learned about mindfulness from Andy Puddicombe who ran a seminar a few years ago. Andy is one of the most interesting people I have ever heard speak, and if you ever have a chance to attend a “Headspace” event, do. Funnily enough the exercise I remember the most involved chocolate. Not just shoving chocolate in our mouths, but connecting to it. No, don’t look at me like that. It really worked. Thinking about the cocoa tree, the plant it had come from, about the person who picked it. How it had been manufactured. Holding the chocolate, feeling it, then smelling it. I tell you what when you have held a piece of chocolate and become mindful of it and its origins it tastes like no piece of chocolate you have ever tasted before.
I just hope that Robbie Williams looks back on his son’s entrance to the world and remembers it for all the right reasons, and not for the viral video.