Mindfulness: the art of staying in the present moment and using all of your senses to fully experience it ...
Abbey Park in Leicester is one of my favourite places, even though I have been going there since I was a little kid. On this particular occasion I challenged myself to combine my trip to Abbey Park with a gentle practice of mindfulness. This is the somewhat mixed and brilliantly imperfect result :
- The car park stinks of petrol and there is a beautiful contrast of old walls and ruins against new cars and gates
- The feel of several hundred years of ruins and rocks under my feet, making me keep my balance as I walk along the ruined walls as I have done since I was little
- The breeze, gentle and refreshing on such a warm day. Wonder what it would have been like being a monk six hundred years ago or more?
- Occasional people, smiling, happy, relaxed, some with dogs, a particularly big dalmation, small boy on a bike being noisy and energetic. others, in the distance, colourful, moving
- Feeling the bread in my hands, deliberately smelling it and there tearing it to pieces to throw to the ducks, now clamouring round, flying into the air for a scrap of bread. The noise, the flapping of wings, the sudden activity
- The water, calm again, covered in grey green lichen, sun reflecting off the water, grass beyond. Greys and greens and white of ducks and swans at rest. Green grasses overgrown all around the edges.
- Crossing the bridge, a father (possibly) lifting his son up to look over the edge of the bridge into the water. Some people and a dog coming up the other way, talking. One boy at the back looks left out and sad.
- The herb garden. I stroll gently towards the rosemary, my favourite herb. Huge strong rosemary bushes even in the hot weather. Rubbing the rosemary between my palms, roughly, and then inhaling the smell
- The Lavender Maze. What rosemary is to smell, lavender is to sight, a carpet of beautiful purple and lilac.
- It is 12.30 so I know the train is open. I wander across the edge of the river, overhanging trees, greens, browns, autumn is starting to show in the huge variety of greens
- Riding on a small miniature steam train in Abbey Park. Feeling the breeze. Smelling the trees and undergrowth, the colours. Occasional whiff of petrol or diesel. Round and round we go.
- The Chinese Garden, a bad zen mock-up, meant to be a peaceful retreat, but now too overgrown, sad, covered in bird shit. Mindfulness is about not making judgements, but I think this is sad and unnecessary. Even this is an experience.
- The boats next. Excited, I like the boats. Feeling the boat sink a little as I get in and then paddle away. Relaxing and hard work at the same time. Casual pace. Shoulder still hurts.
- Sun very hot on the lake. Islands of overgrown trees and dirt. The spray of the water fountain in the middle as i paddle as close as I can. A family of ducks, one big, the rest tiny, following on. The water on the seat making my bum wet.
- The feel of bark on the old tree
- The crowded noise and activity of the cafe. Hand tight in pocket, grabbing change. Holding the icecream, moving back through people to get outside. Old black and white pictures on the wall, new slot machines on the floor.
- Icecream, chocolate mint, green and brown, light to the touch, refreshingly cold against my teeth, holding the icecream in my mouth, letting in melt, really tasting it. Listening to the crunch of the cornet as I bite into it. All gone.
- Back to the car with a sigh, past cricket players on the large field, green and brown. Beyond, the children's playground, with glimpses of red painted fencing and tall rope pyramid.
Just a glimpse. Of course I wasn't mindful all the time. Just at certain times when I saw something or when I remembered to try and be mindful and pay attention to what I was doing. The rest of the time my mind wandered all over the place, just like my legs.
Still, it was a nice peaceful way to spend a couple of hours.