Well my Chickpeas,
I have been experiencing many gentle endings lately. The ending of a three-day retreat, the ending of the school year, my daughters’ moving closer to their dreams. The relationships that were established, some long, some brief, some intense, others fleeting speak of connection. The quality of connection can be influenced by the mindfulness we bring to all the moments spent together. Three quality characteristics are Intention, Attention and Attitude.
First, what are our intentions in going into these relationships? Are these relationships in line with our overall values; are they nourishing to our spirit?
Are we entering into these connections for a mutually beneficial outcome?
Second, am I focusing my attention on this person(s) while in their presence. Listening with full attention is a gift that rarely occurs, since we are all coping with so many distractions. Have we brought a deep and penetrating attention to these connections?
The attitudes we bring to our life and all the moments and encounters in it critically affect how we pay attention. Try practicing attitudes of acceptance, curiosity and warmth and you may discover a greater turning towards making new relationships and deepening of existing ones.
We may find that our connections benefit from a high quality of mindfulness, and our endings are not so final. These endings in fact may lead to new beginnings, chance encounters leading to great opportunities.
Keep your hands warm – your heart will follow. When you want to be particularly compassionate, cradle a mug of warm tea or coffee in your hands. Consider this when you are going into a particularly difficult encounter with someone. Who knows you may change the outcome!
Lawrence Williams and John Bargh, in a Yale University study, discovered that warm hands enhance a person’s emotional warmth.
We all have habits—some of them helpful or neutral, others that persistently create problems in our lives. It’s easier for kids to change habits than grown-ups. One way to start recognising your pattern of automatic behavior is to create external signals that will automatically show up throughout the day. These interrupters provide an opportunity to pause and reflect.
1. Create mindfulness reminders
I have seen kids tie a string around one finger, make mindfulness bracelets of ribbons or beads, or tape a colorful sticker to their cell phones. Whenever you see them, just pause to take in what’s happening in your mind and body.
2. Implement breathing prompts
Suggest to your children to practice breath awareness whenever they brush their teeth or put their socks on. Breathing prompts help kids recognise just how many things they do are on automatic pilot. By interrupting automatic behavior, kids have the time and mental space to make connections between what they’re doing, what they’re thinking, and how they’re feeling.
3. Notice funny feelings
Kids talk about having a funny feeling in the split second just before they do something that they later wish they hadn’t done, maybe a tightening in their chests, or a sinking feeling in their stomachs. That funny feeling occurs in the “about to” moment.
By noticing their funny feelings, kids pause before they act to ask:
Why am I choosing to do this?
How does it make me feel?
Is my motivation friendly or unfriendly?
If, upon reflection, the action doesn’t feel right, they can choose to act differently.
Our first meditation session of January focused initially on our intentions for this New Year, trying to answer the questions:
Why am I meditating? Who will I be in one year? What am I longing for, for myself?
We meditated on this for about 5 minutes, quietly focusing on our breathing and on these questions. In this way we are trying to set our intent for this year 2014, in the form of an expansive encouraging question.
You need not place any expectations on a particular meditation session, or be concerned if some days you find it hard to focus. With practice, and with friendly compassion for yourself, you may find that gradually you are enjoying the benefits of greater well-being, and happiness.
A poem we read in the evening:
Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.
This opening to the life
we have refused
again and again
Until now. By David Whyte from Where Many Rivers Meet I found it so optimistic.
For our longer 30 minute meditation, in the morning we did a modified Body Scan with a lot of appreciation for what our body gives to us day after day. We honoured its strength. We then meditated on the energy and joy that enveloped us.
In the evening, we used paired intentions that we timed to our breathing.
Breathing in, I know I’m breathing in Breathing out, I know I’m breathing out
Breathing in, my breath grows deep Breathing out, my breath goes slowly
Breathing in, I am aware of my body Breathing out, relaxing my body
Breathing in, caring for my body Breathing out, nurturing my body
Repeating these intentions during repetitive activities or meditation throughout the week is a good way of regaining the peace that you felt during our meditation practice.
One day just to ensure that I achieved the right frame of mind; Shanti, my cat, hopped into my lap. Her name means peace, and she did help me feel peaceful, once she finished kneading my legs with her paws and settled down to rest. There is something very calming about the quiet purring of a contented cat.
I started taking an 8 week Mindfulness Program in September, and I am very pleased to be a part of this Program. It is somewhat intimidating, because at the Orientation meeting and at the first week’s session, we were reminded that we must commit fully to taking this course, we can’t coast through it; some of us might not finish it.
I wasn’t worried, I already was meditating and really was passionate about how this can be helpful. I was surprised therefore to find that I was very resistant to listening to the recorded meditation for the first week.
My attempts at meditating twice a day did not go smoothly: the first session I stopped it after 10 minutes. I didn’t like the speaker’s voice; I couldn’t focus on my body; I was restless. I started thinking about how the recorded meditation could be improved; rather than being aware of my body. The next time, I tried meditating on my back deck in the warm sun. Shanti, my cat, wandered over my belly exploring this new aspect of me. The train whistle I could notice and let go; however, I could not ignore the mosquitoes! They got in a few really good feedings on my legs, making my left leg bounce up and down in an attempt to dislodge them. Safely indoors for my evening session of meditation, I could not concentrate; I’d drift off and then realize with a start that I had missed the whole right leg! Finally I tried experimenting with other body scan recordings and found one that I could settle better with. I also sat up so that I didn’t drift off during the meditation.
The Prickly Ego
At the Second Week’s Group session, I went on at length about all the things that the course leaders could “improve upon” for the next time; anxious to show how valuable my experience as a process improvement specialist would be to the group.
What I forgot to do is to ask myself before I spoke: “Are these words truthful and beneficial to me and to others? Will they bring peace, or will they create problems?”I think now that they were not mindfully spoken, that I could have taken the course leader aside at the end of the session and identified those things that could be improved (If really necessary). By speaking my concerns in front of the group – I was raising the negative energy and perhaps fostering doubts in others about the usefulness of the meditation. I need to lay my Ego aside, and contribute in a positive way to this program – and not worry about being an expert in anything.
I accept this lesson gratefully, it shows me that I can learn a lot about being mindful in my thoughts and words. I am finding that I am becoming more patient every day and smiling a lot more. Sunglasses are strongly advised!