I’m so excited! Well no, I haven’t spotted the Easter Bunny but, even better, I’ve seen a weedy sea dragon. Sea dragons, despite the fearsome-sounding name, are the most beautiful and delicate marine fish belonging to the same family as sea horses. In fact, the weedy sea dragon is the marine emblem of the State of Victoria. I was walking along the beach with Bertie dog (thankfully he was too taken up with his new ball to notice the long-snouted creature washed up on the sand) and there it was. What struck me most apart from its elongated form were the amazing colours on its body: reds, pinks, yellows and oranges. What a wonderful creature to behold!
Later that same day I was reminded of the deep red patches on the sea dragon as I was slicing beetroot to roast for a salad. And, for once, I was really absorbed in what I was doing. I noticed the marbling inside the beetroot, the shapes reminding me of the knots and rings you find in wood. There’s something so richly rewarding about slowing down the mind and its incessant chatter so that we notice and really see what’s around us. And our focus and concentration improve dramatically.
Much as we think we’re getting ahead by multi-tasking, research in neuroscience shows that we’re actually creating scrambled wiring in our brains when we do two or more tasks at once. And, apart from damaging our brains, the bottom line is that it’s impossible to give our full attention to two things simultaneously and do them both well. To quote from Mind Gardener (mindgardener.com) the average person has up to 50,000 thoughts and 12,000 internal conversations a day. It’s amazing we manage to get anything done at all!
And so I was fascinated to hear Sir Michael Dobbs, author of the best-selling House of Cards and, more recently, his Winston Churchill novels, telling Phillip Adams on Late Night Live that he does some of his writing in bed. Dobbs described going back to bed in the morning when the family house is quiet and he can write with a pen and paper without being interrupted by flashing icons on a computer screen. Of course, as Phillip Adams reminded listeners, Barbara Cartland was famous for penning (churning out) her romantic novels in bed wearing one of her pink negligees. Incidentally, according to Wikipedia she left behind 160 manuscripts which have now been published as ‘The Pink Collection.’ I don’t like taking to my bed to write as it reminds me of being ill and confined to barracks. However, I like to take a notebook around with me and write long hand in a café or park. I often find it overcomes writers’ block and frees up the flow of ideas. Staring at a screen – especially one with distracting emails and messages popping up – does little to stimulate creativity.
I can fall into the mindless, multi-tasking, rush-rush-rush, go a million miles an hour habit as easily as the next person. But when I tap into a bit of mindfulness, I remember why it feels so good. Although our natural tendency is to speed up to get things done, slowing down actually creates more time and brain space. And that’s when we spot treasures like a sea dragon on the sea shore. Wishing all my followers a mindful and restful Easter. Watch out for the bunnies!