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Showing posts from November, 2020

Practice

Take a deep breath in, let a gentle breath out. Take a deep breath in, let a gentle breath out. Take a deep breath in, let a gentle breath out. This is the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a method that helps bring you to peace. It's a simple process, and yet it requires practice to be beneficial. The technique can be examined in a few words, and easily demonstrated. However, simple as it sounds there's no getting around making the practice of mindfulness meaningful to you. And as rhetorical as it may sound, it's the daily practice that unfolds its meaning to and for you. Mystical, perhaps. Magical, not. Mindfulness is mystical to and for me simple because although I know how it works, breathing is the breath of life, I don't know why it works. Ancients, Buddhists, teachers, practitioners, medical and technical scientists have studied the practice of mindfulness and none can say exactly "why" it works. Indeed, in discussions like these, I question wheth

Power

The power to navigate our life is natural to everyone. We exercise that power when we choose which shoes to wear, choose our friends, choose what to eat. Of course, we don’t usually cognitively take note of these decisions as use of our power. We use the same power to vote, choose a career or a life partner. However, we usually pay more attention to our power to navigate these “life-defining” situations than deciding whether to have a pizza or a salad. Likewise, we use the same power to choose how we navigate stress that can cause disruption that can cause imbalance in our life. I choose the power of mindfulness. Mindfulness has a power of its own. It too is natural. It’s the power to use our breath to help create better balance. At the core, the power of mindfulness is also “life-defining” because being centered benefits our ability to navigate life in a healthy way. In the quiet, stillness, focusing breathing you move into the power mindfulness to experience the awarene

Proximity

There. Right close... ,,,by and near is peace of mind. In times of stress, disruption, anxiety or feelings of imbalance mindfulness practice is a close as your own breath. Of course, that's exactly what mindfulness calls for, focusing on your breathing can calm, relieve and release tension. You don't have to drive to the store for those cigarettes, or walk down the hall to the office vending machine for that coke or walk down to the neighborhood bar for a drink. Although getting in your car, or a step away from your office or a walk down the block may be options to get you to a quiet space so you breath-in and breath-out with less distraction. Yes, we often overlook (or take for granted) what's near and in close proximity. You know how it goes, one partner takes the other partner for granted, one friend takes the other's friendship for granted, or a boss takes a right-hand employee for granted. These are cliche circumstances, and yet cliches are cliches for the truth th

Principles

We can all get set in our ways. Bound by principles, doctrine, canon we may not even remember why we adopted in the first place. It can become a kind of tunnel vision that can block, bind and ban growth. There is of course, a reason for rules in all society, ostensibly in place to help keep balance. However, all of us have seen and/or experienced local, worldwide and personal circumstances when dogma - for the sake of dogma - can incite imbalance. Certainly, no doctrine, canon, no principle can disturb balance without the cooperation of the mind(s) of those who ascribe such principles. This is why it's important to practice mindfulness. Everyday, no matter the political affiliation, your culture, your religion or heritage roots we all make choices, decisions and interact with others based on our principles. In most cases our principles guide us well and we are able to live without stressing over every little decision. Still there are times our principles do cause us to ques

PLEASANT

It can be quite difficult to understand, grasp, to wrap your head around the concept that most of what we are is "mind"  - that means “what is” we create - good and bad. Perhaps because the idea is so powerful and empowering we resist this fact: "We create with mind" our world. From toothpaste, Twinkies to the top of the Eiffel Tower, it was created in mind first. This is an essential idea to grasp in terms of appreciating the wonders of the world and extremely important for appreciating wonders of your personal world. Even though most of us won't become Rocket Scientist, we each still have the incredible power and responsibility for what we create in our daily life from the time we wake, until the time we go to sleep (and some will say even our sleep we create). It's as simple as "What you put your mind to, is what you create" and send out into the world. Mindfulness is an opportunity to help create better balance in the world. My little niece lov

TAUT

It's no secret that I enjoy wordplay and once again I find interplay between two words that sound the same (homonyms) but have no connection through meaning: taught and taut. Taught, of course is the past tense of teaching; or more appropriately having learned something from a teacher. Taut, totally unrelated in meaning, has to do with being strained, very tight or tense. My initial goal was to explain that mindfulness practice is beneficial to better balance because it helps release tension. However, in a conscious effort to begin with good, I strive to use positive word headings. Therefore, I did not want to use the word "tension" and instead used "taut" as the stand in. Although it might sound silly because it is wordplay, I liked the sound better because it did bring to mind the idea of teaching, sharing information, learning; which indeed is what I hope some of my blogs do. Mindfulness helps create better balance because it releases tension. Daily stress, d

