Trying to be an island

I read a wonderful article today  “How to Stop Being Influenced by Other People’s Moods”.

I was drawn to read it because it’s something that I really need to work on.  I’ve always been very highly sensitive, and affected by other people’s moods.

This was particularly the case in my marriage.  My ex-husband used to suffer from bad headaches, and when he did he was very cranky.  And it really used to affect me. His crankiness made me feel on edge, and unable to avoid being drawn into his bad mood.  And we’d both suffer.

I learnt a lot of lessons after my marriage ended, but it’s something I still struggle with.  Not to be affected if people around me are stressed/angry etc.

This line from the article particularly spoke to me:

Everyone has the right to be in a bad mood if that is the way they feel, and by not feeling responsible for other people’s bad moods we give them the space to feel as they need without more negativity being directed towards them.

I’d never thought of it that way.

That by being responsible for my own mood, and maintaining my own mindfulness and “peace” that I was actually doing them a great kindness.

I personally struggle to do anything for myself, but I would do anything for anyone else.

So the idea of maintaining my own calm as a kindness to someone else appeals to me greatly.

This is a solo journey, but we share it with billions of other humans. Learning to not be thrown off by other people’s moods and emotions through mindfulness, self-awareness and gentle self-inquiry is one of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves, as well as for others.

 

 

Advertisements

Use your thoughts for good and not evil

I saw this great post on FB this week, and it hit home for me, because it’s something I really believe in.Ordinary things

I think part of it is due to my mindfulness practice (which encourages noticing all the small things), but maybe more because I’ve found that it’s doing this that brings real happiness.

My belief is that you should have lots of things in your life that make you happy – all the small moments combined should bring you a sense of gratitude and satisfaction. And if they don’t then it’s probably time to look at why, and what you can do to change it.

Life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows – actually from my experience it’s usually the opposite – but if you can focus on the small things that you love then it balances it all out.

For me personally the things that have made me happy this week are:

  • Going to the shops as a family and buying beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables for the week.  I’ve found a great fruit shop that sells the most beautiful fruit – it’s always such fantastic quality.  And things like that give me so much happiness.  I adore my fruit and vegetables and knowing I have a fridge full of the loveliest produce makes me really happy.
  • Nourishing my soul with classical music.  I work from home, so I have the freedom to listen to whatever I like to during the day.  And lately I’ve been listening to cello music.  It’s something Mr ISFS and I both have a passion for.  I just love having it on in the background as I work.
  • Books.  I’ve always been a huge bookworm since I could read.  Sometimes I find I get too busy with other things to read much, but it’s always such a joy to go back to it.  On Thursday during lunch I sat with my feet up, a cup of tea, my cello music playing, and a new book to read, and it was (to me) the idea of perfection.
  • Sharing my favourite takeout (noodles) with Mr ISFS.  This is something that we have always done – shared our favourite takeout together at least once a month.  We are trying to save for a house, so we are mostly budgeting very carefully, but once a month we splurge and get all our favourites – Kway Teow, Garlic Prawns, Special Fried Rice, and spring rolls.

and lastly

  • 12599343_960538727371424_1772379474_n(1)Valentine’s Day.  Today has a heightened meaning for me today, and it’s been a chance to realise how truly blessed I am.  I bought Mr ISFS a 1st edition copy of DeadPool (the comic), and he bought me a pair of amethyst earrings.  They have such special meaning for me as he picked them specially as they are my birthstone, and he knows how much I love them.  But the gifts are really only a very minor part of the day – the day is a reaffirmation for me of how much I love the life we have built together, and how much it means to me.

I am struggling with some personal issues at the moment (health related), but it’s focusing on these small things that makes my life full, and I realise how truly blessed I am.

Much love,
Meg

Mindfulness of mindfulness

This week for me I’ve had a very strong focus on mindfulness.

I had been reading a blog post which talked about another blog post, which talked about a great podcast, which was based on a book (which I then had to buy).  And so it goes.  (Oh how I love technology ♥).

So the book I am currently reading is this one:

Mindfulness

With reading this book I’ve been thinking a lot about mindfulness, and I’ve been trying to be more aware of it in my daily life.

And I am noticing many more small moments.  This morning I was making a cup of tea, and I was accurately aware of the sound of the boiling water being poured into the cup.  And I was AWARE that I was aware.  Then I was aware of the silence around me (it was dawn and the rest of my household was asleep).  It was a small moment of clarity, but it was so beautiful.

I then decided to do my jigsaw puzzle while I drank my tea, and listen to a talk about mindfulness tools in daily life.

And a funny thing happened.

