5-4-3-2-1

Those of you who watched the television between 1978 and 1988 may have seen (by accident maybe) a game show hosted by Ted Rogers and made in good old Yorkshire called ‘3-2-1’. Apart from Ted acting as host the other notable star of the show was a dustbin (yes, this is correct) called ‘Dusty Bin’. This was a robotic bin made by a chap in Leeds (there was cutting edge technology on the show) that appeared at various stages.  Reflecting back on the demise of the show Ted Rogers commented that “The Oxbridge lot got control of TV and they didn’t really want it. It was too downmarket for them. We were still getting 12 million viewers when they took it off after ten years. These days if a show gets nine million everyone does a lap of honour.” It was a shame because I loved watching Ted do this amazing thing with his fingers counting down ‘3-2-1’ – I could never do that, I still can’t.

321-dusty-bin

The good old days of TV

Which is all a stupid way into saying that I was introduced last week to a rather longer sequence of numbers, ‘5-4-3-2-1’. In the run up to Christmas we were promoting a course that we were to run in the New Year at Southwark Cathedral.  It’s called ‘Resolve’ and is a take on the idea of New Year resolutions and encourages participants to make small changes which could have a big effect.  The first week those in the group thought about the body.  This last week it was the mind.  I wasn’t at the first one, I was at the second.

In the small group discussion that took place we began talking about the practice of ‘Mindfulness’.  One of those in the group with me shared something with the rest of us which she practices and which I have since resolved to do.  So I thought I’d share it with you.  It’s around this idea of ‘5-4-3-2-1’.

The good thing about this is you can be anywhere when you do it, at home, on the bus, in church, on a park bench.  And it is very easy to remember. So here goes.

5 – what 5 things can you see around you?
4 – what 4 things can you feel?
3 – what 3 things can you hear?
2 – what 2 things can you smell?
1 – what 1 thing can you taste? or, what 1 good thing can you remember?

Some people describe this as a coping mechanism.  I can imagine it could be that.  But for me it is about being aware, deeply aware of myself in the present moment and using all of my senses or most of them (it depends what you do with the 1) to enhance and ground that awareness.

Last week the American, Pulitzer prize-winning poet, Mary Oliver, died.  In her poem ‘Sometimes’ she draws our attention to this simple concept of being aware.

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

When Jesus was on the hillside above the Sea of Galilee he was teaching the people in what we now call ‘the Sermon on the Mount’ (it wasn’t a sermon, it was sublime teaching). But at one point he says this

‘Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.’ (Matthew 6.28)

lillies

Consider ….

The people were so engrossed in what Jesus was telling them they perhaps hadn’t been mindful of what was around them. Jesus literally calls them to their senses.  ‘Look around you’, he is saying, ‘be aware’. He was teaching them, but there were lessons to be learnt just by looking, just by being present to what is happening around them.  The people looked and what he said made sense. That section of teaching of course ends with a marvellous statement about being present in the moment.

‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.’ (Matthew 6.34)

Focusing on the now, focusing on what the 18th century French Jesuit, Jean Pierre de Caussade, called ‘the sacrament of the present moment’ in his book ‘Abandonment to Divine Providence’, is what we do when we become mindful of the now, what we can see, what we can feel, hear, smell, taste.  And it is a sacrament because this deeper experience is grace-filled and we find God in it, the God of the present moment.  So this is my resolve, to be more present to the present. Try it.

God of the present moment,
bring me to my senses,
that I may know your presence with me,
in the now.
Amen.

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