TRANSITION

Barley to beer, grapes to wine, trees to paper...teletype to texting are all examples of life in transition; moving from one expression to another expression. Other noteworthy types transitions can be found in experiences with spices, herbs, and even weeds. For example, cardamom has been crowned "Queen of Spices" and is the third most expensive spice.  This spice is used in hot drinks such as masala chai, Turkish coffee, hot cider, eggnog or mulled wine. Most interestingly is how popular cardamom is in Sweden, where it is used in baked goods and dishes such as meatloaf. Moreover, cardamom  is used for digestion, depression and early research suggests cardamon may help fight some cancers. Another fascinating transition is the connection between the Greek legend of Ceres and Poppies   and The Wizard of Oz movie millennia later. The cliff-notes version of legend says Ceres lies down in a field of poppies and falls asleep as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz falls asleep in a field o

SMARTER

“Smarter than the average bear!” If you know the orator of these lofty words, then we're both old enough to reminisce about the "good-ole-days" of Hanna-Barbera Saturday Morning cartoons. Yes! That's Yogi Bear is one of the all-time great thinkers once again reminding his long-suffering best friend Boo-Boo of his smarts. Back in the day when cartoons were simple, cute and fun (and not digitally mastered) Yogi Bear in his infinite wisdom always took the lead - usually in search of procuring food for the two. As such, when he came up with an infallible plan, he would assure his best buddy Boo-Boo that "This plan will work" because... DRUM ROLL..'m "smarter than the average bear" (and human). Need I say, "this" plan nor, "that" plan ever worked; and if by some quirk the plan worked, the desired outcome didn't. However, like all true blue friends Boo-Boo would take all in stride, pick up the pieces and actually make a plan t

COLOR

What's your favorite color? My favorite color is yellow (although my favorite color to wear is black -its simple -go figure). I was eating an orange, well I was peeling an orange and began to see the color, the vibrant orange. As the fragrance of the fruit began to fill the air, my focus on the color orange, the orange color began to intensify. Whatever I was thinking of slipped away, the orange, the fragrance, the color, the vibrance became the focus on the moment. That's orange for you. That's also the practice of mindfulness: you focus on the now. I'm always discovering new perspectives with mindfulness practice. Although the practice stays the same: quiet, stillness, breathe-in, breathe-out, I do uncover nuisances that inform my process. Sometimes it's an insight like nothing fighting, fussing or fretting to make thoughts stop, instead just let thoughts float by. And sometimes it's this color of orange experience that reminds paying attention is the key to f

CHALLENGE

Maybe you're familiar with “the daily grind” cliche which refers to the unhappy day-in and day-out boring routine of work, relationships or every day stuff of your life. It can also refer to the day-in and day-out struggles of life with those same issues. Likewise, “the daily grind” can also refer to those day-in and day-out stressful situations such bad traffic.  We will all need to deal with those times when life presents situations of personal drama, professional dilemma, spiritual disconnection and other disruptions can deepen “the daily grind” in life.   These circumstances can challenge and be cause for us to get centered.   I’ve learned the best way to recover balance and restore peace is to return to mindfulness.  Mindfulness is a daily practice of giving attention to the natural process of breathing. Through daily practice you learn to pay attention to your breathing, developing a focus that will help you create better balance in your life. By connecting your focus with th

ALTERNATIVE

Sometimes it takes a while to find an alternative that works well. Case in point, a dietary change may require you to find an alternative for a favorite food. For example, many people have made the switch from rice to Quinoa. For some this alternative works well; others may need to search further for an alternative that works well. Similarly, I searched years and tried many alternatives before discovering that mindfulness as a daily practice that works well to help center and balance mind, body and spirit balance. This parallels the journey of life because as much as we'd like things to go exactly as we planned, it doesn't always happen. In those circumstances we can say forget it, close down and leave unfinished or we can seek alternatives. Similarly, I searched years and tried many alternatives before discovering that mindfulness as a daily practice works well to help center and balance mind, body and spirit balance.  And not to press the point, getting quiet, being still, an

FUN

Most, many of my discussions about mindfulness do not focus on fun.   A few discuss the lighter side and helping g to free oneself from worry, but that's not the same as having fun.  Not making fun a focal point of my discussions on mindfulness was a specific goal.   Instead my intent is to share about the benefits for better balance with mindfulness practice. Believe it or not there are mindfulness practices that can be classified as fun.  I may have mentioned in a previous post, mindfulness laughter used as therapy and even treatment. This certainly differs from the purposefulness of traditional mindfulness which requires quiet, stillness and the focus on breathing.   Mindfulness embraces the focus on breathing to help us center.  During those times when thoughts, feelings and emotions such as fear, hurt, anger, stress and even grief (run) and run around in our head, mindfulness practice helps to calm, rather than excite (as in the case of fun).  When thoughts, emotions, and feel

