As the wonderful Charlie Mackesy expresses here life is our constant teacher. We don’t always see it this way as we hold strongly to what we deem good and push away or avoid the bad. Now is the perfect time to take shelter from the storm by going inside and really getting to know and love ourselves. Life is all about relationships so why not spend time during this lockdown period cultivating a new relationship with yourself? Once we learn self-compassion it is soon naturally extended to others. Start by pausing awhile to watch thoughts rather than getting lost in them. Notice the thoughts come and go - they aren’t who we are - they are transient, an activity of the mind. They are very often repetitive and can even be destructive. We can put some distance between them and us by labelling the thoughts as the activity they are ‘thinking’. This helps us to then watch them without identifying with them. Feel the emotions/anxiety as the sensations they are - coming, staying a little longer than a thought, but still going. We don’t have to be ruled by them. Once again don’t identify with them - instead of saying ‘I am sad’ or ‘I am angry’ really feel the sensations and say ‘sadness is here’ or ‘anger is present’. When we just feel without listening to the stories our thoughts are trying to add to the feeling, we notice how they too are transient and not who we are. It is also one of the kindest things we can do, to welcome and honour all sensations as part of life’s experience - not picking and choosing - letting all rise and fall naturally. The pauses give us an opportunity to observe and choose again instead of reacting from old habits and patterns. Sitting in meditation is a great place to start. In time we realise life is meditation - presence in awareness, awareness in presence. Check out my website for more information, blogs, and for contact details if you would like me to guide you through the storm - www.hallofmindfulness.co.uk
Through mindfulness practice we learn to spend more of our lives in awareness. This leads us not only to less upset over time – as we recognise how we, and the relationships with our thoughts and feelings, are the cause of much of our suffering – but to the realisation we are here to experience existence, naturally.
When we live life with less judgement, without expectations and limiting beliefs, we discover the peace and freedom life has to offer.
If you need help trusting in the process of life, contact me now to learn how the 1:1 8 week on-line Mindfulness course can help you – www.hallofmindfulness.co.uk
Pauses are important in life but something we tend to ignore as we race through our busy days from one task to the next filling our lives, keeping busy, anything but BE with ourselves. Mindfulness reconnects us to the pauses, the stillness and the silence. That's where the real work is done. As you read the following poem, take time to pause and use your senses. The senses are more than their obvious attributes they are the connection to the present moment, bringing us back over and over again from our distractions to be in the Now.
and simply notice
of the breath, in and out
Feel it’s progress
moving through the body
without a doubt
and simply notice
all around, to hear
Made by birds
or even a whisper
as rumbling traffic changing gear
and simply notice
all the sights
in front of the eyes
or at a distance
even in the familiar
there can be a surprise
and simply notice
that hang in the air
or perhaps pungent
inhale them all
no judgement to share
and simply notice
any taste in the mouth
on the tongue
many a flavour
taste buds recognising
mild and strong
and simply notice
the sense of touch
where the feet
meet the ground
brush against one another
sensations, old and new,
can be found
and simply notice
the thinking mind
on every occasion
in the chatter
it’s true ability
and simply notice
to peace and love
By experiencing all
in this moment
in this here and this now
Being aware whilst carrying out every day tasks, as well as during meditation, is the way to connect with the here, the present, the peace this offers. I find writing poetry connects me in this way too and the words flow with ease. Email me if you want to learn more about the 8 week Mindfulness Course, I would love to be part of your adventure to reconnect to that peace!
Pure consciousness delivers us from our knowing state, into the joy of a brand new
The peace we feel in our restful sleep, soon hijacked by thoughts, slips away
It is that peace we want to rediscover
that peace to which we want to reconnect
in that peace there is a real sense of home-coming
receiving sustenance from our source direct
That sustenance, the essence of who we are
pure love in it’s simplest form
The only lack – that of separation
without which we can weather any storm
That separation just part of the illusion
a veil created from experience, thought and belief
When united in pure consciousness, the Undistracted
welcome that peace with a sigh of relief
To reach it we must say goodbye to the drama
Goodbye to the judgement, the fear and the doubt
Trust in oneness, our own true essence
whose infinite wisdom we cannot do without.
There is no better place to be aware than out in nature, making the most of all of our senses. On a recent walk I met this inspiration.
This tree, this tree, oh how I love this tree!
Dead in terms of new growth but far from lifeless
Still majestic in it's presence, reaching far and wide with it's strong, demonstrative branches
like the Reaper's long fingernails pointing the way to an undisclosed, indeterminate destination
and still giving life to all who nestle in, around and under it's towering structure
Proof of how individuality and independence are an illusion,
our oneness on display
Even in death, and beyond, we are still lovingly present, still contributing to this consciousness, at one with what we truly are.
Mindfulness Meditation can help us to feel and experience emotions as the body sensations they are so as we learn to respond and not react from old mental habits.
The recent murder of George Floyd and all it highlighted inspired me to write the poem below.
Why have we come so far,
so far away from who we truly are?
