What Is Mindfulness?

Paying Attention In A Particular Way,

On Purpose,

Without Judgement,

In The Present Moment.

Jon Kabat-Zinn 1996

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Allow: A Poem by Danna Faulds

Allow

There is no controlling life.

Try corralling a lightning bolt,

containing a tornado. Dam a

stream and it will create a new

channel. Resist, and the tide

will sweep you off your feet.

Allow, and grace will carry

you to higher ground. The only

safety lies in letting it all in-

the wild and the weak; fear,

fantasies, failures and success.

When loss rips off the doors of

the heart, or sadness veils your

vision with despair, practise

becomes simply bearing the truth.

In the choice to let go of your

known way of being, the whole

world is revealed to your new eyes.

 

This poem was read to me by my teacher in our mindfulness group some while ago, and it is on re-reading it now that I feel again deeply moved and a further release of some of the shadow of grief that I carry still from my mother’s death. I allow the feelings, the complicated mix of feelings time and space to simply be with me, and then to gently flow in ribbons that entwine with warm, loving memories so that I can reflect without being overwhelmed.

Every Day, In Small Ways, We Can Be Mindful

It is straight forward to introduce small changes in order to embrace a more mindful way of living that can then become an intuitive part of life. All that is necessary is to take a moment at strategic points of the normal day…

  • On waking, before rising, take a moment to pay attention to your breath. Observe five mindful breaths
  • Each time you move, take a moment to notice changes in posture: from lying down to sitting, to standing, to walking
  • Use any and every sound as a bell for mindfulness- the sound of a bird singing, a phone ringing, a train passing, a door closing, laughter, footsteps. Truly listen, be present and awake in the moment
  • Consistently, throughout the day check back in with your breath. Give it your attention and observe five mindful breaths
  • At mealtimes, snack times take a moment to breathe, connect with the food- its gift to your health, its journey to your plate…smell, taste, observe, savour, cherish, chew and appreciate your food
  • Throughout the day take a moment at various intervals to notice your body, posture, position, the connection to the ground, the air touching your face, legs, arms, are you moving slowly, quickly, gracefully?
  • Bring awareness when you can to listening and talking…can you listen without judgement- without agreeing or disagreeing? Without liking or disliking- simply listening without planning your reply? When talking can you simply state what needs to be said without overstating or understating? How do you feel? How does your body feel?
  • If you are standing in a queue- as we often do- take a moment to observe your breathing, the connection of your feet with the floor, your posture and how your body feels…how do you feel about queuing? Notice your breathing, the rise and fall of your abdomen and chest
  • Throughout the day check in with your body, are there any points of tightness or tension? Can you breathe into them to release the tension? Breathe slowly, mindfully and let go of tension. Identity where you are holding tension and stretch whilst focusing on the release of stress
  • Give small daily activities real attention, such as brushing your teeth, washing up, getting dressed… bring mindfulness to each and every activity
  • Every night before sleep take a few minutes to reflect, to relax and to pay attention to your breathing. Observe five mindful breaths

‘The art of mindful living requires keen interest and a lifetime of gentle and determined effort, falling asleep and remembering to wake up, again and again.’  Larry Rosenburg. ‘Breath by Breath’.

Kindness

The older I am the more sure I am that kindness is key to a happy life: kindness to self, kindness to others, to see and to listen with kindness, to practise kindness daily.

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Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,

feel the future dissolve in a moment

like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand

what you counted and carefully saved,

all this must go so you know

how desolate the landscape can be

between the regions of kindness.

How you ride and ride

thinking the bus will never stop,

the passengers eating maize and chicken

will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness

you must travel where the Indian in the white poncho

lies dead by the side of the road.

You must see how this could be you,

how he was someone

who journeyed through the night with plans

and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice

catches the thread of all sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,

and only kindness ties your shoes

and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,

only kindness that raises it head

from the crowd of the world to say

“It is I you have been looking for”

and then goes with you everywhere

like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihab Ny

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A Poem

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

by Portia Nelson

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in.

I am lost…I am hopeless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.

Image result for hole in pavement

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I am in the same place.

But it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

Image result for hole in pavement

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in… it’s a habit.

My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately

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I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

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I walk down a different street.

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Living In The Moment, Not In Our Heads

A powerful influence takes us away from being fully present: our automatic tendency to judge our experiences as not being quite right somehow; not good enough; not as expected; hoped  for; desired.These judgements then lead us into sequences of thought about blame, guilt, about what needs to or should be different and what could or should be changed. Indeed these thoughts often take us down well travelled and well worn paths in our minds- almost automatically and thus we lose awareness of the moment, the real moment and the freedom to chose what action needs to be taken.

We can regain our freedom if, as a first step, we simply acknowledge the reality and actuality of our situation, without being hooked into automatic tendencies to judge, fix, or desire things to be other than they are. The body scan provides an opportunity to practise simply bringing an interested and friendly awareness to the way things are in each moment, without having to do anything to change things….to accept and to simply be.

Alongside the body scan daily practise can include specific activities to develop the habit of mindfulness. Taking time once a day to eat mindfully- to really take time to observe, smell, taste, chew and savour each and every mouthful is a valuable tool in every day routine as is mindful walking. A daily walk is food for the mind, body and soul in terms of health but to do so mindfully, savouring the sights and sounds around, the sensation of the ground beneath you is to truly embrace the full advantage of this simple exercise.

Image result for mindful walking

Image result for mindful walking

Image result for mindful walking

Image result for mindful walking

Image result for mindful walking

Image result for mindful walking

 

If I Had My Life To Live Over

I think living in the moment requires a little reflecting on but not dwelling in the past and feel this lovely poem by Nadine Stair (age 85) from Condensed Chicken Soup For The Soul captures the wisdom of that: learning from where we have been in order to better be where we are, to cherish, relish and appreciate the moment, every moment. Take the time to walk barefoot and really feel the ground beneath you.

I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.

I’d relax. I would limber up.

I would be sillier than I have been this trip.

I would take fewer things seriously.

I would take more chances.

I would take more trips.I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.

I would eat more ice cream and less beans.

I would perhaps have more actual troubles but I’d have fewer imaginary ones.

You see,I’m one of those people who live sensibly

and sanely hour after hour, day after day.

Oh, I’ve had my moments and if I had to do it over again;

I’d have more of them. In fact

I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments.

One after another, instead of living so many

years ahead of each day.

I’ve been one of those people who never go anywhere

without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat

and a parachute.

If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot

earlier in the Spring and stay that way until the Fall.

If I had to do it again, I would travel lighter next time.

I would go to more dances.

I would ride more merry-go-rounds.

I would pick more daisies.

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This also reminds me of one of my favourite quotations:

“It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. I was so preposterously serious in those days, such a humorless little prig. Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me. When it comes to dying even. Nothing ponderous, or portentous, or emphatic. No rhetoric, no tremolos, no self conscious persona putting on its celebrated imitation of Christ or Little Nell. And of course, no theology, no metaphysics. Just the fact of dying and the fact of the clear light. So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly my darling, on tiptoes and no luggage, not even a sponge bag, completely unencumbered.”
— Aldous Huxley, Island

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