HARD

“You!  Only you...intentionally choose the hard way,” a friend once told me, “...even if there’s an easier way to do it.”  I laughed out loud because I didn’t realize that was the perception my friend had of me.   “Why use a broom when you can use the vacuum?” Or  “If the recipe says you can use frozen fruit, you go to the store, buy your fruit, cut and chop it yourself.”  And  “If the metro stops right in front of your house, you walk 5 blocks towards your direction to the next stop instead.”  So! I replied, “None of what you say seems like a ‘bad’ alternative.”  I tell my friend and go on to explain alternatives are often labelled “hard” because the options require effort.  Indeed, I’m sure my friend isn’t the only one who associates effort with hard.  In fact, the definition of hard (as adjective and adverb) means something that requires a great deal of effort. Not to belabor the point, however the effort put forth in a gift to a friend, or time spent playing with a child or driving

HERE

Vivid or morbid? Like so much it depends on how you look at the thing. I was thinking about how I don't watch certain types of movies because I have such a vivid imagination. Then, I thought, maybe vivid is the other side of morbid. This train (trail) of thought actually came about reading a discussion by Thich Nhat Hahn on "Appreciating Where We Are" in his book entitled Fear. In this section, he asks us to consider being shipwrecked on the moon. No chance of getting back to Mother Earth. What would the astronauts want most? What would you want most? That answer is to be "here"...on Mother Earth.  It would be the precious moment of the astronaut's life...just to be "here" ...now in the moment. The allegory is a powerful one, which is what got me thinking about my imagination. Imagining be lost, shipwrecked on the moon, never to see Mother Earth again, nor family, nor friends, nor an apple. My mind began to dread the thought and I raced through th

HEALTH

 Body yes. Spirit certainly. Mind definitely. Sometimes we may forget that health isn't only a great body or even a body in good condition. Indeed the best of us is always about balance: body, spirit and mind. Mindfulness  therefore the practice of helping the mind center the 3 fundamental components of human beings.  Embracing the 3 elements of  the practice,  quiet,  stillness and focused breathing invite awareness and awakening of the here,  now, present moment. The intent, purpose, direction is forward as we create better balance on the path of progress and peace. “The first wealth is health.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

CONDITION

One of those words that can have an alternative meaning.  There is the notion of weather conditions, situations that have stipulated conditions and then there’s the condition that results from practice.  The condition that comes with practice reflects what happens when you train for intended result(s) as is the case with mindfulness. The intent of practice is to condition yourself so that mindfulness becomes your “go to” option when you need to get centered.  With practice of getting quiet, getting still and getting focused on breathing you also create the condition, the state of being to more readily move into mindfulness.  In this way mindfulness is both a standard practice and a state of consciousness. As with the notion of a check on the condition of weather, mindfulness is an opportunity to check on the condition of your awareness.  And because you practice, you are in healthy condition to move towards awakening of the now, present moment. The intent, purpose, direction is forward

PEACE

Simple. Available. Breathe. Peace is simple, available to all and can be experienced when we breathe. No matter what is going on, we can come into peace by focusing on breathing. It begins with just breathing: in and out. In the midst of whatever is going on give your attention to your breathing and you begin peace. You relax, you invite calm and stillness. Peace lives within. We bring peace closer when we close the door to thoughts and focus on breathing. Focusing on breathing allows us to turn within toward our true nature, which is peace. Beyond your busy day, beyond your concerns, beyond seeming chaos there is peace. You let go of anxiety, worries and thoughts that disturb your balance. You surrender thoughts without struggle, loosening your mental grip by focusing on your breath. In this practice you attract peace. Mindfulness practice is not magic. The practice will never make any of your concerns puff away into nonexistence. Mindfulness will, however, open you to peace. In peace

CARS

Gazing out the window I watched cars.  Lots of cars.  White cars, gray cars, black cars and not just cars.  Trucks, mini-vans, buses, trolley’s even...just about any kind of vehicle you can imagine can be found on the average main street in any city.  It’s a marvel, literally the way the Ford Model T has evolved into so many different designs, expressions of its original self.  In the course of a day we too become different expressions of our authentic self.  Sometimes these different expressions of self are by our own design and all too often we design (resign) self as the situation demands.  The ability to redesign (redefine) oneself so easily can be a gift that turns into a burden that disrupts balance if not mindful. Mindfulness practice is a way to get centered when off balance.  For the record, showing and sharing different expressions of oneself can be fun, necessary and healthy at times; children do it often and it keeps them healthy and happy. The difference is when we are for

