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Columns
Esther Lafferty is the anchor of the hugely successful Oxfordshire Artweeks festival and a keen triathlete.

Where the Grass is Greener

Esther Lafferty

This year I am focussing on being mindful. I thought I’d been doing this for years by jotting notes on pieces of paper in an attempt to overcome an absent-mindedness that can all too easily wreak havoc on the smooth running of family life. Apparently though, lists of lists when your mind is full don’t cut the mustard as ‘mindful’, so now I have to add mindfulness to my list too, between ‘get white wine vinegar’ and ‘post parcel to Auntie Dolly’.

You see, my mind’s always whizzing and whirring like cogs grinding against one another, and so every so often it needs a damn good clear out. It’s odd, therefore, that being ‘mind-ful’ is the focus on decluttering and putting aside junk, thoughts-wise. And this is exactly the sort of semantic conundrum that absorbs capacity yet can be shed without loss of routine.

Fortunately, I do have a good yoga DVD that I drag out every so often and it forces me to stay still somewhere other than my desk. The stocks would be an alternative – there are some in Woodstock and it’s not too far. I’d like local historians to double-check that they were indeed a form of medieval punishment and not a way to keep people with ants in their pants aligned with their yin and yang in the days before DVD playback was invented.

The yoga encourages me to clear my mind. It begins, however, with four minutes of quiet breathing exercises that I’ve never had the patience to sit through – and I’m mindfully thankful for the fast forward function in the five seconds it takes to whip past them.

An alternative is fish watching – which is entirely different experience from child-sitting, an activity that involves very little actual sitting. If you take a moment to be sucked in (although not literally, unless you have a snorkel to hand), it is surprisingly restful watching their sleek forms glide in the calm, clear water.

I suppose this isn’t so different from the yoga where ‘Tara’ moves seamlessly on a mat carefully positioned by a lake on crisp green grass, and I have begun to wonder if that’s where I’m getting it wrong. Maybe my mind isn’t an ocean of tranquillity day-to-day, my limbs not flexing in the extraordinary ways demonstrated, because even squashed up against the bi-fold doors, my view is inadequate. It’s certainly food for thought next time I’m having a mindful moment.

- Esther Lafferty