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Trickling through my fingers (ITWS#3)

I just did something a bit weird! Something that completely caught me out in terms of its impact on my mood and my focus.

First some context. It has been a day where I have really struggled to concentrate. I have not had the focus to do the writing that is important to me, I have not had the energy to get into the garden, and I have not had the motivation to put finishing touches to a modular shelving arrangement I made last weekend. Add to this some heady symbolism in the form of the loaf coming out of the breadmaker being very flat indeed. Combine with my stupidity in toasting some of it and breaking a fragile tooth while trying to break through the granite crust! You might see why I was a bit annoyed with myself, which has done nothing to help at all with my mindfulness.

I knew I wanted to write from my In Touch With Sense series reaching the heady heights of #3 in the series. I have a kerzillion ideas of what I want to write about and a vague wish to capture my thoughts about some sounds that I have recently heard. Three of them in particular. Each of them lasted only a few seconds yet they stirred emotion, memory and imagination in a way that entirely caught me out.

The first of these was the sound of buttons falling onto a hard surface. It was on a BBC R4 programme about the holocaust which I have written about only a short while back. The buttons where a representation of the life of each person who died. They were being collected by a school in the Lake District to create a memorial to capture a sense of all of them. Six million buttons to capture a sense of six million lives. The narrative of the programme was interspersed with the sound of buttons being dropped, poured, and counted. The symbolism was powerful stuff which I have already written something about (which you can see through this link but could not get it out of my head.

Then I did something completely spontaneous and perhaps a little weird. I grabbed my bottle of buttons which I carry with me to use with clients during our coaching sessions. I sat down at my table and made myself comfortable as possible and closed my eyes and tried, with limited success, to concentrate on my breathing.

I then let the buttons trickle through my fingers from a position slightly above the table. Some landed with a thud, some with a tinkle, some with a spin. Some landed on top of others, some ended up with a secondary noise as they fell onto the floor. The sounds, which lasted no more that 10 seconds or so, was easy to get drawn into.

The most dramatic impact was when it stopped. The silence was deafening and really quite unsettling. I tried it a few times. On each occasion I thought about the buttons are representing the holocaust, then symbolising the lives lost to COVID19. I thought about each button representing a chunk of time I had wasted that day. I thought about each button representing a client that I have had the privilege to work with. I thought about each button being an undergraduate that I had worked with and who were now years into their own successful careers.

I found each experience very real and in all of them there was the point where it stopped, where there were no more buttons to fall. After that feeling of being unsettled, maybe even a little scared, I found that my mind was in a place where it recognised there was time and space to do something purposeful. I had a choice whether I used that time and space wisely. What you are reading is the result!

Mindfulness is something that I work at quite hard. This ‘trickling through my fingers’ experience with buttons has really left an impression. Perhaps you could give it a go. The first of two key aspects of the experience is to think about what the buttons are representing for you, trying to let yourself arrive at this understanding while you hear them falling on your surface. The second is to notice what you are thinking and feeling in that silence that immediately follows the last button falling. I found there is some learning to be had in that moment.

There, I feel quite refreshed. I’ll leave the other two sounds until another day in the knowledge that my experience today really has been about being In Touch With Sense.

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