ESCAPE

Say the name Rebecca  to anyone who has ever watched a classic movie will know its meaning. It's a haunting, passionate and (for me) a draining movie based on the book by Daphne du Maurier. A 1940 film, the movie was ahead of its time with themes exploring married life, roles of men and women, unrequited love, loyalty, suspicion, jealousy, envy and host of other emotions. The film plays to elements of fantasy, true/false memory and touches on escapism. Every time I watch it, I'm reminded it's a marvelous movie - and for the sensitive type (like me), it's a taxing movie. There's all manner of perspective for discussion with "Rebecca" including pros and cons of escapism (in real life). Undoubtedly, "Rebecca" is du Maurier's best known work, however, The House on Strand  goes straight to the matter of escapism. Again, ahead of its time this story deals with a man transported back and forth in history. It's an experiment and soon he begins to

PROCESS

Everything we learn in life is part of a process. As a tiny baby we learn to lift our head, it's a process. We learn to sit up, crawl, walk, talk and all of it a process. The more we grow the more things we learn and it's all part of a process. That's how we learn to do things that aren't familiar; we go through the process. And yet, there's "that" person at work, at a training course or a mindfulness gathering who has forgotten, learning something new is a process. Even if you've practiced mindfulness for a while, there's no joy in hearing someone say..."All you gotta do is...." Indeed, mindfulness is simple, however it's most beneficial when we respect the process as part of the practice. Sometimes after we've done something for a while and gotten good at it, we forget the process. Perhaps in enthusiasm we may talk to people about mindfulness from the position of a sorcerer on perch instead of student in practice. At such time o

RUNNING

We, most of us, many of us spend a lot of time running. We run from bed, to bath, to breakfast (or a cup of coffee), to bank (or the architectural firm, law office, classroom, floral shop) or whatever our job may be. We are running; and we spend a lot of time doing it. We also spend a lot of time running from the past, or trying to outrun the future. Neither of which is possible. Mindfulness helps remind us to slow down from running. In mindfulness practice there is a balance that comes with being reminded that the only place we can be ... is in the moment. Yes, we live in world where we all have obligations, appointments, places to be things to do and people to see. That's true. And if we all were to stop running this way, we would see all those obligations are illusions. We've created the world we live in which means we can create a different world. Chances are everyone in the world is not going to stop running at the same time, and yet the changes we are now seeing in the wo

THREE

Three words.  That was the challenge put before me:  “Explain mindfulness in 3 words” to someone little or nothing about the practice.  “OK,” I said, I was game and didn’t flinch.  Although I was tempted to extend the number of words to 5, but then thought, “I can do this in 3 just as easily”.  Mindfulness practice in 3 words sounds like:  “Focused breathing now” and truth be told, I don’t think 2 more words would add more meaning.  Mindfulness is best at its simplest. My “Mindfulness in 3 Words” was well received. In fact, it was deemed a good book title (I thought so too).  What stood out most was the core, fundamental, deliberate meaning in the 3 words I choose that if put into practice, “focused breathing now,”  would at least give a novice direct connection with mindfulness.  Because as is the case with any topic from popular to obscure, every variety of book can be written to explain “how to, history of, what is” and then some.   Mindfulness has its share of books, articles, blog

NEW

Doesn't it get old? Doesn't it get old doing the same breathing in, breathing out exercise every day? The question came up recently about mindfulness practice and I hesitated with my answer. Not because I didn't know the answer, not because I didn't have the answer. I hesitated because the question was worthwhile and I didn't want to just brush over it. It was a legitimate question, something I'd never really thought about. Interestingly, I'd thought about whether the runner gets bored doing the same run every day. I'd wondered if the weight lifter gets bored doing those same "reps" every day. I'd wondered if the indoor swimmer doesn't get bored every day doing those same laps back and forth, from one end of the pool to the other of the pool. Although these are physical techniques to keep the body in balance, many people have a daily exercise practice like I have a daily mindfulness practice ... and "no - it doesn't get old&quo

SHARE

Do you tell people you practice mindfulness?  I don’t mean do you walk up to complete strangers and say, “I’d like to tell you about the good news...” kind of sharing.  That approach may work for some, it's less likely to work for most.  What I’m talking about when I ask if "Do you tell people about mindfulness?" is the opportunity that comes from a personal connection.  Maybe your co-worker is sharing about the stress of raising children and working.  Or perhaps you’ve been waiting for a bus too long with a stranger and the two of you wind up talking about the anxiety of having to use public transportation at night.  Or maybe a friend is opening a restaurant and scared witless it won’t be a success.  These are just examples off the top of my head, but the list of opportunities to share about mindfulness is endless.  Which brings me back to the original question, “Do you tell people you practice mindfulness?” The question is purposefully posed from the perspective of you

