I went for a walk last week. I was making my way along a country lane and I took my phone out of my pocket. I turned it on and started typing a reply to a text. I wrote a couple of words and realised I’d taken a handful of steps without noticing. I put my phone back in my pocket and carried on walking.
This ‘noticing’ is really what Gaia House is all about. Everything you do there is set up to cultivate awareness.
Every day we practiced walking meditation. There’s a large room with creaky wooden floorboards and a huge bay window containing houseplants that were just as huge. In a marble fireplace sat a skeleton reminding us of our immortality. I slowly walked back and forth noticing what arose in the space between bones and leaves – the dead and the living.
But it was the outside walking practice that I enjoyed the most. You chose a space in the beautiful grounds and you paid attention to your every step:
the way my feet made contact with the ground
the golden hues of early autumn leaves
the restriction in my left big toe joint due to an old sprain
a plane soaring overhead
a softening of shoulders
the occasional weed sprouting for victory
exhaling breath on top lip
the heat in hands from clasping a mug of peppermint tea
the cacophony of cawing crows
sash windows with wobbly panes of glass catching the light unevenly
the warm sun on face
the subtle smell of peppermint
the inhaling expansion of rib cage.
It’s often said – I believe – that women are brilliant multi-taskers. I’m sure many men would disagree. But is multi-tasking such a great thing? Trying to do ten things at once?
I’d rather do one thing very well.