I am finding that mindfulness can take on various shapes in different seasons of life. At times, it can mean being truly present and having a keen awareness of those around me. At another, it can mean being conscious of how much trash I produce and what kinds of products I choose to buy — or not buy. It can mean being careful with my finances and learning to steward it well. Sometimes it’s all consuming, being aware of my place in this world, in the lives of those I touch, my role as a consumer and my role as a wife.
In this particular season, mindfulness is being aware of my down time — my resting. The summer is beginning to awaken from her long slumber, and while many of us in the work force don’t have an official break, summer is synonymous with vacations and camping and rest. We’re all loosening our proverbial ties and enjoying the long, warm nights.
When the summer sun sets late in the evening and the weather is warm and humid, it’s easy for me to check out. It’s easy to turn on the air conditioning and open Netflix or Amazon Prime when I get home from work, when I’m falling asleep, eating dinner or cleaning. It’s easy to pour noise and pictures over my down time, to help drown out my responsibilities, my thoughts. “I deserve this. It’s my rest,” I tell myself, as the hours roll by and episodes flood past again and again. It’s warm, and I don’t want to move.
While there’s not necessarily a wrong way to wind down, maybe there’s a better way to harvest the mundane, to be mindful my resting.
My day starts slowly. My husband is already at the gym, and I’m back here at my spot by the window. I’ve had a late breakfast and begin to fill my pot with water and pinch the small curled Oolong leaves into my infuser. It takes a conscious effort to not open my laptop and catch up on emails, Facebook and the news while I wait for the water to boil.
Dong Ding Oolong, as I read on its description, is grown high in the lugu valley. I imagine the layered hills of varying shades green and a pristine lake in Taiwan. I imagine myself there as I sip my late-morning tea. The Oolong flavor is soft, delicate even. As if the leaves themselves are a testament to the sweetness that comes from a mindful rest. As if you can taste the years of sunlight, the rolling greenery and the vision of the peaceful water.
I turn off the humming air conditioning and open the window. It’s hot, and a bit uncomfortable at first, but my body adjusts. Without the roaring of cold air circulating around my apartment, I can hear the birds as they skip from one branch to the next. The air plays through the recently acquired leaves like sparse letters on an old typewriter.
I finish my cup, and I look at my dog as she’s curled up in the middle of the kitchen on a spot of sunshine. I check the time, and whistle to her. “Let’s go on a walk,” I tell her. Her eyes widen and her tail begins to wag in approval.
Soon, I’ll have to go into work, but my mind feels fresh and well rested, even if I’ve only spent a few minutes in the quiet, without any distractions – whether it be responsibilities or television. I’ll spend the next 8 hours or so in front of excel sheets and poring over data, but in these moments, I’m back on my own summit looking down into the valley, being inspired by the stories as they are told by Oolong leaves.