Recently a dear friend gave me a boxful of beautiful olives from her mother’s farm. When you first pick olives, actually tasting them is only for the brave. Being incredibly bitter and inedible at this stage, olives need to be cured. This process involves slitting the olives and soaking them in regularly changed water for around ten days. After all this, marination can begin. I love using red wine vinegar, garlic and chillies. I must say I have the preparation fairly down pat, albeit after a few not so successful attempts!
The careful process begins by making three slits in each olive. This takes quite a lot of time, often a few hours. So sitting with a bowl, a paring knife and the box of dark olives, the procedure begins. No music, no distractions, just a total focus on each olive.
Doing this yesterday made me reflect on how successful this is as a meditative exercise. It is very much about being in the moment. Examining each olive, removing any stalks and leaves, carefully making the slits without cutting my finger and slowly, methodically working through the box until they all sit prepared in a bowl glistening like black gold.
Mindfulness, with its origins in Buddhist meditation techniques has become a popular technique to enhance wellbeing. It is simply about being present in the moment, observing sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings. Not thinking about anything other than what is currently happening, inside you and around you. Being fully aware, not making judgements, not being on autopilot, simply being conscious of all things happening in each passing moment.
Its many benefits include, enabling you to experience a deep sense of relaxation, reducing anxiety, alleviating stress, improving your cognitive functioning, lowering your blood pressure and allowing you a reprieve from the pressures of daily life.
Not all of us have a box of olives of course, but mindfulness can be exercised anywhere, it costs nothing and you don’t require any special equipment! An easy way to practice mindfulness is to find a quiet space, in the garden, in a park, and simply sit and notice your breathing, inwards and outwards. Feel the sun on your shoulders, the sensation of the wind gently blowing, see the blades of grass or leaves of the trees around you, hear the sounds of the birds chirping, and let yourself be clear of any thoughts other than those of just being in that moment. Relax and enjoy!