The ordinary and the unexceptional (the everyday, the unremarkable)

Dear Integral Meditators,

When does striving for something special get in the way of our attempts to be mindful? This weeks article explores this theme.

In the spirit of the journey,


The ordinary and the unexceptional (the everyday, the unremarkable)

One of the challenges that we often face finding peace of mind through mindfulness and meditation is that we feel it must be somewhere other than where we are right now. It has to be some kind of exceptional state of mind. For example:

  • I must attain a ‘perfect’ state of concentration by focusing on my breathing or meditation object so everything else disappears.
  • The presence of my everyday, daily thoughts as I meditate makes me feel like I am not where I ‘should’ be.
  • It should feel like I’m really in an altered state, or ‘in the zone’ somehow.

Our struggle to escape four types of experience in particular prevents us from finding a state of mindful, centered peace in the present moment:
The ordinary – The boring everyday inner mental/emotional and outer physical experiences that we have each day. For example, the bus commute to work on a weekday; somewhat hot, crowded, slightly irritating, perhaps tired and foggy; a totally ordinary everyday experience.
The unexceptional – I sit down to do my best work in the morning, I lose my focus slightly, I get distracted by hanging the washing…by the end of the day it just feels like nothing exceptional has happened.
The everyday – washing, emails, a ‘quite’ pretty, but dry looking tree, a mindfulness session that is 70% perspiration and 30% ‘some’ peace, all the things we do out of habit without thinking about too much
The unremarkable – Stuff we are so familiar with that we no longer notice; our slightly worn shirt, our gradually ageing face, topping up our travel card.
How can any of these help us find the peace we long for? Of course we should be looking somewhere else right?

Accepting the ordinary
The mindfulness technique I am suggesting here involves simply relaxing into, accepting, noticing and not struggling with the ordinary. The act of accepting the unexceptional nature of the moment you are in immediately places you in a space where you start to feel a degree of peace. The choice to be satisfied with the very ‘everyday’ type task that you are doing makes the act of doing it more relaxing and enjoyable. Choosing to notice fully the unremarkable nature of what your experience is makes it a place where you can start to rest and regenerate your energy.

  • As a formal sitting mindfulness practice you do this practice simply by fully accepting and being aware of where you are with no attempt to go anywhere else.
  • As an active mindfulness practice you simply note the ordinary, everydayness of where you are during any given activity, and don’t try too hard to be anywhere else.

As I’m writing this I have been in a plane for several hours; a set of very ordinary, intractable experiences; the dry air, the fatigue, the noise, the in-flight entertainment, nothing exceptional. By simply accepting and resting in the ordinary it has been very easy to relax and feel centered without having to ‘find’ that peace or do anything unusual at all.

Finding the remarkable in the unremarkable
If you practice this, the curious thing about accepting all of this ordinariness and unremarkabilty is that you start to discover all sorts of extra-ordinary, remarkable and exceptional states of mind and being lie there hidden in plain sight, amidst the very ordinariness of it all.

© Toby Ouvry 2016, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website


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