(published Oct 11th through my newsletter)
For a week and a half, I’ve been on the road now, and my old life feels very far away.
It is presently blue dawn over a small lake in Elk City, Oklahoma.
This town is rather wonderful. I strolled up and down the main strip yesterday and found several sassy young witchy types running the local boutiques.
They sold custom tees and mugs with brazen messages about not giving a f!ck. Toddlers scrambled in and out of the back rooms and babies were hiked up on hips.
Apparently, Elk City is proud of its weirdness. There’s a whole west Oklahoma weirdness pride thing going on over here… which makes me feel deeply at home.
I’ve been on this lake for two nights. It’s a rare camping area with free electric and water hookups. Plus the lake, with its sunsets and herons and pelican flying low over the water, is mighty special.
But last week in my note I mentioned mindfulness and I want to get back to that.
A couple of nights ago, I was explaining mindfulness to three (self-described) “old cowboys” named Rick, Bernie, and Marvin.
They invited me to their campfire and after some general talk about horses and heritage, the concept of mindfulness arose.
I explained that mindfulness is basically doing one thing at a time with full attention. They got a real kick out of the idea that I teach this professionally.
We got to talking about how living an outdoors type of lifestyle, with so many more “survival” tasks, you must be mindful. If you aren’t doing one task at a time, there are real consequences.
If I’m not mindful while building and lighting a fire, it will go out. If I’m not mindful when carrying and washing my dishes at the nearby spigot, I’ll douse myself or the dishes will remain grubby. If I’m not mindful while hitching up the camper, I could miss an important step and endanger others on the road.
I wonder if the inherent urge for mindfulness is a reason why many of my friends have been whispering about wanting to move toward nature – to a simpler country life.
There’s this call to get back to the land, to garden, to build one’s own structures.
Practicing mindfulness in a life that doesn’t demand it (the dishwasher makes sure your plates are squeaky clean! The toilet bowl keeps you from peeing all over your foot!) can feel kind of flaccid.
Our “conveniences” have robbed us of the need for our own attention. And without attention grounding us here and now, the mind’s musings flutter off with these precious minutes that make up our lives.
But here’s what really blows my mind: What I want is so simple. It costs so little.
It’s the opportunity to look up and see branches blown sideways by the wind, to rest my eyes for a while on their wiggling leaves. It’s the time and space to let this pen scratch across this paper, and eventually, get to share its scratchings with you.
No extra! The physical work of survival, plus the creative work of projects that call to me. That’s it. Nothing extra.
Just before the sky got dark at the cowboy campfire, Rick supplied s’mores materials and I made two for myself and two for Marvin. Rick and Bernie continued drinking Coors Light and tried to convince me there was a market for yoga for old cowboys there in Oklahoma.
When I said I had to keep driving, they declared they’d at least be telling their ex-wives that they spent the evening with a yoga teacher from New York City.
How about you? Do you find that tactile tasks help you become present in (and enjoy) daily life? The way my sister loves to spend Saturday mornings “just puttering?” Do you create simple manual tasks for yourself? Do you crave them?
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