NEEDLE

It was just needling me. I didn't know what, yet I figured if I could just get home and get in under the shower it would just wash away. Water, beaches, oceans are all meditative experiences at the top of my list. Although I do remember a time years ago at the top of the list would have likely been a nice red wine - and then - then the water experience. I'm grateful that changed when I realized - for me - the meditation with water was healthier. So there I was, under the shower standing, the water running over my hair, then my face and just spring all over my body in anticipation of transformation. But that's not what happened and after 15 minutes of just standing under that nice warm shower I could feel myself turning into a prune, but not relieved of the needling. Oh yes, I felt better, cleaner and even a bit refreshed, but something was still needling. And then it occurred to me, meditation is great and has been a saving grace and yet it wasn't what I needed in this

CELL

The cell is a basic lessons of biology.  Everything begins with the cell; or specifically all living beings begin with a cell and grow from there.  The cell is also what connects life and all other living beings.  We are not only connected to parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and other family members, we are connected to nature because of the cell.  Though my knowledge of the technical bio-ecological-genetic connections is limited, there is no doubt that we, nature and the world we live in are connected on a very cell(ular) level. Thus, it's not too much of a mental stretch to make the connections of mindfulness on the level of the cell as well as the world as a community.   Indeed, mindfulness practice benefits the balance of the individual as well as the community close and far.  The world connection is not only achieved by groups that intentionally practice mindfulness as a community.  It is individual mindfulness as a daily practice and personal commitment

AWARENESS

An authentic discussion on mindfulness will undoubtedly include awareness, which is integral to the practice. The mention of awareness is not used as a buzzword or code and certainly not symbolic. With any practice there is a process and steps to the process and changes that occur as a result of the steps. When discussing mindfulness awareness helps explain the transformation that comes with practice of focused breathing. Still speaking of process, steps and practice may not bring a novice any closer to understanding awareness. Awareness is engagement through practice of mindfulness. I do believe that mindfulness in practice is the one sure way to experience and better understand awareness. However, anyone trying something new has questions and in the case of mindfulness, it's best to keep the answers simple. Therefore, engagement means you come fully into what you are doing: you breathe deeply, fully with intention and release slowly. Simple. This is a process of mindfulness pract

SELFIE

In days gone by people used "calling cards" (what we might call business cards) to introduce themselves. The card, its design, lettering and quality of paper was in some ways like "The Selfie": an image of who (how) they present themselves to the world (or at least to the person they left the card with). I like this idea of a "calling card" better than today's method of "The Selfie" which relies heavily - in fact is the product of technology. I like the "calling card" because I love all things to do with writing, paper and words. I also like the idea of a "calling card" because it lends itself to imagination, no unabashed thrusting of someone's face into my personal space. Moreover, I like the concept of the "calling card" because in some far away extended idealism the "calling card" seems to be more in touch with one's inside self; the authentic self. Indeed, in those days, one had to be more t

PLAY

Yet another benefit of mindfulness is the space the practice opens to play. We all need to play for better balance. Undoubtedly, you've read or heard quotes about the importance of play from great intellectual minds such as Einstein. It may seem contrary to the high-level of intellect, yet it doesn't take genius to understand that play is integral to life/work balance. And once you accept the need for play, it must be recognized that "play" is active and action happens in the now. One doesn't "think" about play...play is doing in present which makes the connection to mindfulness plain. Take a deep breath and slowly release. Take another breath and slowly release. At the third intake of breath and release you may start to feel the calm and notice the relaxing of your muscles. The closer you move into this awareness, the more space you open for play. Play for you may be baking special cookies for family and friends. Play may be an online chess match with s

HABIT

Sometimes you hear someone say something and the words they string together yield such perfect communication, you just have to share it.  I recently heard it said that true belief should be a habit, a default state of mind when it comes to prayers and desires of the heart. Admittedly,  I’m not quoting per verbatim, yet I understood exactly what was being expressed.  Indeed, it’s an empowering dynamic of prayer to believe-it-so and leave-it-to-be-so by default.  Rather than wondering when, how, what it will take for that prayer to manifest.  How much more powerful it is for belief to be habit, instinctive, the default which relegates focus to the here, now, moment. I connected with that default response because that’s what I want for my mindfulness practice.  The practice is not about getting better at the technique of mindfulness, it’s about improving mindfulness as my default response.  As I’ve said often, mindfulness is not a practice in magic that will make all life’s issues go away