This week we’ve been away at a friend’s farm in Trentham, Victoria. There is nothing quite like the feeling of the crisp frosty morning and the glow of the fire that has been burning all night, keeping the living room toasty for when you get up to make your morning cuppa. I love the smell of the air in the country; crisp and clean but punctuated with the smell of log fires and home baking.
For us city-dwellers, the novelty never wears off. Every time I come to this part of the world, I feel revived and inspired. Our kids also get the benefits. They love that we do things as a family that we don’t do at home. Not out of choice, but because our day-to-day lives are so full of activity that we are constantly in the throes of football, netball, gymnastics, soccer, school, work… you get the idea.
This time we played cards – Pontoon, and painted sticks (thanks to a great post I read on Maxabella Loves – check out her blog, it’s beautiful). The kids had never played Pontoon, and none of us had ever sat down and painted sticks. The Pontoon was great, you could see their little minds ticking away, counting up their totals, deciding whether to ‘stick’ or ‘twist’, or pay for a card with a jelly bean – our chosen currency.
The ongoing project of sticks was a wonderful way to reconnect with the land, disconnect from technology and reconnect with each other. We went for a gorgeous walk along the old rail trail from Trentham to Lyonsville (complete with Kookaburras and Kangaroos) and collected a range of sticks along the way.
We collected more sticks while we were out feeding Danny, Tink and Dusty – the three resident donkeys. Stomping across the land, filling our lungs with the freshest of air and witnessing the slowness of life in the country, was the perfect way for us to slow down and just ‘be’ with each other.
Just being with each other is something we forget to do in our city lives. There is always a job to do, a place to go or an errand to run. The expectation of participation means we neglect the really important stuff – such as being together – just hanging out. What comes from this ‘hanging out’ is this wonderful ‘mindless mindfulness’.
It sounds like a contradiction, but it’s not. By doing things that require very little brain power (the mindless) we become more mindful. It gives us the space to look around, take a breath and recognise the depth of pleasure in the simple things.
A while back I bought a ‘grown-up’ colouring book. I’ve only had a couple of sessions at it, but the last time I did it, the transformation in me was amazing, and quite illuminating. I’d had a busy day and was tetchy with the kids. I knew I only had about 45 minutes before I needed to start dinner, but I’d been wanting to sit with the kids for a few days so had promised them that we’d sit and colour. It kept getting put off, because of the inevitable daily chores. But this particular day, I’d committed. Knowing I only had 45 minutes made me even more tetchy.
But I sat down and we all started colouring. When 5pm rolled around (my cue to start dinner) it was just me at the table, the kids had got bored and gone off to do other things; but I continued and that evening I started dinner much calmer than I had been when I walked in the door. The woes of the day had fallen away and taking that time out had allowed me the space to see how important the act of ‘mindless mindfulness’ was.
So with this in mind, we planned our stick painting activity. It helps that there are few distractions out here in the country. I have very limited mobile network here, which means no internet. So for us grown ups: no news distractions, no blog or email distractions. For the kids, no I-View. Sometimes there was the occasional declaration of boredom, which thoroughly delighted me. Our children have limited opportunity to get bored, so I’m all for that.
But by choosing to disconnect, it naturally follows that we choose to reconnect because without interruptions and distractions from our frenetic city life, we face each other and stop, talk and laugh (and get a little bit bored), which is a glorious feeling indeed.
What about you? How to do you disconnect and reconnect?