Until a few days ago, we were absorbing vitamin D in sweltering Cape Town; enjoying morning beach walks and waking up to the sound of crashing waves. This was all quite conducive to relaxation, and the perfect setting for the 1st pause: a walking meditation. We’re now back in London, absorbing the exhaust fumes of the 156 bus, and waking up to darkness.
But we’re home, and there are always good things about coming home. In Cape Town I spent more time each day engaged in sunscreen-wrestling with the toddler than there are currently daylight hours in the UK. She doesn’t yet understand that Celtic skin will cramp her beach style for life, nor that she must endure both dodgy fake tan and sunburn before giving up and retiring to the bar with a nice mojito, whilst her friends waste time sweating into the sand.
So, I walked, meditatively, along Sea Point promenade several times last week. This is how the first walking meditation went down.
It’s early, maybe around 6am, and the cool air feels delicious as I breathe it in. My back and one side of my body are warm from the rising sun but the other is cooled by the ocean breeze. I listen to endless breaking waves, the hum of traffic, sea gull squawks and passing chatter (early risers around here).
I think about how many stories are shared up and down the promenade, and how many lives pass by here. I decide I’d quite like an iced coffee. Staying in the moment is quite hard.
I tune back in, breathing in seaweed-infused air. My waddling bottom is overtaken by yet another lithe-limbed creature that has seemingly just leapt out of a Lululemon catalogue. I am embracing my blooming pregnant body. Really I am.
Breathing deeply and settling into my surroundings I feel happier, and more at ease. As mother of a young child, time alone always seems borrowed. Someone else must necessarily be looking after your little one and taking time out inevitably feels like a guilty pleasure.
I notice that I’ve disappeared into my thoughts again, and this time in a South African accent. I often do this when I’m travelling. It’s worse in France where I also adopt an uncontrollable shrug.
I see other people pausing too: a neat elderly lady sitting on a bench with a neat elderly dog on her lap, taking deep breaths and staring into the sea. I think about the energy of communal spaces. People had come to the promenade to be still, to move, to read, to talk: for a little peace and community. As well as toned thighs.
I decide I’ll go and get a coffee.
Heading back to our rented flat I felt calmer and more grounded. My perspective had shifted, and moments from the walk were imprinted in my mind. Even in those very brief mindful moments I had observed far more than I usually would.
I wondered if I could have joined M15 after all, having previously thought my powers of observation weren’t up to the task. But I tend to giggle whenever I try to lie, which isn’t very spy-like.
What was interesting was the rippling aftereffect of the walks. Throughout the week I’ve been noticing more and appreciating more: taking real pleasure in small moments.
I walked most days, and even on an angry stomp when I was determined not to be mindful as I was focusing on being cross, I couldn’t help but slow down to look at a couple’s silhouette on a rock. Damn it, this stuff seems to work.
Next week I will dip into mindful eating, something that does not come naturally to mothers of small children. I’ll begin by trying a mindfulness practice called the ‘raisin meditation’, which involves eating a raisin very slowly. This is inspired by my toddler who once managed to make a raisin last for precisely 47 minutes and 11 seconds.
Naturally I am not wild about spending precious time savouring a shrivelled grape, so I’m considering performing the exercise with a chocolate truffle instead. But apparently fruit or nuts work best. Maybe I’ll try both.
Let me know if you give it a go (older kids might try this one too).