Even though lots of people believe otherwise, we are physical beings living in a physical world.
(If you disagree, share your factual evidence in a comment on this post. Hey, maybe a Nobel prize awaits you if you're able to prove that we're non-physical beings living in a physical world, or maybe two Nobel prizes if you can prove we're non-physical beings living in a non-physical world.)
One reason I enjoy Zen Buddhism so much is that Zen is deeply rooted in physicality.
Chop wood, carry water. Focus on the breath while keeping the spine straight in meditation. Students getting hit with a stick by their Zen teacher.
Mindfulness appeals to me for the same reason.
Sure, mindfulness obviously involves the mind. But what we're mindful of is both the world outside of us, along with our inner world. The two are so intimately connected as to be one thing, really.
After all, what we're not aware of doesn't exist for us, though if it is a physical entity, it still exists in the reality outside of our own mind.
There's lots of ways to appreciate the benefits of mindfulness, which basically is simply being aware of what we're doing while we're doing it -- understanding that doing can include non-volitional acts like thoughts and emotions that arise without us choosing them.
Today I cleaned the gutters on our house and detached garage/carport.
They were filled with leaves after a windy period last week helped the many large oaks that surround us do their fall thing. Quite a bit of rain is forecast for the next seven days or so. Today was dry, so this was my opportunity.
At my age, 73, I get frequent advice to stay off our roof, including from my wife. I'm pleased to ignore that advice. One reason is that I learn a lot about mindfulness from clearing the gutters out.
I do this by propping a ladder against the roof, which I climb with my Stihl backpack leaf blower on my back, not surprisingly. I start it on the ground and get up on the roof with it idling away. My wife left for a trip to Kentucky today to attend a Celebration of Life for her oldest sister, who died recently.
I thought about not cleaning the gutters until Laurel gets back, since we live in the country and our house isn't visible from the road. So if I fell off the roof and couldn't move, it would be a while before someone found me.
But then I realized that I'd been cleaning our gutters numerous times a year with a leaf blower for over 25 years, so the chance of me falling off today was minimal.
If anything, I felt safer today, because I walked along the edge of our roofs -- which are two story in places -- with a bit more mindful attitude than usual. Because I was by myself, aside from our dog, I paid extra attention to what I was doing, every step of the way.
Recently I'd read a mention of how, if we take care of every moment, those moments add up to a good hour, day, week, year, and lifetime. Problem is, often we aren't really present in the moments that make up our life.
Our body is in one place -- the present moment -- while our mind is someplace else, the past or future, or thoughts unrelated to what we're doing.
However, walking along the edge of a roof with a leaf blower on your back is a great way to practice being wholly in the present moment. Well, actually that started as I climbed our ladder, since getting on the roof with a leaf blower tube dangling to one side, with the weight of the machine on your back, presents a few extra challenges.
I find that simply being aware of what my body is doing as I take each step up the ladder, then focusing on getting from the ladder to the roof isn't difficult at all.
That's the benefit of doing something somewhat dangerous: it concentrates the mind in a way that tends to escape us in everyday activities. Getting close enough to the edge of the roof so the debris in the gutters can be blown out by the leaf blower is even more concentrating.
Today my approach was to continuously visualize myself losing my balance. That took away any lingering bit of nervousness by cleaning the gutters without anyone else around. I was aware that all I had to do was collapse straight down onto the roof and I'd be fine.
The key to doing that was being aware of what my body was doing at every moment, not letting my attention stray onto thoughts of what I'd do after this chore was completed.
An example of non-mindfulness arose later in the day around sunset. I was doing some stretching exercises while watching TV after the sun had set. Looking out the window, I was struck by how cool the trees around our house looked in silhouette as darkness neared.
I grabbed my iPhone and went out onto our side deck. Along with our main deck, it's in the process of being replaced with a composite deck, since we'd gotten tired of maintaining wood boards with staining every few years.
Some caution tape was hanging from the sliding door that leads to the deck, since railings hadn't been installed yet. Even so, as I was looking for the best angle to take a photo, in the dark I unconsciously started moving toward the railless edge of the deck.
Fortunately, a little voice in my head said, "You fool, there's no railing!"
That taught me what I already knew, but all too often forget: mindfulness isn't just for doing obviously dangerous things; it's also for doing ordinary things, some of which can be dangerous if done mindlessly.
Anyway, I got the photo. If I'd fallen off the deck and broken my neck, it would have made for a good human interest story. "Old man dies while taking a photo, forgetting his deck under construction had no railing."