Meditating when you paint

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” ― Leonardo da Vinci

No, I am not an artist, nor even a painter. My craft is the more mundane, that of an experienced DIY’er. The house I currently live in is an old house and needs to be regularly painted on the outside, both the walls, as well as the windows, which are made of wood.

The walls are white and the windows were matt black. The last time the outside of the house was painted was approximately five years ago. A number of the houses in the village have recently been painted and look fresh and new. Our house was looking drab and needed to be painted. Rather than just repaint the windows black, we decided to paint them a “forest green” colour, to both brighten them up and also bring the house more up to date.

After purchasing the paint, and other preparation materials including brushes, masking tape, and sanding paper, I could not put off any longer the task of painting the windows any longer. With fourteen windows, a set of patio doors, a back door and a front door, this was a task that was going to take days. For each window, the preparation is key. Sanding down and making good the wood. Masking taping the glass to prevent the paint running. Then, as they were previously black, having to undercoat and prime, before the final top coat of weatherproof gloss.

I don’t know if it was Zen, but the focus needed to perform these tasks meant I was completely focused on the moment by moment activities. For a number of days, I have painted numerous windows.

Have I finished? Nope, not quite.

I have the front door and two windows to go. Have I found the task odorous? No, I have not. I have enjoyed every moment by moment focus on the task. That is what mindfulness gives you. We all have the native ability within us to be mindful, through training and practice helps. The next time you find yourself focusing on a task and for a moment find yourself “in the moment”, that is mindfulness practice.


I realise that there are mindfulness colouring books and painting books that are available. I just happened to do it on a much larger scale. I was given a mindfulness colouring book and will give it a try to see if I get the same result. There is a raft of colouring books available, some are here:

The picture I’ve used on this blog post is a stock image of the colour of paint I used just so you can see what it looks like.

I leave you with the following quote which made me smile. I love the works of Terry Pratchett.

“Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it. If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying ‘End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH’, the paint wouldn’t even have time to dry.” Terry Pratchett, Thief of Time

Stepping back at Christmas

“In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are at its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of people be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless of those who have never achieved integrity. Do not lose your knowledge that our proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads.  Ayn Rand

Christmas has been traditionally in our household, a time of roast turkey dinner; Christmas tree and a houseful of decorations; presents opened on both Christmas day as well as Boxing Day (* see note at the end as to its meaning) and the girls working at the horse yard on Christmas morning.

This year was slightly different; for the first time ever, we were not going to be celebrating at home as a family, but we were invited to our neighbours for the traditional Christmas meal.

It felt strange not having to prepare the basics of the meal. Cooking the turkey the night before and allowing it to cool before separating all of the meat into different parcels and placing the remaining carcass into the soup pan. Yes, one of the extra chores over the period is the making of the turkey soup to be consumed leading up to New Year. Preparing the various veggies, chopping, dicing and peeling, before placing into the myriad of pans on the top of the cooker.  Finally, the laying out the dinner table ready for the big day with all of the table decorations. Most of these tasks I have done over many years on my own, as everyone gets ready for Christmas.

Additionally, for the past three years, I have not eaten meat, so it is a challenge to be involved with the traditional turkey dinner. I still help, as I do not wish to impose my beliefs on the rest of the family. This year, it was even more strange as we did not have to prepare anything for the main meal; rather we had to prepare and bring along a selection of deserts, which we duly did, to our neighbours.

It was our neighbours who prepared the turkey dinner, with all of the veggies and traditional extras (bread sauce, stuffing and the like). For my dinner, they had kindly cooked some fresh salmon, with lemon and dill.

I don’t know whether it was the level of stress at work, leading up the the festive holidays; or whether it was the change of routine; but this year felt really different.


Strangely, more relaxed and tempered on my part.

I felt as if I had stepped back and allowed things to “flow”. Even with the normal angst on Christmas morning of the mountain of presents or the girls having to go to the yard, it all felt less important. Maybe, it was a series of guided mindfulness exercises I was helped with leading up to the day.

Or, maybe, just maybe, stepping back and allowing the moments to arrive; as they did over the festive days, and just enjoying each moment as it happened, was a new approach to Christmas.

I truly hope your festive season was one of joy, happiness, time with family, friends and loved ones. That you were able to take some time out for yourself; to reflect and to renew.

The next big event will soon be upon us, New Years eve. I have no idea what this year will bring, but will let it flow, whatever it is.

I leave you with the following quote.

Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it’s yours.” ― Ayn Rand


P.S. What is Boxing Day?

The origins of Boxing Day lie not in sport, but in small acts of kindness. I thought it was from a Victorian tradition of giving small presents in boxes out to servants and the poor on the day after Christmas. The following article from the Guardian newspaper gives some fascinating insight into some of its meaning.


Are you feeling Life-Tired or lebensmude?

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.”  ― Friedrich Nietzsche

Monday’s and the start of the week can make people feel worried, upset or even depressed at the prospect of the week to come. I came across a phrase recently that really struck a chord with me. The phrase is:

LEBENSMÜDE  or Life-Tired. It is a German phrase that struck a chord with me.

We believe ourselves to be firmly attached to the effort of daily life, but some of our behaviours attests to something more; an occasional longing to give up our hold the life we lead. When this happens, we suddenly feel low; possibly distracted from the task at hand; even possibly wanting to give up and walk away from the situation. This could be the work environment, a situation at home or even something to do with friends or family.

For many people these days, this feeling can be complete almost overwhelming. Almost like a tidal wave of doubt and angst suddenly hits you. I am sre we have all felt this at some stage.