I was listening to the tools that the dharma teacher was suggesting (which were great!).  And I was thinking how I could apply them in my daily life.  And then I had a lightbulb moment.

Why?

I was reading this book on mindfulness, listening to a mindfulness podcast.  Trying to incorporate it in my daily life.

But why?  Why practice mindfulness?

To me it was my own ‘mindful’ moment.  I was spending all this energy and focus on becoming mindful.  But I then realised I didn’t know why I was doing it.

My curiosity was piqued then, so I did more reading on why practice it at all.

But for me personally…. I hope that my mindfulness helps me to help others.  My goal and focus has long been to provide support and kindness to others.  And now my intention is that my mindfulness practice helps me to become a better listener, more in-tune with those around me and their hearts, and more in-tune with my own heart.

IMG_0307

A different take on mindfulness

I came across a talk yesterday called “Science of Mindlessness and Mindfulness” by Ellen Langer.  I really love challenging my thinking, and learning/growing and this talk has been a real eye opener.

Ellen discusses the concept of mindfulness, but from a very “stand alone” view point.  Her research and opinions are of mindfulness as it’s own practice, and not as part of meditation or Buddhism.

And it’s fascinating.

I’m still absorbing her concepts – as they are many and varied (and brilliant!).  But a few things have resonated with me already.

A lot of her work (as I understand it so far) explores challenging our thinking and the labels we apply to certain situations.  And how changing our thinking changes our experience.

For example it’s proven that most of us view our jobs as “work”.  Our attitudes are that it’s a necessary evil, and we approach our work days as such.  We don’t enjoy our jobs (that’s what our personal time is for!).  However if we can approach work our work as being fun/pleasurable/interesting our experience changes vastly as does our enjoyment.  The work is the same, but the approach and outcome are different.

She also challenges us to explore our set beliefs.  One question she asks is “what is 1 plus 1?”.  And naturally most people are going to roll their eyes and say “2”.  But as she says, that’s not always the case.  What if you had one wad of chewing gum, and one more wad to it?  It’s not going to be 2.

And personally I love challenging my thinking that way.

Maybe I’m weird (okay I own that I am lol), but I often question the labels that we give things.

For example – the common belief is that going into a shopping centre/restaurant/business with bare feet is considered rude.  Why is it rude?  Because as a society we frown upon it.  But why?  Who came up with that rule that shoes must be worn?   We are raised with that belief, but what if the belief was that it was rude to wear shoes in a shopping centre?

It’s an odd example I know, but I often think about small things like that.  Or “the sky is blue”.  Why do we call it the sky?  Why have we given it that label?  Where did that come from?  What if we knew it by a completely different name?

And it’s true of basically everything in life.

Which leads me to say I’ve always been very vocal about my belief that things never black or white.  A neighbour of mine is always very very firm in her opinions.  She will argue – violently – with anyone who doesn’t agree with her take on life.  But I often wonder – how could she be so set in her opinions?  What makes them unshakeable?

I can honestly say I never have set opinions or beliefs on anything.  I just don’t see life being that way.  It’s fluid, and changeable and only appears to everyone differently based on their experiences, on their upbringings, their financial situation, their religion, etc etc etc.

 

I’m enjoying learning more as I listen to her talk.  And I’ve immediately downloaded her book as well, so I am sure this subject will come up quite a lot in coming weeks.

Take care my friends,

Meg

 

 

The value in sincerity

I was inspired by something I heard this week.

I was listening to another Gil Fronsdal dharma talk, and he related a story from the Zen tradition.

A student asked his teacher “If I practice Zen will I become enlightened?”.  And the Zen teacher replied “If your practice is sincere, it is almost as good”.

I was incredibly inspired by this simple concept.

I know myself that I practice Buddhism because I identify with the precepts very strongly.  However I do not hold the belief that I will become enlightened – I would imagine very few Buddhist practitioners ever will become enlightened.

However I can practice with sincerity.  We all can.

And it doesn’t have to relate to Buddhist practice – we can live our lives with sincerity full stop.

I love that thought so much.

Sincerity encompasses so many things – living ethically, honestly and with pure intention.  And all of those things make such a difference not only to our lives, but to the lives of those that we touch.

You can’t really put a value on sincerity and honesty.

So this week I’ve tried to really keep that as my intention.

Also in this past week I heard a discussion on the Buddha – how before he became enlightened he had to live through many lives, and learn from each one.  He was reborn many times.  And of all the lives he lead, and the mistakes he made (as a lay person) one thing he never did was lie.  And specifically he did not lie to himself.

It’s a deep concept – to never lie to ourselves.

