Last October, I had an amazing wildlife adventure in Africa. I fell in love with the king of the beasts. We saw several prides of lions lazing in the shade–the biggest pride had three lionesses, and 10 cubs. What really struck me about the wild cats was their combination of laser-like focus and their ability to achieve total relaxation. Even though they spend most of their time resting – 22 hours per day to be exact – they were ready for action at a moment’s notice.
When lions relax, they truly relax. No muscle is tense. Their entire bodies seem to melt into the grass, with only the occasional flick of the tail to chase pesky flies away. Every now and again, the lions would turn onto their backs, stretching out their legs, before flopping back onto their sides. When lions relax, they seem to let go of everything. Can you?
Looking into a lion’s eyes, there doesn’t seem to be anything else going on than being present THIS moment of taking in the surrounding sounds, smells, sights. In a lion’s eyes, I can’t see any of the mental static that pollutes our brains much of the time. The lion didn’t ruminate about past events (like missing that gazelle last night), worrying about future events (wondering which pride the new lioness might select tomorrow), or mentally beating himself up about one thing or another. If the lion spent mental energy ruminating, the lion would not be present in the moment and might miss an opportunity for his next dinner or next dinner date. When we ruminate, these thoughts take us away from just being in this moment.
Try this out: Right now, simply feel your body sitting on your chair, experience the temperature around you, feel your feet on the ground, observe your breath flowing in and out of your lungs without you needing to do anything. Notice any sounds, take in the colors and shapes around you – all without judgment or interpretation. Feel yourself sinking into your body, becoming aware of any feelings or thoughts and allow them to float by like clouds in the sky. Isn’t there something peaceful about just being in this moment? As the observer, you stop being ‘sucked’ into your thoughts and emotions; instead, you connect to a deeper presence. This is mindfulness.
How aware are you of your surroundings? Are you taking note of what is happening around you? Right now I am looking out the window noticing the evening colors on the red rocks right in front of us. If I had had my head buried in my laptop which I often have, I may not have noticed this exquisite beauty which only lasts for a few moments. How many times have I missed beauty right before my own eyes because I was absorbed in my own thoughts?
Mindfulness allows us to notice and appreciate more of what goes on within us, as well as in our environment. All these moments lead to a richer, more joyous experience of life.
I believe the lions’ “mindfulness” coupled with their incredible beauty gives them their amazing presence.