When we drink a glass of water, and if we know that we are drinking a glass of water, if we’re concentrated on the fact that we are drinking water, mindfulness is already there. And the water drinking becomes deeper, truer, and real.
– Thich Nhat Hanh
“Water will make your body and mind happy.” This is wisdom that will forever remain true. At the core of life, there is water–a magical substance that seamlessly flows from stream to lake to ocean; that ripples with translucent, velvety undulations across vast glimmering, sunlit surfaces. This is life.
3 minutes, 3 days, 3 weeks — this how long we can live without air, food, and water, respectively. Vital to our survival, and essential for optimal health, water nevertheless remains something easily brushed aside, forgotten about, unnoticed.
This begs the assumption that we all know how to drink a glass of water–right?
Well, not necessarily. Performance artist Marina Abramovic wants to teach us how to drink water differently: encouraging us to cease our careless consumption of liquid, she wants us instead to slowly sip our water mindfully, in an effort to expand our minds and our ability to be in the present moment.
This lesson is indicative of the philosophy she promotes at her new institute in Hudson, about a 2 hour drive from New York City. When visitors come to the institute, they are required to sign a contract stating that they will stay at the institute for a minimum of 6 hours. Abramovic feels that this is the minimum amount of time she needs with people in order for them to adequately absorb the ideas she is trying to convey.
The concepts about which she’s so enthusiastic revolve around the idea of mindfulness. By re-framing how we view and experience everyday routine activities, we can re-ignite our passion for life. Routine, Abramovic feels, is death to a human being the moment it becomes an automatic, unfelt process. However, everyday activities such as drinking water, going for a walk, or communicating with another person can become exciting, insightful events when our perception is re-arranged. Re-learning how to experience everyday, routine occurrences through mindfulness is fundamental to personal growth and inspired living.
The water is something we drink every day, but not consciously. So it’s very simple. (…) What you have to do is hold the glass in your hand. Close your eyes. Just feel the coldness and wetness of the glass itself.
Breathe. Think about nothing special except that moment of drinking. Put the glass next to your lips. Just rest your lips against the glass for a while.
So the idea of this is to do everything one action at a time, and nothing else. The principle is to take a little sip of the water, feel the coldness, wetness, feel how the water goes into your mouth, goes into your body, into your cells, and drink this glass over 30 minutes, and nothing else. That’s it.
I love this video, and not only because it features Abramovic’s amusingly nonchalant insult toward the glass she was given to use — “it’s a wine glass — it’s not my choice, but that’s what it is.” No; I appreciate it because it is refreshing to see someone other than the usual Zen Buddhist monks, psychologists, yogis, or healers speak about the importance of mindfulness. She actually doesn’t even mention the term during the exercise, instead opting to describe its qualities: “breathe; feel; rest; one action at a time; think about nothing but that moment.” Those become our student keywords for embodying mindfulness.
Most people who have studied drama or performance art are aware that being mindful of one’s body, feelings, thoughts, and actions is a central aspect of these mediums. Yet, this philosophy frequently remains contained within these closed circles–if we’re not actors by trade or hobby, nor into yoga and meditation, we might not think about mindfulness very often.
Abramovic’s lesson is something we can all try, today. In addition to increasing our sense of presence, slowing down our actions can also draw our attention toward the finer things in life that might otherwise pass us by. For example, much like Abramovic noting her feelings about the wine glass upon contemplation, we might see ourselves become more aware of our pleasure–or, displeasure–with the appearance and feel of our glass, or with the taste of our water.
It is within this state of mindfulness that our authentic style of taste is often born. When we make time to truly get in touch with how we feel, we start to notice what matters to us. We might find that we remain indifferent, or realize that we do have vested interested in quality design and taste. There’s no right or wrong; it’s all about experiencing our individual, personal truths.
This gentle exercise in liquid mindfulness extends beyond enhancing our awareness of drinking water. Increasing our ability to stay present creates ripple effects that radiate outwards, touching all areas of our life: relationships, work, hobbies, and even our life’s purpose become more luminous with every mindful breath we take.
The greatest gift you can make to your beloved one, is your presence. And that cannot be bought by money. When you love someone, you have to make yourself available… “Darling, I am there for you.” That is the deepest love statement.
If you don’t make yourself available, if you don’t make yourself present, how can you love? And that is why the practice of mindfulness is the practice of love.
– Thich Nhat Hanh