I saw the above 60 Minutes spot with Anderson Cooper about mindfulness (it can take a while to load) and it reminded me of something I haven’t thought about in years. Remember that comedy routine “Let’s Get Small” by comedian Steve Martin back in the ’70s?
Neither do I. I was probably studying at the library in college. At the time, I thought studying was the most important thing I could do. So anyway, according to Martin, getting small was code for getting high. Every time he said “getting small,” you could substitute “getting high.”
So what does this stuff about getting small have to do with mindfulness? Well, I’d like to propose a new definition for “getting small.” I haven’t contacted the people at the Urban Dictionary yet, but I think getting small could mean letting go and being in the moment.
One way I’ve found this to work is to walk Nigella. You remember Nigella; she’s the mascot for the psychiatry consultation service. Nigella reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously. And walking Nigella is sort of like a walking meditation. It’s hard to take yourself too seriously when you’re walking across the hospital with a giraffe.
The reason we have to walk Nigella is that she needs a shot of helium about once a week, which we get at the gift shop where she was born. One of the residents took her down last week and they fixed a small puncture, which might explain why we’ve had to walk her over there so often.
Anyway, I’ve found that walking Nigella to the gift shop can shrink my ego a bit. My sense of self-importance can sometimes get in the way–as a lot of people could probably tell you if you ask them.
I advise you never to ask them; I don’t.
Anyway, when I walk Nigella I walk pretty slowly, though not as slowly as most walking meditators would because it would look too bizarre. But walking even this slowly gives me a chance to notice my surroundings with greater awareness. I usually am rushing through the hallways and up and down the stairs. I almost never take the elevators because they’re just too slow.
When I walk Nigella this way, I get pretty small–small enough to notice people smiling at me along the way. Strictly speaking, this is not mindful walking because I usually have to respond to those who beam at me.
Usually I just beam back. Could there be such a thing as mindful beaming?
Children tend to point and say excitedly things like “Giraffe!” When that happens I’m aware of wondering (a form of thinking after all) what would happen if I just gave Nigella away to a child. Then I become aware of joyful emotions, making it challenging to return to simply mindful walking, especially during the holidays.
Getting small in a nonjudgmental way could be another one of those mindfulness skills in addition to the body scan which could help us wish each other well.
Let’s get really, really small in the next few days.