One wall of our parish chapel is made up of floor-to-ceiling stained-glass windows. A circle of deep red-orange sits in the center panel, and from that core come colorful lines and swirls in shades of orange, yellow, purple and green. It is a beautiful mosaic, one I have looked at many times; but last week, for the first time, I noticed that the window is not one-dimensional. Pieces of glass randomly rise up from the base, adding dimension and movement. I was surprised by this discovery.
How is it possible, I wondered, that I have looked at this window so many times and not noticed this design feature?
I became intrigued by the mosaic and began to look more closely at the window, noticing the juxtaposition of shapes and colors. I sat in different areas of the chapel to give me different views of the window. I was entranced by the subtleties of its design, and as I paid more attention to the window, my appreciation for its beauty grew.
This, I think, is what being mindfulness is about, this intentionally slowing down, paying attention and noticing—looking at what is right in front of me and seeing it in a different way.
Living mindfully takes practice and energy. It requires me to focus, to notice, to look and to see. It is a discipline.
Living mindfully, it seems to me, is the antithesis of what is valued in our culture, where we love to talk about how busy we are. Busy with what? I often wonder.
I find I am most able to be mindful early in the morning. Walking the dog, I am aware of the sun coming up and coloring the sky, of which flowers are in bloom (lilacs right now), of birds singing and squirrels playing. I am aware of the gentle breeze moving the air around me and shaking the treetops one street over. It is the most peaceful time of my day, and I am deeply appreciative for the quiet of it. Sitting on my sun porch, writing this,
Once I leave for work, though, I struggle to hold onto this level of awareness, to stay open to the little joys of my day.
I recently read an article about mindfulness, which suggested creating a calendar of positive experiences, and recording at least one moment of joy or gratitude every day. Even pausing for one moment to reflect on something positive can reshape the day and provide a different perspective.
The image of the stained-glass window is the reminder I carry these days—a reminder to look more closely and to be open to surprises that are right in front of me, if I only take the time to notice.