Jon Kabat-Zinn, in his book Wherever You Go There You Are, makes a lovely comment about this simple act of going up the stairs and back down. He makes the observation that this time on the stairs is often a transition period - a time when you are heading somewhere, usually for something very specific. As a result, your mind is usually on that next thing:
"So I discover that I am frequently pulled by my need to be somewhere else, or by the next thing I think needs to happen, or the next place I think I'm supposed to be." (Jon Kabat-Zinn)
But what of the act of going up/down the stairs itself? What a brilliant opportunity to practice mindfulness; to slow down and take in the journey, rather than being so focused on the destination.
I was speaking with someone today about my plans for my mindfulness challenge this week and she asked me, "What if you don't have stairs?". Well, never fear, you don't need them! Pick anything. Maybe your version of my stairs is the hallway you walk down time and time again, or the dash from your car to the train station platform. Perhaps it's your ascent/descent in the elevator at work, or the act of walking through your front door. Rarely do we experience these acts as something worthy of our attention. Rather, they are pathways to our next destination.
This week I'm likely to go up and down my staircase countless times. I'm sure it's good for my thighs, and at the pace I travel, I'm no doubt also getting a decent cardiovascular workout. But this week the focus is going to be on what this repetitive trip can do for my mindfulness mission. I'm going to slow it down, notice the sensation of my footfalls on the soft carpet, the rhythm of my breath, the action of my muscles and bones. No longer an express-way beckoning me to my next task, my time on the stairs will be an act of mindfulness.