I was wolfing down my yummy spaghetti when I realised I was the first to finish, by a long way. I glanced at my friend, who slowly said, “The new me is eating slowly, a mindfulness technique I’m learning in yoga.” I straightened up, wiped my chin, and thought about how that technique could be used for so much more. And that brought back memories of my exercise teaching days.
I was moving country, and upon happy farewells, the eldest lady in my class gave me a real lift gift. She said that her family had commented on how much grace she’d developed, and she felt her overall sense of wellbeing was enhanced. Her happiness was heartfelt by us both.
Do you remember ‘Callanetics’ in the late 80’s? It was all the rage in the US, and the UK, where I was living. The founder, Callan Pinckney, based her exercises on calisthenics – gymnastic exercises to achieve bodily fitness and grace of movement.
I’d wake at the crack of dawn before work, to join Pinckney by video, and then incorporate some of her concepts into my evening ‘Exercise to Music’ classes. I’d often have over 30 participants, ranging between ages 16 to 80 plus. I loved the discipline it demanded, and being ballet trained, the mind-body connection in exercise was natural to me. When I was seven, a kid asked if I could do the splits. There and then I felt an amazing confidence that if I thought that I could do it, I would. In slow motion I went all the way down, much to the great excitement and squeals of all the kids! The splits! It was almost as hailed as dancing en pointe. Though I wasn’t able to articulate it at the time, it was a light-bulb moment – experiencing the mind-body connection. Now, I was teaching others.
During this time, I was also studying Christian Science for my overall health care; learning about our inherent spirituality. I was fully aware of the qualities we were expressing – grace and control with joy – being developed and used in so many ways for life.
The new-old idea of mindfulness may have been coined in yoga circles – in particular meaning being in the moment. However spiritual qualities belong to us all, and can be seen in all manner of activities.
We can lift our thoughts and realise the power of thought in relation to health and wellbeing. So, for me, living the ‘mindfulness’ way is partly thinking before acting, partly living in the moment, and a whole lot of discipline and gratitude.
If I was still supping with my friend, I’d be looking for the dessert menu now – perhaps ice-cream, which one tends to eat slowly!
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” ~ Viktor Frankl (1905-1997)