Mindfulness in the everyday – or Zen and the peeling of potatoes.

October 1, 2019 By

This is Kinn, a small island off the west coast of Norway. My grandfather was born there at the start of the last century. It is a truly special place. It’s stunningly beautiful, remote and weather beaten. There are no shops, no cars, just the odd tractor. There’s a ferry that comes a couple of times a day. When I was a child, we spent most of our summers there and we just ran wild – all day, it was fabulous. It is the place I go to in my mind whenever I need to visualise somewhere calm and peaceful.  

My father has a small house on the island, and he still spends most of his summers there. We all go there regularly as a family, and sometimes we sit late into the night dreaming about things we could do there. My brother in law thinks it would be the perfect setting for a meditation resort. And it would. It would be beautiful. It’s got open skies, open seas – there is a serenity there that would be hard to match. But as we were talking about this something occurred to me. I thought of my father and I thought of the way he lives when he’s there. And I thought, you know what, maybe you don’t always need to go to a resort.  Sometimes maybe it’s enough to just live simply, and in the moment.

This is what my dad does: He goes fishing.

He’ll filet and cook the fish – well, in fairness, my stepmother does some of this – and that’s their dinner that day.

He’ll fish for crabs, and when they’re cooked, he’ll set some aside and freeze them, bring them back home and organise a big annual “crab feast” for the whole family so everyone gets to benefit. These are slightly surreal events where he dresses up in crab-related attire (there’s a tie and a hat) and their city-centre apartment is decorated like something from under the sea. (He also knows how to have fun.)

He goes for swims in a beautiful, but most of the time freezing cold lagoon.

He goes for walks. He appreciates the beauty of the landscape and takes regular photographs of the most beautiful sunsets.

He takes his grandchildren out on boat trips and makes treasure hunts for them.

He acknowledges his heritage and the history of the island – my great grandmother was a renowned weaver and her wall hangings, made with the most beautiful plant-coloured yarn, have prominent place on the wall as does paintings made by my great-uncle.  

So I thought about all this. And I thought that maybe instead of opening a resort we could just send people over to the island to spend a week with my dad. Because sometimes, what you are looking for you can find right in front of you in the every day.

Formal and organised meditation practices or resorts can be hugely beneficial of course. And sometimes they are precisely the thing that can help us immerse ourselves in the everyday in a mindful manner. Resorts are great! But the thing is that we can’t always go on them. We obviously can’t always spend our summers on remote islands, either. But that’s not really the point. The point is that we can always do everyday things.  So maybe we can just try this at home.

Even if we are just peeling potatoes.

image source: https://www.reddit.com/r/zen/comments/29kvvu/just_peeling_potatoes/