(Emmas Wellbeing Column, first appeared in E1 Life magazine, July 2017)
I hope you are well!
There can be so much to take in during the work day. Oftentimes we choose, unconsciously or otherwise, to screen most of it out, focussing instead on our own thoughts and perhaps our arrival at our destination. Yet, when we do slow down, how uplifting those moments of quiet joyful noticing are.
Paying attention to all your senses can be a lovely habit. As well as being something you can cultivate during your working day, there is a wonderful past time you can get involved in now, which lends itself ever so well to the cultivation of presence of mind and simple, sensual happiness.
The humble picnic!
The art of picnic’ing.
During a picnic you are usually sat on the floor, or at least nearer the floor than usual. This means you get a good feel of the grass and can even notice the temperature of the ground.You’ll likely be more aware of your legs, posture and feet and this can help you to attend to your body – this is especially good if you’ve had a very mind-oriented day.
Once seated, there comes the joy of eating! Half the pleasure in picnicking is eating with your hands. It helps you notice that the olives are a bit slimy, the cherry tomatoes are round, cool and firm and the cheese is a small adventure. There is a special delight in handling a shiny tomato, and then feeling its shape and coolness as it’s popped into the mouth. It’s a delight often seen on the faces of toddlers at tea time, but we adults can join in too. You are never too old revel in a cherry tomato.
The richness of life continues as we notice the fragrance on the wind and the warmth of sunshine on our shoulders. In these precious moments we are open and relaxed among the elements. Here, rather than feeling like a lone cell, working separately at our desk, we feel more connected and know ourselves as a valued part of lifes grand tapestry. Marvellous.
Being outside without chairs or desks or walls or other things that usually indicate the parameters of our movement, can give rise to a rather wonderful sense of liberation. Here, at large and in the thick of a picnic you can walk over there, walk over there, lay down, sit up, do a cartwheel. Your movement is far less restricted and this is a pleasure. Moving differently often leads to thinking differently. Why not give it a go, and see where this leads you.
Once you have set up your picnic area you might find that you are in the perfect position to play a game of cards or recite a little poetry for your friends. If you are having picnic for one, why not read your favourite book or contemplate a flower. Playing is good for inner peace, especially if you’ve been working hard all week.
A wise friend once shared with me her 3 keys for a golden picnic. Here they are. 1. Estimate quantities extravagantly to ensure you have more than enough to share with picnic friends, and beyond. 2. Choose a good mix of congenial guests 3. Forget your watch. With no where else to be, and nothing to achieve you can be liberated from the usual constraints of the working week. This free, empty space is glorious and acts as the perfect tonic to the usual focused style of thinking applied during the week.
4. Having fun together.
Picnics are a chance to spend casual moments together, doing fun things in a relaxed and enjoyable way. Sometimes we might have lots to chat about, other times it can be just as nice to sit and eat quietly together, enjoying our shared humanity.
As well as fostering sociability our picnic can be a time of generosity of spirit (smiles and good company) and materials (cupcakes and coffee). When we do nice things for others we usually feel quite lovely and this potent combination of being outdoors, eating well, feeling free, connecting and doing good makes the humble picnic and real winner.
A picnic is nearly always a good idea. You can fit your picnic in around your schedule, taking longer more idle times on weekends and evenings, and swifter picnics perhaps during the day.
Whether you picnic or not, I hope this latest column has inspired you to attend to your senses here and there, and in doing so enjoy the good things in life a little more.
Author of Inhale Exhale Repeat, Published by Ebury Press
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