Looking out on the autumnal garden, draped in its seasonal shrug of earthy tones and shed leaves, I watched two Goldfinches gorging themselves at the feeder. They’ve not shown themselves from late spring and it suddenly seemed that the garden is brimming with birdy-busyness. I took a moment to watch a feisty Robin chase a tiny Blue-tit into the dogwood and a Great-tit try to hover against the window-pane. And that Blue-tit, with its sky-blue crown and yellow waistcoat, skittering amongst the bare twigs and flitting to the jewel-webbed back of the garden-seat suddenly was nothing short of mesmerizing… And I thought about all those Attenboroughed TV programmes I have watched with their lingering shots of the Birds of Paradise; the vivid electric-blue of the plumage, the ornate and specialized feathers, the eccentric attitudes of their intricate courtship dances. And my mind drew the comparison with the hardy little Blue-tit, that I see so often and take so utterly for granted. And I was moved to write. And in writing, in the vain attempt to capture all that I had seen and thought in that instant, I was forced to examine, re-examine, all of those elements: the fallen leaves, the birds, the garden itself.
I have been fortunate to have spent some few, wide-eyed hours at Ashridge Business School and the question I always end up asking of the people who work there, is, “How long? How long did it take before you stopped turning up to work and being awed by this place?” I wonder when they stopped seeing the magnificent, crumbling stone façade, the rolling parkland, the ancient trees. I wonder, how quickly does novelty become the norm?
“Find a job you love,” sayeth the adage, “and you’ll never work a day in your life.” How quickly, when you make your love your job, does it begin to lose its glamour?
In my work, I find a lot of my time is spent drawing people’s attention to the things they take for granted – their physicality, their mental constructs, their experience of the world! More and more often I find myself using the word “mindful”. I ask people to be mindful during exercises, to pay attention to their states. It’s not egotism. It’s simply being “in the moment”. Don’t dwell, observe and move on. People ask me to help them have more presence. I tell them I’ll help them be more present.
So, look out at your garden and be mindful of the changing seasons. Put on that new pair of shoes and be mindful of the way they feel on your feet. But importantly, try to be mindful when the stimulus is the same. When the shoes are well-worn, or the task repetitive, when you see the “Common Birds of England and Europe” at the feeder, still mine the experience – still mind the experience. And ask yourself, what am I taking for granted?