The constant distractions from the here and now
the thoughts and beliefs that convince us how
we are separate subjects in our own little realm
not even aware it’s the chattering mind at the helm
A virus can bring our world to a stand-still
but the distractions go on; we still maim and kill
Anger is born from a deep sense of fear
of the very death this behaviour brings near
A murder most foul is captured on screen
so we let our anger boil over and vent our spleen
Violence and vitriol become the order of the day
Why have we come so far, so far away?
Or we sit and hang our heads in shame
Is our antipathy to our sisters and brothers to blame?
Do we really try to understand their plight
or get defensive and glove-up, ready for a fight?
Why is it ok to lash out and hate?
It’s not, it’s not, it’s just sealing our fate
Anger is an emotion, allowed to be felt
but as a sensation within, not a blow to be dealt
Whichever side you see yourself on
ask yourself why you feel this anger so strong?
When you do and the answer is authentic and true
you’ll discover the source of the anger is in you
So old stories of superiority, must be learned, are just that
- stories and old, no basis in fact
‘Who do they think they are?’ thoughts and beliefs rage on
Where, oh where, has all the love gone?
Well the love is still here, it’s just shielded by
the labels, masks and stories we rate so high
by the comparisons and judgements we hold so dear
and by the belief in separation – our real fear
But we can begin again, in Universal Unity
the planet and all it’s inhabitants, an Earthly Equality
Just take time to go within, sit awhile, be still
and discover love is our essence, non-separation our will
I came across this quote recently and it seemed so relevant to what is going on - we all need some serenity in our lives at this uncertain time; to go within and find peace within the storm. Being physically separated from loved ones, friends, colleagues and life situations is hard but Mindful Meditation can help.
Mindfulness is all about experiencing the world that is firmly in the here and now; ‘being’ not ‘doing’. It offers us a way of freeing ourselves from automatic and unhelpful ways of thinking and responding. When we are not present in the here and now we are more likely to get “wound up.” Events around us, thoughts, feelings (some of which we may only be dimly aware) can trigger old habits of thinking that are often unhelpful, and may lead on to worsening our mood.
By becoming aware of our thoughts, feelings, and body sensations, from moment to moment, we give ourselves the possibility of greater freedom and choice. In increasing our awareness of the present moment, we can respond to situations with this choice rather than react automatically. We cannot control the thoughts that come into our mind but we can control what we do next – this was a revelation to me!
We increase our awareness by noticing where our attention is, and deliberately returning the focus when it strays - over and over again. In formal meditation we use the breath as this focus - an anchor, grounding us in the present moment. We approach this in a kind way, not beating ourselves up if the mind wanders, because it will - that’s what it does. Instead we notice the thought, label it ‘thinking’ and bring the awareness back to the present focus of attention. Informal meditation uses the same approach when carrying out everyday activities – having a shower, chopping vegetables, washing-up (the list is endless).
The more you practice the more mental patterns you recognise. After many years of practice there are still certain thoughts that occasionally come into my head but I can recognise them as old mental patterns that no longer serve me. Instead of grabbing the thoughts by the hand and running with them (to places I really don’t want to go) I smile “thanks but I don’t need to go there” and that’s enough for me to refocus on the now.
Also in Mindful Meditation we look at barriers to being fully present. A powerful influence is our automatic tendency to judge ourselves, other people and/or our experience as being not quite right in some way— not what should be happening, not good enough, or not what we expected or wanted. This could certainly be the case at the moment with Covid-19 in the world. These judgments can lead to sequences of thoughts about blame, what needs to be changed, or how things could or should be different. Often these thoughts will take us, quite automatically, down some fairly well-worn paths in our minds. In this way, we may lose awareness of the moment and also the freedom to choose what, if any, action needs to be taken.
We can regain our freedom if, as a first step, we simply acknowledge the actuality of our situation, without immediately being hooked into automatic tendencies to judge, fix, or want things to be other than they are. For example, many of us are doing a lot of queuing at the moment – to get into a store, to get to the item we want to purchase, to check-out. Next time you are in this situation, don’t see it as a bad thing, or an opportunity to list all the ways in which this is wrong or ridiculous, use the opportunity to ‘come to your senses’ and with curiosity, no judgment, no expectation:
- look around you and really see what is in your line of vision; go back to being a kid and see how many cars you can spot in the same colour; look around at the artwork – all those rainbows;
- listen to the passing traffic, birdsong; whatever you can hear;
- notice what smells are in the air (remember no judging as good or bad, just be aware of them);
- feel your feet on the ground, notice any tingling, throbbing, or a sense of heaviness as the weight of your body bears down on them;
- be aware of any taste in your mouth or on your lips.
