When you just don’t ‘do’ mindfulness

… or Zen and the Art of Ironing Board Maintenance


I make no excuse for it I’m a big mindfulness fan. It probably saved my life. Others are less enthused. Take Dean in The Guardian newspaper earlier this year. I share his pain. It’s all becoming rather over hyped. Perhaps people are just trying too hard. The antithesis of mindfulness ‘being’.

Don’t start sewing the parachute as you are just about to jump out of the aircraft

Mindfulness meditation is simple, yet it isn’t easy. There lies the paradox. It’s certainly not something you should start in the throes of one of the most difficult periods of your life. Don’t start sewing that parachute just as you’re about to jump out of the aircraft!

My friend David tried to do this when he was holding down a board position at a FTSE 100 company, experiencing a very public crisis and caring for his wife who had been struck down by a debilitating disease; as yet to be diagnosed.

We’re meeting up over a coffee.

I just couldn’t find the time or the focus. I was going through hell.

“I just couldn’t find the time or the focus. I was going through hell. The only relief came when I did the ironing. I’ve never done the ironing, but with Anne so ill, I had to do it. I just had to find the time and do it.”

It dawns on me that, via necessity, David has discovered the beauty of The Mindfulness of Domestic Chores.

“When ironing clothes I notice the colour and shape of the clothing, and the pattern made by the creases, and the new pattern as the creases disappeared.

The hiss of the steam, the creak of the ironing board, the faint sound of the iron moving over the material. How my hand grips the iron, and the movement of my arm and my shoulder.

I regain perspective.

If I ruminate on everything I’m trying to deal with, I just bring myself back to the sights, sounds, smells and feelings I get from the ironing. Everything looks so much better and more manageable after a long ironing session. I regain perspective. It’s amazing.”

As we order a refill, I gently suggest to David that he’s been practicing mindfulness all along; not on the cushion but at the ironing board.

He’s surprised and pleased in equal measure.