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Posts Tagged ‘mindfulness’

This evening I came across this National Geographic video about Glen Canyon Dam featuring a woman who had walked Glen Canyon naked in the 1950s. She is now in her 90s, and remains incredibly luminous. Her comments in the film about how alive she felt, with colors seeming brighter, sounds intensified and a simple (yet unforgettable) joy in her soul led me to think about the sacredness of the here and now. Could it be that what she experienced was a result of intense mindful attention to the present moment that just occurred naturally because of the space she was in, devoid of distraction, and in the company of a couple of close friends with whom she could be wholly and unapologetically herself? The simple action of paying attention to what is here right in front of us right now often results in a more vivid lived experience.

Our entire culture revolves around distracting ourselves from the Gollum quality of our souls, yet our grasping, wanting Little Me selves with all the antics are not our true selves. Our true selves are the deeper, observing still presence that resides within all of us and connects us to our Source (and each other), yet so often we forget it, listening instead to our Gollum, and continuing to believe that we are separate and alone. When you see your ego for what it is – a mess of mind stories that masquerade as a “self” – and sense the immeasurably deep presence underlying it, you can’t help but smile. Seeing the truth is liberating, and allows unconditional love to flourish; the more you see it in yourself, the more easily you can see the true nature in others, shining below the surface behaviors and posturing and chameleoning that frequently goes hand in hand with an age devoted to personal branding. The peace from recognizing that we are not separate or alone is immeasurable, particularly when we find ourselves physically separated from loved ones through geography or other circumstance (such as death).

The underlying presence is difficult to describe in words, suffice to say that when you see it, your heart will leap with joy, a burden will lift from your shoulders, and you will likely laugh with the compassionate recognition of simply how much delusion is wrapped up in your ego. I believe this essence is what is described by Buddhists as Buddha Nature, and perhaps in Christianity as the Christ energy or Holy Spirit (though having only recently reconnecting to my Christian roots, I’m still pondering that one.)

So what to do with this new found realization? It comes with an obligation to be kind in your recognition of true nature in others and seeing their egoic behaviors; they, too, struggle just as we all do. It comes with the need to remain humble, for we inevitably slip in and out of our remembrance of our true nature, too. Kindness, compassion, humility are where it’s at. What can you do today to honor those values?

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I will be the first to admit that sometimes (OK, a lot of the time), I have great intentions, but don’t make it to the finish line. #100daysofhappiness is, well, a really long time to focus on one particular thing, and as someone who had had a lifetime of bouts of bleak depression, some days trying to find something happy to write about was both difficult and felt inauthentic somehow. So today I decided to shift the focus slightly and shorten the timeframe to something manageable yet proven as far as establishing habit.

I don’t remember when our how I was first introduced to mindful self compassion and metta practice, and I’ve only actively participated in it a few times, but those few times were profoundly memorable. It seems (in the West at least), that our collective religious heritage has had somewhat of a focus on sin as an inherent character flaw, something to distance ourselves from, a source of deep shame, which perhaps has translated to a broader cultural context of Not Good Enough, be it in the eyes of God, or the eyes of, well, anyone, and most of all ourselves. It feels odd, therefore, to extend the compassion we may find comes easily for others instead to ourselves as well.

Tonight I did a short 20 minute Affectionate Breathing meditation. I haven’t meditated in a while, and was all over the place, my mind wandering off within seconds, the eternal judge in my mind listing all the reasons why I couldn’t possibly deserve any amount of compassion. I stuck with it, but it was a challenge. It’s a start.

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“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”
― Edward Abbey

Have you ever noticed that busyness and frenzied activity are contagious? You walk into work, intent on going about your business in a relaxed and calm way, only to find that by 10am, your shoulders are up around your ears, and there is a sense of Hurry Up or Something Very Bad Will Happen, and you are scurrying around like a squirrel desperate to stash the last of the acorns before the winter storm hits. Then you stuff down your lunch, grab two minutes on Twitter to scroll through around 300 tweets, and scramble back to your work in a buttcheek-clenched march, spend the afternoon getting faster and faster, your colleagues scurrying to do the same, all of you winding each other up. Hit the traffic, make the dinner, hurry, hurry, hurry, onto the next thing, multitask while bathing the kid, read the story, hurry, hurry, hurry, read the story as fast as we canandnothere’snottimetoreadtwochapterstonightit’saschoolnighthurryupand (sharp inhale) gotosleepquickDaddy&Ihavetowatchthemovietogetitbackinthemailtomorrow.

Does it sound familiar?

Since when did the very act of living become such a dire emergency?

In the mindfulness stress management workbook I am reading (among my foot-high reading pile), this week’s task was walking meditation. Righto. We live on 20 acres, I can do this. Easy. Get it out of the way before I spend time studying and then go grocery shopping and figure out what we’re having for dinner. So off I walked, deliberately making myself go very     v e r y      s  l  o  w… and listening to the prerecorded MP3 from the book’s accompanying CD.

It was maddening.

I noticed my multitasking brain kick in. “Why aren’t you walking fast? You could actually get some exercise. Come on! This is a WASTE OF TIME….hurry UP.”

“I’m bored.”

“Why are you doing this, it’s pointless.”

But I stuck with it, making each step as if in slow motion, concentrating on feeling the soles of my feet inside my shoes make contact with the grass. Feeling the air on my face. Noticing the cardinals in the woods. And eventually, the slavedriving voices stopped, and my mind kind of let go of the struggle to keep up with *everything* going on in the world. I thought of all the people who make an artform out of having and/or doing  The Next Big Thing, and having to have a Pulse On What’s Going On, and made a deliberate decision to step out of that and not participate. A gentle but firm refusal to hurry up, and make a conscious effort to actually be slow. It felt like an exquisitely Naughty thing to do, this act of rebellion (which when you think about it is a pretty sad indictment on the state of our society.) And it made me smile. I now know why so many people the world over value T’ai Chi.

So, Chicken Littles…the sky is not falling. The sky is up there, as it always has been, if we take the time to notice. There’s very little in life that is a true emergency (even in my nursing job). Time to turn off the lights & siren.

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