Perched on the edge of an opulent sofa in Pennyhill Park Hotel’s beautiful bridal suite, her hands were clasped nervously together, right foot tapping rhythmically and unconsciously on the plush maroon carpet. Shoulders hunched and jaw tight, the bride’s mother was tense and agitated. She was sat in an amazing five star hotel in Surrey but with one glance at her, you could tell something was not quite right.
The morning of your only daughter’s wedding day must be difficult for a lot of mums, but for this lady the pressure of being out of her normal routine was almost unbearable. She clearly found it hard to relax and enjoy the rare experience of being in an amazing luxury hotel with her loved ones. Finally snapping under the tension, she headed out of the door and straight to the hotel’s housekeeping department. To borrow a vacuum cleaner…
When she returned she was like a different woman. Pushing the hoover around the (already immaculate!) hotel suite, just like she did at home, allowed her to relax properly for the first time that morning.
If you’ve kept even half an eye on news, magazines or lifestyle publications recently, you can’t have failed to notice the rise of the concept of mindfulness as a therapy for the stress and pressure our rapidly evolving lifestyles can generate. The concept of mindfulness comes from Buddhism and is closely tied to meditation and other practices which were developed thousands of years ago as a defence against the ups and downs of daily life. Even then, a lot of personal issues people experienced were seen as detrimental to a full and happy life.
Modern life is perhaps a thousand times more complicated – thanks in a large part to the rise of technology. Most of us live our lives governed by bleeps, tones, vibrations and the constant awareness that we are connected 24 hours of every day.
In times of stress and pressure, our awareness of our surroundings can drop dramatically. Those fragrant spring blossoms we walked past on our way to that important meeting? Didn’t even notice them. Our self-defined priorities can drive us to miss so much in our lives that has the potential to bring us great joy and peace…
The smell of a decent cup of coffee on a Sunday morning or the feel of freshly laundered sheets on your skin should be things we notice, appreciate and savour. These small treasures take you out of your constant internal monologue of planning, checking, imagining, forecasting and mental decision-making for a few moments and provide a sort of peaceful oasis for a short period of time. Mindful awareness of everyday joys reduces stress, reminding you that necessary, unpleasant and even traumatic tasks can be balanced out by moments of beauty and calm.
An oft-told story is one of the parent who repeatedly finds herself over the years telling her child to “hurry up”, “we’re late”, “get moving”. When her daughter is a teenager, the parent complains that she never home. She wants to tell her child to slow down, wait a while, perhaps stop for a chat. This period between toddlerhood and teenager hood, as any parent knows, goes by in a twinkling of an eye. Then the house is empty and the lonely parents will miss the child that seems to have hurried out of their lives.
You can probably see where I’m going with this.
A wedding day is incredibly emotionally intense, but sometimes those involved lose focus on the actual experience of ‘being there’. I’ve met brides and grooms who spent almost every second concerned with the administrative side of the wedding – checking with the vicar or registrar about timings, making sure all the guests are happy and know where everything is, checking outside to see what the weather is doing, on the phone guiding latecomers to the location etc. We all know how important it is that things go well. But how will our recollections of the day will be affected by not truly ‘being present’ on the day?
While some of these tasks are necessary, try to let other people at the wedding take on the administrative tasks at your wedding and immerse yourself as much ‘in the moment’ as you can. Then the sensory experience of becoming a married couple will anchor deep inside you – and in three or four decades time, poring over your photographs will not just bring smiles about how you both looked, but will trigger off glorious memories of how you felt which is just as important.
Take your time. Use all your senses to absorb the day.
And don’t forget to breathe.