I’m not quite sure which came first for me – mindfulness or makeup.
Makeup probably, let free to roam and rummage on my mother’s dressing table. Heavy gold casings for lipstick, shimmery bronze unguent in a little Elizabeth Arden pot for cocktail parties, and face powder compacts and puffs and other little palettes of peacock and pink, sludges and blues… I remember the packaging as much as the makeup itself, but then the magic as it transformed my ten-year-old face.
Ten years later and I was living in San Francisco in the ‘70s. By now Indian Kohl had arrived in little glass phials with a blunt-ended baton to apply the rich, deep blue powder around the rims of eyes. I had my first yoga lesson in a loft on Haight Ashbury with a few people of like minds eager to embrace this other new Indian import. Then meditation came; and an introduction to someone who had worked with Jon Kabat-Zinn developing a Mindfulness course at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, for stress reduction.
Mindfulness, meditation and makeup then merged as pleasurable and relaxing activities. I took to mindfulness since I found it easier to access than the more esoteric world of meditation – for me, mindfulness encompassed meditation but was something that could be practised anywhere – anytime.
Over the years I practised a somewhat haphazard version of all of the above (including makeup). I came back to mindfulness more fully four years ago in London through a yoga teacher, wanting to learn how to breathe better. Mindfulness (I was reminded) is all about the breath.
If you have to capture the idea of mindfulness in a beat – then it’s recognising the breath and using it as an anchor to return to the present moment. The simple exercise of sitting or standing still, dropping the shoulders and taking in a medium sized breath to the count of five, holding it for a count of two and letting it out slowly over a count of five will physically bring oxygen to the brain and relax the entire body and mind. Then simply watch each breath as it is and keep focused on the present – letting thoughts come and go, but returning again and again to the breath – and the present.
Aside from dedicated spells of quiet, I find myself practising mindfulness in all sorts of situations – at a slow check out counter in the supermarket, in a traffic jam, sitting still in the evening on the deck – but also, significantly, when I’m putting on my makeup.
In the morning my regime, like most working and busy people, is quite basic – moisturise, light foundation or an all-in-one tinted moisturiser and sunscreen (I particularly like Kiehl’s Ultra Facial SP15), a sweep of a big brush with whatever’s on it to eradicate shine, a hint of blush, and either a bit of eye makeup or lipstick.
But I don't particularly rush it. Doing it whilst practicing mindfulness allows it to be done properly but also thoughtfully. Each stroke of the brush, or line of the pencil is applied as a single activity – not racing my mind through a jumble of lists or rushing between eyeshadow and lipstick to answer phones or check emails. That time – whether it’s ten minutes or half-an-hour is time for me, mindfulness and makeup.
Try it – you will emerge looking fresher (with well balanced makeup), a clearer mind and ready to enter the fray of the day.
Tiddy Rowan, author of best-selling book The Little Book of Mindfulness , £4.99