Tai Chi at Eastwood on a Saturday Morning

Pigeons swirl about as music guides scores of people through gentle movements, conjuring ancient rhythms in smooth concerted actions. A mix of ages and nationalities united perhaps by the need to connect with something deeper, yet not alone. The rustle of jackets, bright glimpses of velvet satin.

It is hard not to be entranced by the motion, the coordination, the gentle sway of limbs. A sense of calm, reconnection; something personal performed in a public space. Ritualised movement in dappled winter sunshine with white cockatoos crying overhead.

Fans are used in some of the movements, the sharp flick of a wrist unfurling brightly coloured designs. Various leaders move amongst the large group to demonstrate actions or provide individual support to some of the participants.

The sense of tranquility is tangible, and people passing by on the way to somewhere else often pause to take in the scene, to stop for a brief moment to take in the atmosphere. Some people take photos, and others take short videos. It is enough to be here and to enjoy the moment, to marvel at the measured sense of calm rhythm and to witness something that has been a tradition for generations upon generations of people.

In a world in which the rate of change seems to be increasing exponentially, it is something else to simply enjoy a slower pace for a moment or two, even if it is vicariously.

[Photo: Tai Chi at Eastwood Mall]

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Three Moments

There are times when it is easy to get caught up in the challenges and dramas swirling around in our lives. During these periods, I feel like I spend a lot of time in my head, thinking through problems or planning ahead to avoid obstacles. This sometimes means I forget to pay attention to what is around me, until a moment of something ordinary yet beautiful shakes me back into the present.

Sanctuary

A small grove of trees

This is one of the sections of a walk I take occasionally in my village. It is located on a long road, and I tend to walk it of a weekend when there is time to dawdle about and really enjoy the sights and sounds. It might look like a grove of trees, but for me it is a reminder to enjoy moments of serenity and to take in what is around me.

Over the summer there have been flocks of Gang-gang cockatoos swooping through the upper Blue Mountains. A couple of years ago I wasn’t even aware of their existence, but then I saw a great photo at an exhibition at Everglades. The bird in the photo was a shade of lilac blue with a bright red head and it reminded me of a woman in a dressing gown somehow! It has been a delight to see these cockatoos in the area, and my first sighting of them was a flock in some tall gum trees. It took me a moment to work out what they were, and since then I have listened out for their cries and watched them move around the neighbourhood. I spotted these up the road whilst walking my dog (male on the left, female on the right). They weren’t bothered by the pesky human with a small camera finding delight in their everyday actions, and it made me smile for a long time.

Plant

Tea tree blossom after the rain

It is hard to resist a pretty bloom, regardless of how distracted you might be, but paying more attention contributes to my growing appreciation of the natural world. During a walk I spotted this tea-tree in flower, close to a banksia tree. It was just after a morning shower and the blooms were almost luminous.

Have you been surprised by small moments lately?

[Photo: tea tree blossom]

One Quiet Moment

Recently, I had a quiet moment. That might not sound extraordinary but it genuinely made a difference to my mindset.

It had been a busy week with the usual challenges and seemingly overwhelming amount of work to be done in a too short period of time. Best laid plans came undone at various points, requiring regular revision of priorities. Occasionally I would remind myself that I can only do what I can do – perhaps a bit trite but true. Sometimes you just can’t get it all done, and sometimes ‘it’ isn’t as important as you think.

Then I had a moment, poised between work and personal demands. A rare moment when no-one needed anything and my attention wasn’t required elsewhere. It took a while to realise the potential power of such a moment. What to do? The endless loop of to-dos in my head rolled around, but there wasn’t really time to launch into something. What if I just stopped? For a moment?

So I did. I sat in my favourite chair and just looked out the window. The sun was out and the odd cloud moved overhead. I could see blossoms appearing on trees that had until recently been bare after losing their leaves through autumn. There were bees buzzing around the blossoms, something elemental but also something that I rarely have the time to notice, to really see.

This moment of mindfulness, where my breathing slowed and I could really just appreciate what was going on around me, beyond the noise and bustle in my mind, set me up for what came next. And over the last couple of days I have thought back to this moment several times, a smile curving my lips. I need to be mindful more often.

Do you make the most of mindful moments?

[Photo: spring blossoms]

Mindful Moments

Last week I wrote about routines and rhythms, and of the importance of carving out time for creativity especially when there are other demands upon my time. The post had been inspired by a podcast by Brooke McAlary and Kelly Exeter called Let It Be. In the podcast there was a discussion around the importance of rituals and routines, and how by having a rhythm to your day there was greater scope to be flexible with timeframes depending on what else was happening in your life.

Brooke McAlary has recently released a small book called Destination Simple: Everyday Rituals for a Slower Life. It is an easy read, full of simple but effective ways to live a life with meaning and mindfulness within the realities of modern living. For me it was pleasing to see that there are some things that I am already doing, along with other things that I could incorporate into my life.

Something that resonated with me was mindful moments. Whilst acknowledging that we all multi-task – it is inevitable and often necessary to get through the day – one recommendation was to pick something that you do on a regular basis, such as hanging out laundry, and just do that one thing. Pay attention to the entire process from emptying the clothes from the washing machine into a basket, taking it to the clothes line, hanging it out, feeling the sensation of the sun on the clothes. It sounds simple but I know there are days when I would start such a task with the best of intentions but other thoughts would nudge their way into my mindful state. There are times when I do pull myself up and simply focus on what I am doing, but what it also made me think about was when are the moments that I am really present?

I think that one of my most present states is when I am writing. What I am thinking of is when I am writing creatively, deep in another time or place, when all I can see, think, hear and feel is what is going on in my mind as I watch the words spill onto the page. When in the flow of writing, it is difficult to be aware of anything much else until the flow ceases. It is possibly my most mindful and creative state.

Reading back over work written in this deeper, mindful state is a pleasure on a number of levels. It is usually of a higher quality with a vibrancy that sets it apart from other writing. Perhaps I am conflating the idea of mindfulness with the deeper concentration that comes with creativity, but for me it is a state of being present, when the usual cares and concerns and worries and tasks fade into the background and it is just me and the page.

What do mindful moments look like to you?

[Photo: close up of pink blossom]