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Posts Tagged ‘mindfulness’

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It’s not yet the seventh day of the new year, and I should have taken more time to rest. I worked extra last night to prepare for a pretty big morning, and woke up a little early feeling as though my sleep didn’t quite happen.

The morning went quite well, but left me fairly wiped out by the afternoon. I did my lunchtime yoga, made it through the rest of the workday, then came home feeling as though perhaps I should take it a bit easier.

I didn’t, really.

I made a fun, half-simple, half-involved dinner because my son wanted it to be my birthday. I then got onto the cross-trainer for my full new routine and lightly pulled a muscle in my leg. Fortunately I had the sense to soak it in a soothing Epsom salt bath, but by the time I was out of that and helped my son through his going-to-bed routine, I had just enough time to have a nice little dessert.

I’ve had a very busy 48 hours, and I want to stay up more and play a game, watch a silly movie, read philosophy… anything but go right to bed without really kicking back for some recreation.

But I’m tired. So I’m going to sleep.

Good night!

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It’s one thing to talk about how each moment we live is Special in its own way. Yet without being able to experience that sparkle, it’s all just talk. That’s where simple mindfulness helps us out.

Let’s say you’re starting your morning tomorrow. You’re driving to work, on a bus, walking, getting the children dressed… whatever is an essential start to your daily routine. And on the face of things, it’s just like every other day.

Perhaps you didn’t sleep well. Perhaps it’s too hot or too cold. Perhaps someone’s cutting you off or arguing with you… but we’ll deal with people in the next post. In your imaginary tomorrow morning, just focus on the events and environment.

If tomorrow morning really is just like every other morning, what if it was the first — what if you were seeing or doing that routine for the very first time? What little details or insights does it all hold that you hadn’t noticed before? If you take a deep breath and pause to take a look around you, what sight, sound or even habit has become hidden behind the inattention of monotonous routine?

Taking it all a step further, are there opportunities in this routine that you hadn’t really thought about? Is there scenery or a landmark you could consciously enjoy as you pass? Are there uplifting or enlightening things you could listen to or read as you make your journey? Could you listen and observe a little more attentively, respond a little more kindly, and practice a little more patience, especially with yourself?

Please, if you can, take a moment tomorrow morning to think about these kinds of questions as you begin your day. I think you’ll discover more Special moments in your daily life, and in doing so, add to the Specialness for those around you.

What in this moment
hides like the Moon behind clouds?
What more may I bring?

 

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People tend to assume that for something to be Special, it must be Bigger Than, Better Than, Greater Than… or any other kind of superlative that makes it extraordinarily exceptional.

But that’s only one kind of Special. The first definition of Special at Dictionary.com says:

  1. of a distinct or particular kind or character

That is, something that has a distinct character, particular to itself. It doesn’t have to be Bigger, Better, or any other kind of superlative. There’s no competition that can declare who or what is Special. Rather, it takes mindfulness to find what is Special in all that surrounds us.

In this way, each moment is Special: it carries lessons and sensations unique in itself, which we can take advantage of only if we stop to appreciate what the moment brings

Each experience is Special: it carries challenges and pleasures in good ways and bad, and we can best learn from them only if we recognize it for the opportunity it is.

Each person is Special: we each contain our own blend of experiences and perspectives, which we can share in only if we stop to appreciate what each of us have to offer.

As I get back into my daily routines this week, I’m going to try to remain mindful of the Special nature of what I encounter and experience. I’m interested to see how it helps me better identify the opportunities before me, and make greater use of them as I start this year.

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Let’s pretend you are a community bus.

When a single mother needs to get to her second job, you’re right there to get her to work on time. When an elderly couple need to get some  groceries at the store they’d gone to for decades, you deliver them right there, and back. And when children need to get to the park, you are their first choice to bring them!

Yes, whatever people need, you’re always ready and willing to share of yourself, giving all you can. That’s how you become a good and valuable vehicle for kindness, right?

Or is that really all there is to it? What if giving of yourself whenever you possible can doesn’t make you the best vehicle for kindness you should be?

What happens when a vehicle is always in service, never taking time out to be idle, to be repaired? Yep, it breaks down. Often, right in the middle of the busiest crunch time, leaving people stranded when they could instead have had their needs met through contingency plans.

How often do you schedule yourself time to repair, and recuperate? Is it nearly enough to fulfill your responsibility to keep yourself as healthy, centered and grounded as you can be?

Also, sometimes giving someone a free ride right to where they want to be isn’t the best way for them to get there. What if there was a much better job for that mom nearer her home, one that would give her enough hours so she could just work one — but she never looked for it, because she had a ride to her other ones? What if there was cheaper, fresher food at a market right next door, but they never broke their habits and tried it? If the park is just a block or two from the children’s home, wouldn’t it be healthier for them to walk there?

How often do you feel as though you’ve failed someone when you can’t get them what you think they need? Could you do with more patience when it seems like things aren’t working out, and instead open your heart and mind to better possibilities? Are you able to accept that maybe your help isn’t what’s needed in a given situation, or at least not the way you’d thought?

I think that on some level, most of us realize that we need to take better care of ourselves. We may even put some guilt onto that, piled onto the guilt we may also carry about not being able to do more for other people, too.

I think we’d do well to fret about it all just a bit less, and simply schedule that time to take care of ourselves. Where we feel we’ve fallen behind a bit — so what? We are where we are. Winding ourselves up into not being where we think we want to be is a waste of precious time and energy. Our energy is best spent in tending to our own needs, moving forward in the way and pace that suits us best.

I’ve heard all these things before, and I think even written them, too. Yet I’ve been working through these lessons lately… again… and thinking that writing this all down may help me in my practice.

