I had never noticed before today quite how ugly an acorn looked before it was fully formed. What was different about today which meant that I noticed the acorn for the first time? The answer is that I had slowed down. I was walking not running. I was no longer thinking ‘this is hard,’ ‘my legs are aching,’ I’m not going as fast as I want to,” instead I was just walking, I was out of my own head and being mindful, in the moment, looking around me. I noticed a policeman nod at me, I noticed the pre-autumnal green conkers forming on the horsechestnut branches, and I noticed these strange-looking green formations on the oak tree branches.

Curious, I went up and had a closer look. Could that be what an acorn looks before it’s fully formed? I looked even closer and saw some which were just these funny little shapes, others which were emerging from the knobbly formation and some perfectly formed acorns. It struck me how big the transformation was from weird to beautiful. How had I not noticed this before? It also got me thinking about how I could be more like an acorn.

The beauty of a process

Each year an acorn is born through fertilization. From that point it patiently takes the time it needs to grow, each day taking what it needs from the nourishment of the sunlight, rain and the soil. It is not busy thinking about what it needs to become, desperate to get there quicker than the other acorns. It just waits, and grows a little bit each day. In growing, it changes along the way, sometimes looking ugly and barely noticeable, until eventually it reaches its full beauty and falls off the tree, to fulfil its purpose of reproduction.

So in slowing down to notice the acorn, I was being more like the acorn, and just being. Of course acorns, as far as we know are not conscious. As humans though, we can use our conscious mind to enjoy the act of being. We call this mindfulness, living in the moment, and not being caught up in thoughts about the past or the present. What could you be missing in your life by going too fast, and by not paying attention to the present moment, not just in your down-time but in your work and life goals? Mindfulness is awareness, and awareness is about what it is to be lucky enough to have been created as a conscious human being who can experience the world in all its richness of dimension.

How to be mindful

In my Cognitive Hypnotherapy practice in Dulwich and Clerkenwell, I love to teach my clients about the importance of mindfulness. It brings us to the essence of who we really are and what life is for, instead of being consumed by worries of the past or future. It struck me today that the acorn I saw could be a great metaphor which I could take beyond this blog and into my therapy room to help educate my clients on the benefits of mindfulness.

To start to enjoy these benefits yourself, you don’t necessarily need a metaphor like this one, but equally it could be useful for you as a starting point. Simply begin by slowing down. Try to notice things around you, using all your senses. Like the acorn, nature is a good way to start. Notice birdsong, the feeling of the sun, wind or rain on your body, the beauty of the night sky; anything you may not have noticed for a while.

Mindfulness isn’t just about noticing the good things around you, but noticing the things which you are not happy with, that you would like to change. It is about connecting with the world through your conscious experience, being more aware and less on autopilot, and not taking for granted the experience of being alive and having consciousness.