June 25, 2013
Sunsets grant us the opportunity to pause and reflect on the movement of the day. They remind us to take time to be still and quiet as the passage is made from day to night. To experience gratitude for the goodness of the day.
(photo by me, Oregon coast. Sunset)
In our daily lives we often participate in many things that might not fall under the category of “good”, or “pleasant”, and too often it so easy for us to hang on to those things as if THEY were our life threads, our defining moments. They are not.
At the end of the day the sunset comes. It has no judgement on our day. Yet the sunset can give us that moment to reflect on all the wonders and beauty in the world, and in people, that we may not have noticed during the day. The sunset reminds us of things that are greater than our evaluation of how we did during day. Greater than our evaluations of how we think others did during that day.Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky. – Rabindranath Tagore
The raging colors splattered across the horizon, the muted sorbet wisps translucent against the day blue sky: the sunset. It reminds us to give pause and notice the beauty and harmony in the natural world. To reflect on the goodness of the day and to be still and fully present in the beauty of the moment. THIS moment. A time of transition from day to night. Where there is nothing but the sunset. Events , struggles, pain, sorrow, laughter, joys of the day are gone…behind us. The next moment has not yet come. This is what is. It is natural. Ever changing. Impermanent. Beautiful. Miraculous. Inspiring. Healing. Breathtaking. This is the cessation of the things that maybe are not so important. This is the interlude between misunderstanding and truth. This is the respite that says “Stop. Be mindful of the goodness of this day as it passes. Be present to this stillness and let the silence of the stillness echo throughout your body.”
December 28, 2012
2013 is around the corner. With it’s arrival comes the opportunity (a favorable or advantageous circumstance or combination of circumstances) for a fresh start. If you want to choose that path.
The tradition of making a New Year’s resolution is 4,000 years old! Ancient Babylonians made promises to start the New Year off on the right foot in order to earn the favor of the Gods. The “New Year” wasn’t always observed in January because a month called “January” didn’t always exist! It originally was the Spring Equinox celebration. Spring being a natural time to think of fresh starts, beginning anew. Throughout history different “leaders” have changed it from one date to another. Many religions and cultures still celebrate a different date for the New Year.
I think many of us would chuckle thinking about resolutions we have made and kept! My record isn’t very good!
However, this year it really struck me what the potential might be, if we could make changes that would provide a fresh start to parts of our lives. What if we took advantage of this quaint custom and did turn it into an opportunity?
Recent events have led many of us to reevaluate all kinds of things. Personally I found myself thinking deeply about living more in the present and letting go of past angers, disappointments, and focusing more on simply being kind.
While I still hope to “give up” a few things, I have decided to focus on “doing”.
My priority this year is to be kind. In big ways and small ways.
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
I don’t think there is a skill to being kind. It’s in all of us. It may be buried, or other responses and actions might be stronger, but it is in us.
I have been working on kindness a little bit this year. I have had some successes, but many more surprises. I am always surprised how quickly I respond with frustration to things beyond my control. That frustration is a form of anger. I can feel my body change when it surfaces. When my body changes because my mind changes, it all becomes a spiral of downward momentum. Then I have a difficult time getting free from it.
Hand in hand with being kind comes being present and being in the here and now, not in the past or future. And that is even harder. I carry disappointments, frustrations, worries from work home with me every day. Sometimes it takes me days to digest them and let them go. I am always thinking and planning one step ahead so I am “prepared”. How can that be bad? Being prepared? But somehow it does fuel the anxiety. If I am being kid to myself, which is the first step to be kind to others, why do I worry, become anxious over things that I have managed to take care of for years and know they are not a big deal? Is it all in the wording……the wording my mind chatter loops endlessly around in my head? Why can’t it just be: “I will stop at the grocery store.”, rather than: “I have to stop at the grocery.” Have to, have to, have to, have to. I will focus on making statements with little or no value regarding things that are……no good or bad, no judgement. Just a fact. By adding the word “have” it becomes a chore or burden.
So I will focus on being present in this one moment. I will be kind, kinder, kindly. I will begin with myself. I will change the mind chatter in my head. I will reach out to others and simply be kind. This is a New Year, a fresh start. I have this opportunity to start over, and allow the kindness that is already inside of me be stronger and more present.
April 11, 2012
Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindfulness:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way;
in the present moment, and
There are some words in the above quote that many of us have a hard time wrapping our heads around: mindfulness, paying attention, present moment, nonjudgmentally. I know I do. Put them in a sentence together and some days it sounds like a foreign language.
Thich Nhat Hanh helps us to understand the importance of practicing mindfulness. So many of us are caught up in worries about the future, regrets about the past, that the present slips past with us hardly acknowledging it let alone living it. “Mindfulness increases concentration and allows to see things more deeply and stop being victims of wrong perception.”
What about those of us who live to wallow in the past and re-live regrets over and over? What about those of us who are drawn into fantasy (wealth, house beautiful, body type, beauty, image, ego, etc)? What if we just don’t care about mindfulness?
TNH goes further saying if our body is not united with our mind, we are not really “alive”. Our body and our mind have to be truly present, together, in order to reap the experience of Life. Mindfulness helps us become alive. Concentration develops and we learn how to see things more clearly, creating less suffering for ourselves and others.
TNH says that in practicing mindfulness “We will create less suffering for ourselves and for other people. We will begin to taste the joy of living and help others to enjoy their daily lives. We cannot force people to practice mindfulness, but if we practice and become happy, we can inspire others to practice.”
Do we have a responsibility to live up to our own potential happiness and to practice mindfulness, not only for ourselves, but for others?
Want to start? “Following Your Breath”, by Thich Nhat Hanh:
Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment!
Breathing in, I know I’m breathing in.
Breathing out, I know as the in-breath grows deep,
the out-breath grows slow.
Breathing in makes my calm.
Breathing out brings me ease.
With the in-breath, I smile.
With the out-breath, I release.
Breathing in, there is only the present moment.
Breathing out, it is a wonderful moment.