In this case, I think practice isn’t about getting perfect; it’s about being at peace with and tending to our imperfection.

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Changes to our environment have subtle effects on us. Soon they are no longer changes, but have become just more background hum running through our lives.

While we may not be consciously aware of these effects, our subconscious pays close attention to every tiny detail. If our environment has happy, friendly people, our subconscious begins to recognize that as normal. If we are surrounded by negative, violent people, our subconscious begins to recognize that as normal, too.

Our subconscious will also try to normalize our experiences to those expectations. It will help us see the good it feels we expect, as well as the bad. It can also help us say and do things, making choices that will continue to reinforce the good or bad that have become the baseline “normal” in our lives.

So it’s important to take a breath – a deep breath – and let it out slowly, paying attention to how we feel. As we breathe in, what kind of environment are we taking in? As we breathe out, what expectations are we sending out?

Taking a few of these moments a day for several days in a row should help us become more aware of this sea of experience we’re swimming in. Once we’re aware, we may make more conscious choices as to how we wish to experience our days to come.

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Just a short while ago, I was sitting and cooling down after a long, hot Epsom salt bath. I was soaking out the rest of a cold, and the tension I’d worked on earlier.

As I was relaxing and breathing in the fresh air, the thought came to me, “This moment is like no other.”

So I stopped to make note of what made that moment so unique. I’d come out of hot soaks before, but I have a different meditation and relaxation each time. So I suppose, I come out of them a little differently each time as well.

I had also certainly had “working sick” days, but I’d struck a better work/rest balance today. My toddler had a particularly rough time getting ready for bed, but I’d helped him shake it off and go to bed pretty amiably, even playfully. So I suppose those were differences as well.

All that said, I’m not sure the details are really what I was trying to draw my own attention to. Even if I had that thought during a truly unpleasant experience, at least that exact experience wasn’t going to repeat in exactly the same way…

It comes down to the observation about snowflakes: however invisibly they may join together in a drift, they hold a unique pattern, according to the exact conditions in which they formed. Simply acknowledging the beauty of that truth acknowledges the precious gift we can enjoy in receiving each present moment.

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A couple hours ago, I enjoyed talking with a young man who was under 25. He expressed a fear of growing older, and my friend who’s just over 25 suggested it’s better than the alternative of dying young. I also pointed out that growing older is pretty awesome. You get to learn so much more about yourself and how wonderful you are, and gain privileges of age and experience.

I also suggested picking up yoga, as you are only as young as your spine is flexible. The main thing though is keeping the right perspective. The whole point of life is experiencing it as fully as you can, and learning how better to experience as the years go by. There’s no reason to dread the trip, and also no reason to rush it.

You carry your life inside you. So long as you live, you can’t lose it, and nobody can take it from you. You can just choose not to enjoy it, or you can choose to let it live you to the fullest.

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Since I’ve been practicing it as promised, I want to explain just a little by what I envision by “Have no more conflicts. Enjoy a positive association with everything.

For me, this phrase is a succinct reminder to maintain some measure of calm acceptance, finding a touchstone of positivity in each moment. Since the everyday frustrations seem to keep evolving over time, it helps for my strategies to evolve, too.

By having no conflicts, I mean, don’t get wound up about a situation being different than I might otherwise hope. Where there’s a disagreement or such with an individual, I’m trying to remember to address the actual issue rather than treating the person involved with it as a problem. Yes, I may perceive them as being the one who “started” the problem, but dwelling on that only interferes with finding a solution. Generally they’re caught up in their own maelstrom of frustrations, and having a little patience with that can help clear some of the storm for both of us.

And that’s where enjoying a positive association comes in. If an otherwise negative situation involves someone I like or love, I remember to focus on that while resolving (or accepting) the situation. If it’s a stranger, I remember to focus on the fact they are a human being, and I happen to like human beings.

If it doesn’t involve another person at all, there’s generally something about my situation or environment that I can focus on with a sense of appreciation, or even just humor. Anything that can help me enjoy that sense of positive resonance that we feel when we’re in the presence of something we welcome into our lives.

I hope that helps explain a little about how I’ve been practicing this, perhaps giving ideas as to how you might enhance your enjoyment of your own life. If so, please give it a shot! Just a little bit of trying out a new habit can make a world of difference in how we experience our world.

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It’s been an interesting day to practice observing the present moment, and my presence within it. Every time I caught myself with a brief moment to spare, I tried to pause what I was thinking so that I could remember this big, beautiful world we live in.

I paused to be grateful for the chance to participate in this world, setting aside all of my judgment as to how well or how poorly I have fulfilled the opportunities it’s given me.

I paused to breathe in the air, and breathe it out, letting go of resistance to receiving as well as resistance to letting go.

I paused to feel my heart beat, and recognize it as a reflection of the living, breathing world that sustains me.

I paused to simply be a part of this world, and not in the very least apart from it.

With practice, being one with the present moment is easier than when I let myself practice forgetting it.

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We have a four and a half month old puppy, who is as affectionate and enthusiastic as a puppy can be. She can also be quite insistent that others be as affectionate and enthusiastic, barking or whining quite sharply to make her point.

Now, I had been intending to teach her to not make such a fuss to get attention, and to be a little more patient, and to help her be less noisy. What I ended up teaching her is that if she starts barking and whining when she sees me, soon I’ll run her around on the porch playing exciting games like “let’s run really fast” and “chase that ball!!!” And she’s been teaching me to try to pre-emptively play with her so she doesn’t fuss.

Today I finally caught on with what was happening, and already she’s starting to learn better. But to train my puppy, I had to train myself first.

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