A couple of years ago, we were in a queue for nearly 2 hours at Delhi airport. Some passengers were getting themselves in an upset state - moaning, grumbling, winding each other up. I decided to see it as an opportunity to check out if any of the passengers near us were on the same tour as us so as I could get to know some of the people we were going to be spending the next 18 days with. I also checked out the amazing mural on the wall, enjoyed stretching my limbs after a long flight and chatted to my husband. In fact, I mentioned the mural to a couple of people a few days later and they hadn’t even noticed it because they were too lost in the ‘unfairness’ of the situation. We arrived at the same time as another airbus, it was lunch time and a bank holiday. Nothing was going to change by getting angry and frustrated – apart from maybe the size of the ulcer of the complainer!
The pauses we cultivate through mindfulness and meditation provide an opportunity to simply bring curiosity, and a friendly awareness, to the way things are in each moment without having to do anything to change things. It works equally well with pain and discomfort.
The beauty is that there is no goal to be achieved during meditation. Meditation is it. Simply bring awareness to the body sensations that may or may not arise as you sit breathing in and breathing out. A special state of relaxation is not a goal of the exercise nor is ridding your mind of thoughts. As said previously, the more we see our thoughts as just thoughts, the more we learn to let the habitual, unhelpful ones pass by with a kind recognition and notice any creative ones which we can revisit and expand upon later.
Being aware, moment by moment is our reality, and that reality can be stormy. If you need help finding peace within the storm contact me now and take advantage of the 50% discount on a 1:1, 8 week Mindfulness Course if you book before the end of May 2020.
I was talking to someone yesterday who was feeling anxious. We talked about how thoughts really are just thoughts and how we don't have to take them by the hand and run off in whichever direction they are taking us. Especially when that direction is a well-worn route which we know will deliver us to nowhere good! We talked about how mindful meditation can help us to recognise these thoughts for what they are, how we acknowledge them, label them as 'thinking' and let them fade into the background as we bring our awareness back to our focal point - usually the breath. As our conversation continued it became clear that we are not our expectations or anyone else's expectations. What we are is so much more and yet so much more simple and the best place to discover this is to go to the stillness within, the inner silence, the inner light. We both felt more at peace following the conversation which inspired this poem .....
In this space, there’s no need for our story
simply at one with the breath – in and out
at one with all we are in the moment
free from comparison, judgment and doubt
In this reality all illusions are shattered
This is it – there is no great reveal
no holy grail to hunt down, or hidden meaning
the inner knowledge, is simply to feel
And as we feel into our bodies and experience
All that’s there with no outcome pre-set
The idea of separation – the biggest illusion
So far from the connection we get
The connection comes through in synchronicities
In nature and all of it’s gifts
In the smiling eyes of a stranger
In the shared pain of attaining our shifts
The Beatles song of the same title once again played in my head as I sat in the sunshine. I closed my eyes and focussed on the sounds of the water feature and let the lyrics fade away.
I had been reading one of my favourite books, ‘Nothing Special – Living Zen’ by Charlotte Joko Beck when the song first made an appearance in my mind.
As I listened to the babbling water the connection between the two came to me. Our practice is like a long and winding road. We start it, perhaps thinking it will lead us to bigger and better things in our lives. Then the more we sit in meditation and become present within the awareness of our everyday activities, we realise our practice is about simply being who we are – connecting with our true essence.
This part of us knows we are here for the full experience, to take life as it comes. This part of us doesn’t label our experiences as ‘good and bad,’ ‘want and don’t want.’ It knows the road is a long and winding one with it’s bumps, it’s hairpin bends, it’s inclines – some steeper than others – and the inevitable pot-hole or two. It is not their appearance along the road that is the issue, it is how we negotiate them. We can get caught up in unhelpful thoughts, push on another mile or so with their driving themes of ‘what ifs’, blame and judgments – creating unnecessary hills for ourselves to climb in the process. Or we can become aware of the pressure of our footfall on the road, the temperature of the air on our faces, lean into the bend as we take in our surroundings – the sights, the sounds, the smells, any taste the air may have left on our lips, or not. Experience the reality of the moment.
When we hit that bump in the road, feel all it stirs up in us. Don’t push away any pain, sadness or confusion. Pause at the side of the road, breathe the breath of life, and feel, feel and feel some more – its shape, depth, movement. Don’t ‘pick yourself up and dust yourself off’ without acknowledging all that your body needs to express. There is a place for being positive in our lives but not when it is being used as a form of aversion – we all have habitual reactions to avoiding unpleasantness. Be the observer of the feeling/emotion. If it needs to cry, let it cry. If it needs to scream, let it scream. We don’t hold onto a splinter in our finger in resistance to the pain it’s removal may bring, we instinctively know it’s removal is for the best. Emotions/feelings are no different. If we deal with them in the present, they can leave, immediately assigned to the past, with no pull to be revisited or need to be stored to be experienced again.
In time, these bumps in the road will be felt less, have less drama attached to them, leaving the road ahead to be experienced step by step, moment by moment.
In the song, the long and winding road always leads the singer back to the same door. In our practice the long and winding road also leads us to the same door. The one clearly marked ‘the present moment’, with it’s reality and it’s infinite joy.
Author: Samantha Hall
Artwork also produced by me.
If you would like to receive these posts directly by email please submit your details by clicking the button below