Just cut the carrots was one particular saying that really stuck with my last 8 week High Performing Minds group. In fact so much so, that one of the group laminated us all a little Tee shirt souvenir with these words on it to take away with us for the holidays. This saying came up in Week Seven as we were discussing ways to be more mindful and calm in everyday life.
“Just cut the carrots” is a little piece of profound wisdom – let me explain why.
Imagine you are standing in the kitchen, it’s time to prepare dinner. The problem is, you are tired, rushed, and frankly not in a great mood. As you physically prepare dinner, your mind is replaying the 10 things you still have to get done today before bed. Not only that, but there were a couple of things at work that really irritated you today, and so you find yourself replaying what happened and getting even more irritated.
Can you see where this is heading?
Often tasks like food prep are mundane enough that we can let our minds wander while we chop the carrots. Nothing wrong with a bit of aimless mind wandering right? No big deal. The problem is often we tend to default to ruminating about our worries, concerns, and problems. While we are doing that, our bodies are likely to be activating the sympathetic nervous system releasing small doses of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream. Not only are you not present while cutting the carrots, you are also adding to the body’s stress load.
So next time you are preparing dinner, remember to just cut the carrots. Feel the weight of the body standing, the feeling of holding the knife, notice the colour, texture and feel of the carrots as you cut them.
Why stop there? On holiday, every now and then, stop and take a moment to switch off autopilot. Here is how:
During meditation we are deliberately taking ourselves somewhere quiet with minimal distractions, and using an ‘anchor’ to focus our attention such as the breath, body or sounds. Because we have minimal distractions we notice as soon we start to default to worry, catch ourselves in the act, so to speak, then acknowledge this has happened, without beating ourselves up, and return to a place to rest our attention. Do this enough times during formal meditation, and I promise it will be much easier to do while you are cutting the carrots. If you are new to this, definitely start with some of our guided recordings, or ten percent happier, healthy minds, or peace in a frantic world.
“Be where your feet are”
As you are walking on the beach, or anywhere for that matter, focus all your attention to the pressure and surface area of your feet are making contact with the ground as you walk and say to yourself internally “be where my feet are”.
Notice Five Things
When you are outside in nature, look around and slowly and intentionally notice five descriptive things that you can see in your visual field. This could be a flock of birds flying past, a red towel on the beach, two people surfing etc.. Mentally list them in your head. Now close your eyes and listen carefully and notice five things that you can hear. Notice five things that you can feel in contact with your body (for example, the sun on your skin, your watch against your wrist, the air on your face, your legs making contact with the sand). If you can, notice five thought patterns or mood states, such as peaceful, sleepy, relaxed, excited, hungry etc (don’t worry if you don’t get 5).
To truly switch off, we need to allow our minds, not just our bodies to rest.
So while you take a break this holiday season, bring a good natured curiosity to where your mind wants to default to during the day, and if it’s unhelpful thinking, use these tips to unhook as best as you can from those thoughts and pay closer attention to what’s going on around you.