Some turn to drink. Others to drugs. Some feel anxious and try to run away. Others, even start to feel depressed. You may turn to sport or exercise, but for me, I turn to my thoughts and feelings, expressed through Mindfulness. Having practiced mindfulness now for coming up to three years, it still amazes me, how a simple breathing exercise or a mindful walk can change my whole outlook. Even a brief loving, kindness meditation can work wonders.

I am currently going through a four week mindfulness programme , sponsored by the place where I work. Part refresher; part to help me develop as a mindfulness coach at work; we were encouraged to read an article on how to be more mindful at work. In fact almost every one of the ten tips, not only apply to work. But also apply to re life you live. They include four of my favourite tips:

Be Consciously Present
Mindfulness is about being aware and awake rather than operating unconsciously. Be aware of what’s going on around you and what’s going on within you.

Be a Single-Tasker
Multi-tasking is trying to do two or more tasks at the same time or switching back and forth between tasks. Nobody can actually multi-task. In reality, your brain is madly switching from one thing to the next, often losing your train of thought in the process. Why not try single-tasking by trying to do one thing at a time.

Mindful Reminders
I, like most people who’ve undertaken training in mindfulness, appreciate the benefits of mindful living. Unfortunately, I keep forgetting to be mindful!  I have to use a reminder. In fact, it is the bracelet I wear next to my watch which I bought when I started practising, as my physical reminder. What is yours?

Cultivate Humility
Humility comes from the Latin “humilis”, meaning grounded. Humble people have a quiet confidence about themselves and don’t feel the need to continuously remind others of their achievements. I have come to feel humble as part of my journey through my mindfulness practice.

It is also useful to have a sense of fun and pleasure as well. Maybe even useful to have this word, lebensmude,  to hand on days when it feels as if nothing will ever work out.

In the meantime, I leave you with the following quote.

Don’t exist.


Get out, explore.


Challenge authority. Challenge yourself.


Change forever.

Become who you say you always will. Keep moving. Don’t stop

Brian Krans


If you want to check out the article on 10 ways to feel mindful at work, go to:

How to accept the now, by being present

“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” ― Thomas Merton

Contrary to popular belief, humans cannot multitask. We get ourselves so wrapped up in trying to do a number of tasks at the same time, it stresses ourselves out. What we are capable of doing is handling a number of serial tasks in rapid succession, or mixing automatic tasks with those that are not so automatic.  

It’s like how we think. We can only think of one thing at a time. However, with upwards of 70,000 thoughts going through our heads, we believe we are able to multitask our thoughts. Our brains are incredibly clever at rapid thought change, but in reality, our conscious thinking is a sequence of thoughts; one after another.

We can only think of one thing at a time. However, with upwards of 70,000 thoughts going through our heads, we believe we are able to multitask our thoughts. Our brains are incredibly clever at rapid thought change, but in reality, our conscious thinking is a sequence of thoughts; one after another.

Most of our thoughts are spent in the past or in the future, rather than the present moment. What we end up doing is passing through that moment on the way to somewhere else and, in doing so, we miss the moment. That’s how life ends up passing us by – we do it to ourselves.

So, how do we stay present?

The first thing to recognize is that try as we might, we really can only do one thing at a time. Ruminating over the past, and that’s all we’re doing is ruminating over the past; is problematic because the past is something that can’t be changed. Certainly, we can change our relationship to past memories, but staying “back there” is simply ruminative and, for some of us, baldly destructive. There are a number of techniques that are used that can help you if there are past memories that badly affect you – Reframing; Integral Eye Movement Therapy; Talking therapies; NLP; Hypnosis; literally hundreds of different techniques. What they all do is change your relationship to the past memory.

Anticipating the future is also problematic, even futile, because, no matter how much we’d like to convince ourselves otherwise, we can’t really control the direction in which things will go. We can have an intention or goal in mind, but, in the end, the fates, God, the universe or something has a way of deciding.

Staying present, then, means staying here, right here, and there are a few simple techniques that can help us all experience the moment that we’re in.

Observe what you are doing right now

What you’re doing right at this moment? For most, right now, you are reading this blog post. Are you just reading? Where are your thoughts? Your emotions? Your hands? Your sense of time? You are reading – that’s it…so, just read. Not being present is easy. It is so easy to let our minds wander. Back and forth across our lives. The next time you are doing something, try to just focus on that task. I tried this, this morning when I cleaned my teeth. I focused my attention of the brushing motion; the froth created in my mouth and the tingle of the cleansing toothpaste. For a few moments, I was completely present.

Take a breath:

Our breath, along with change, are the only constants in our lives. Being present starts with the breath. All Mindfulness teaching starts with the breath. After all it , s always with us. Simply draw a deep breath through your nose rather than your mouth. When we breathe through our mouth it triggers a subtle anxiety response, which increases heart rate and redirects blood flow. A slow release of breath through the nose has the opposite effect of mouth-breathing, and draws a relaxation response. One of the quick mindfulness techniques is to breath in for half the amount of time you breath out. You can say breath in for a count of six and out for a count of 12, whatever works for you. I try to notice the difference in the air temperature between the in breath and out breath when I practice. It is always cooler on the in, than the out.

Take a moment:

Our 24*7 lives seem to be always on. When was the last time, you stopped and took a moment, even a few minutes to stop what you are doing? During the day, we rush to get to work; we try to cram in as many emails, meetings and tasks as possible and then rush home again. When we get home, we fill our task list with chores and activities. Even when we go on holiday, we seem to try to fill up every waking moment. Instead, take a mindful moment.

That is what mindfulness meditation teaches you. Whether it is 3 minutes, 10 minutes or even longer, try to take a moment every day. There is going to  be a follow up blog post with a fun way to bring attention to te now. In the mena time, if you have a ay of being present in the now, do share.

I leave you with the following quote.

“The past is already gone, the future is not yet here. There’s only one moment for you to live, and that is the present moment”

Gautama Buddha