There I was, walking down a road in Bristol, having just finished a very enjoyable meeting with a client, heading off to drop my bags at the hotel for a relaxing afternoon before another enjoyable meeting with a client. The sun was shining, there was a cooling breeze and there weren't five million cars whizzing or crawling by, so the place felt fresh and airy...as did I.
As I was walking and figuring out where on earth it was I was supposed to be going, I stopped right outside an intriguing door: bright, red-painted wood, a brass handle and letterbox, set in a stone wall, and with the hallowed words written on the sign...'free entry'. Never one to miss such an opportunity, I went in and enjoyed 20 peaceful minutes wandering around The Red Lodge, a cracking (figuratively, that is), Elizabethan building right by the side of this major road in Bristol.
And what a grand place ... paintings of some of the most impressive wigs of Elizabethan and Georgian times (attached to people, I should say, a painting of just the wig would be odd); intricate wood carving and the kind of beautifully wrought, solid oak furniture that looks as though it had grown from the dark floorboards and was so firmly rooted there, and so heavy, that it would snap in two any person trying to shift it slightly to one side as they tried to get around the place with a tudor hoover.
Quite a spot, and a grand way to spend an entirely unplanned and spontaneous (can you be planned and spontaneous?) twenty minutes.
There was something about my state of mind that afternoon that meant I was sufficiently awake and receptive to notice my surroundings and that I thought it would be worthwhile going in, even though I'd previously decided to go directly to the hotel. Was it mindful, perhaps, present or possibly open?
I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in experiencing this. Some days I'll sail straight past the things which on another day would bring such a grand experience. And I'm equally certain that these things that bring unexpected joy don't have to be so grand and artistic as the Red Lodge. Think of that flower or plant pot you walk by...when did you last stop to admire it? Or the meal you just ate...how did it taste? I mean each mouthful, not the general label or impression that you give it to make it easy to describe (or digest).
I think there is a real risk that we get so caught up in the world of busybusybusy, so enchanted by our thoughts and opinions, that we can miss the things that add simple and direct spice to life. And that would be a pity.
Of course, it's relatively easy to remain sunny, open and airy on such a positive day as that, but what better time to practice so that, when the road is full of traffic, and it's dark, noisy and raining I can still notice that bold red door, turn the satisfying brass handle and step inside?