Author: Chrissy Stergos, MAC, CIT
I have been learning about mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation is about quieting yourself, paying attention to the details of your present experience without analyzing or fretting. One thing has become very clear--I am not very good at this practice. I try to gather my racing thoughts into a meditative state with deep focused breathing and sheer force of will, but golly, it is hard. I have just come off of a long season of frenetic activity, constant intake of information and a deficit of stillness. My formerly peaceful brain has been on overdrive for so long that to merely be feels wasteful or unproductive. I need to recapture peace . To do so, I must retrain my over-worked, over-stimulated brain to relax, to enjoy, to appreciate and to rejuvenate.
Recently, I joined a young friend moving out of his apartment. We had our work cut out for us to get the place emptied and cleaned by the 3:30pm deadline, when the key was due to the rental office. Cleaning seemed the best shot for me to contribute, so I retreated into the bathroom to scrub, alone with my silent and surprisingly surly thoughts:
Gosh, I hate cleaning. I know some people say they love the before and after, but not me. I’m wishing for woodland animals to come and assist, but this is not Disneyland and I am no Snow White. It’s just me and the toilet brush and a few sponges today. I hate inhaling bathroom cleaner…cough, cough… this can’t be good for me. I don’t even clean my own house this well. Gosh, I hate cleaning. And so on… for hours.
It was hard physical work and I came home tired, dirty, salty and very fragrant. I’m not usually a bath-taker, but inspired by my earlier tub-scrubbing adventures, I thought, “A good soak in a hot tub may be just the thing to relax my aching muscles.” A friend had recently gifted me a bath-bomb, and I decided today would be a good day to try it. I had some time. I had opportunity. I certainly had motive.
I ran water and placed my robe just within reach and with the waning afternoon sunlight filtering through the glass block window, I settled into the tub and dropped the bomb.
This ball of mystery-material effervesced with such energy that it zoomed around the tub as if motorized, like a spherical miracle. The now pink water emitted a lovely floral scent. Now I was ready for my soak.
I leaned back and closed my eyes, inhaling the scent of rosemary and lavender. Deep breath in. Slow breath out. A cardinal sang outside the window. Breathe in goodness. Breathe out yuck. A clock ticked rhythmically, steady and dependable. Breathe in. Breathe out. I felt my spirit beginning to quiet. God reminded me of the scripture verse He’s had me parked on for the past 9 months: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18)” Breathe in deeply God’s perfect love. Breathe out fear… slowly… intentionally… mindfully.
Eventually, I heard the front door of the house open. My husband announced his homecoming with bustling footsteps and the rustle of plastic grocery bags as he moved toward the kitchen to prep for dinner. I dried and silently blessed my friend for the gift of a bath bomb. I thanked God for my husband and the few minutes of solitary respite. My mind was clearer. My attitude was better. My heart was grateful, and I thought, “Hey, this stuff really works!”
Retraining our brains really is possible, IF we are intentional. You see, as we marinate in complaints, chaos, conflict or calculations, those are the poverties that pigment our experience of the world. But when we capture our thoughts, becoming meditative and mindful to experience the present fully and intentionally, appreciating the gifts and presence of God, our experience of the world is transformed. Gratitude and contentment permeate our very souls reminding us of the many riches with which we are blessed and that were ours all along.
The scent or rosemary and lavender followed me through the rest of my day. So did peace. I took notice and was grateful - for a body and muscles that work… for air-conditioned shelter, fresh hot water and a bath tub… grateful for soft sunlight, the song of a bird, for my loved ones, and for the steady and dependable presence of God.
Soaking my muscles in warm water and softly scented minerals had been good for me. Soaking my mind and soul in silence and solitude was golden. This practice of mindfulness will change you. It is already changing me, and I’m no good at it yet. But first, you must find quiet – to breath, to listen, to notice, to thank. Find your space. Find your rhythm. You don’t need any equipment to get started. But if by chance you have a bath bomb, mindfully appreciate the heck out of that thing.