Be in the now with a mindful home

Mindfulness is not just in your head, it can also be applied to your surroundings, writes Carol O’Callaghan.

Create an area — it doesn't have to be an entire room — where you can sit for 10 minutes to meditate.

Mindfulness has an enticing ring to it but what is it exactly, you may well ask?

According to it’s the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Now, who wouldn’t want a bit of that?

It seems it’s also applicable to our homes because the state they’re in can make us feel peaceful or overwhelmed by what’s wrong with them.

Tackling the topic and combining it with the trend for home improvement are Dr Craig and Deirdre Hassid in their book, The Mindful Home: Secrets to making your home a place of harmony, beauty, wisdom and true happiness.

In it, the duo maintain that a mindful home is one you want to live in; where you are likely to be better rested; more fulfilled; happier and healthier. Getting started is a mindful activity in itself. 

An ordered but comfortable space which is relaxing for a moment of quiet solitude, or for socialising, is essential for a mindful home.

Start, they say, by sitting down at a time when you are unlikely to be disturbed.

Close your eyes, get comfortable, letting your mind drift around what your ideal home looks like, though not necessarily from an architectural point of view, but more about the qualities and feelings you’d like the house to evoke when you walk through the door.

While you’re doing this, they suggest taking a sheet of paper and along one-half of it, write down key words or points that come to mind. But, how, pray tell, with one’s eyes closed?

A practical modification of the instructions had me organising my pen and paper beside me before I began the exercise so when I opened my eyes I was ready to write down what cropped up, before it slipped out of my mind again.

Meditation forms the basis of mindfulness, and creating a quiet space is necessary to achieve success.

After that, I was instructed to stroll around the house to look at it with fresh eyes, bearing in mind the words that came up during contemplation, and writing down on the other half of the page anything I observed relating to them. It wasn’t without a few surprises.

Comfort was one of my words, and it applied specifically to my bedroom where there wasn’t enough of it. I realised I’d put all my creative efforts into guest bedrooms which languish unused for the most part, while I made do with second best in my own.

Colour — red in particular — also cropped up. It happens to be my favourite, but there’s precious little of it around me, outside of the wardrobe.

The simple act of replacing an enamel fruit bowl filled with lemons and limes on my white kitchen table, with a red glass hurricane lamp lifts the space and perks me up when I walk into the room.

This leads me onto the third word which arose: Feelgood, and certainly the kitchen feels better, brighter, warmer even, with just that one adjustment.

The Mindful Home by Dr Craig and Deirdre Hassed. Published by Exisle €29.50.

This exercise was probably the most useful part of the book for me, along with section three, which, rather than dividing up the house into rooms by function, spoke of five spaces for leisure, socialising, quiet time, storage use and outdoor living, and how they ought to evoke calm, peace and comfort.

Familiar topics are also touched on, like decluttering and a particular insistence on getting rid of books you’ve read. Ah, no thanks — books make a room as far as I’m concerned. 

Also, it’s unrealistic for many of us to hire, as they suggest somewhat blithely, an architect or lighting consultant should the shape of the house, location or light come up in the contemplation session.

Same goes for heeding their advice to just move if you deem your house not to be conducive to mindfulness.

By the way, the word scent also came up for me, and an astonishing surprise it was as I don’t like perfumes, preferring the smell of cleanliness, delivered by a plain, eco-friendly cleaning agent over a nostril-assailing one with chemical undertones.

So, I’m letting that one sit with me for now, not sure how to add it in for the time being, but being mindful that it’s cropped up. 

Perhaps I just have to wait and stay in the moment, until the answer comes to me rather than actively seeking and possibly stressing over a solution.

Now, that in itself, I’m told, is practising mindfulness.

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