It’s also been on my mind this week, and I have given a lot of reflection on the ways I have lied to myself in the past.

There are so many great things that can be gained from self analysis and knowledge.  I feel blessed to have access to the dharma teachings.

And a new day each day to learn from them.

Namaste,

Meg

 

Let it go

Regular readers of my blog will know that last week was a less than ideal week for me.  Stress caught up with me, and I cracked somewhat.  I acted out of character, and I had to live with the consequences.

I’m feeling so much better in myself now.

One of the defining moments for me was a bus ride I took into the city on Monday morning.  I decided to make the most of that time, and listen to a dharma talk by Gil Fronsdal.  I may not have mentioned it before on my blog, but he is my absolute favour dharma speaker.  His talks (found at Audio Dharma) have taught me so much.  I am the person I am today thanks to Gil’s teachings.  So many of them have resonated with me on a very deep level.

So on this bus ride I decided to really take stock of what was going on in my life.  I put on my headphones, and picked a talk by Gil on “thinking”.  I spent the next 45 minutes looking out the bus window, and mindfully listening to his wisdom on thinking.  And I consciously let all the stress go.

I tried to just focus on what was happening to me in that present moment.  And when I did I found I could much better reconnect with myself.

Because what was happening in that moment?  I was having a day off work, I was on the bus (which I love).  I was lucky to be listening to a dharma talk by Gil.  And I was on my way to a rally against violence.  Something I felt very strongly about supporting.

Aside from the bus trip, I have also spent time recently doing things which replenished my soul.

It’s a bit of a daggy hobby (maybe), but I really adore doing jigsaw puzzles.  Ever since I was a child I have found them incredibly relaxing.  To me they are a form of meditation.  I sit there, and sift through the pieces, and let the thoughts come and go in my mind.  I find that afterwards anything I’ve been stewing over is released from my focus, and I feel much calmer and more focused.

I’ve also started to take a lot more note of the people in my life that I am grateful for.

And I have received so much support in recent weeks from my closest friends.  It makes me incredibly humbled.

It’s all these little things that make life so rich.

And on that note I’m going return to my cup of tea, my puzzle, and my classical music.

Puzzle2

Namaste my friends,

Meg

 

Just keep swimming

It’s been a great (and challenging) time for my practice lately.

It’s easy to ‘stay the course’ when things are going well.  But it’s when things are hard that you get to really put into use what you have learned.  And to also grow from the experience.

I must admit at the moment I feel that the ground is very shaky.

And I use that term as it’s one that I’ve seen often used by Pema Chodron in her great books and teachings.

She teaches that at the times when the ground is shaky, are the times that we need to lean into the experience, and to not feel scared and try to resist it.

And I am the worst for trying to resist change (if my friend Loren is reading this she will be laughing in agreement).

So right at this moment when I feel things are so unsettled I’m trying to just accept that, and not fight it.

The biggest issue I face is the knowledge that gossip is being spread about me behind my back that isn’t true (unrelated to my post from yesterday).

It’s stirred so many feelings in me – anger, betrayal, hurt, and indignation.  I want to set the record straight, I want to put out every “fire” where people are being given the wrong information, and set them straight about what really happened.

However in reality I know it’s not possible.  Unfortunately it’s a case where if someone throws enough mud, at least some of it will stick.  And the hard truth is that there is very little I can do about it.

The people that know me well know the truth.  And the people that believe the lies have absolute freedom to do that.  And there’s nothing I can really do to stop it.

I can only hold my head high, and keep my dignity, and have faith in myself.

It’s a good time to really think about things though – as my blogging friend Ben Naga commented – who was the “I” that felt outraged and hurt.

It’s a great time to delve further into it (gently) to figure out why it has hurt me so much.  And to perhaps let that go.

And also for me a great time to just accept the uncertainty of the moment, and maybe even embrace that.

(and in the meantime I’m feeling the love from my cat Milly :p)

Milly puzzle.JPG

 

Slowing down time

*** An article I wrote for work 🙂 ***

Have you ever wondered why as you get older – and busier – that time seems to speed up?

Frequently our days go by in a blur – we wake up, work, go to sleep, and do it all over again the next day.  And so go our days, weeks, months ….

Of course the days are not actually going past any more quickly, however our perception of them makes them seem that way … but why?

Because we are not paying attention

As we fill our days with more and more, time seems to fly by more and more quickly.

Inc. Magazine recently highlighted neuroscientific research which indicates that how the brain perceives time passes determines how long or short or busy our days feel.

“Our sense of time, it turns out, isn’t even. It’s dictated by how much information we need to process — more information spells more time, which is why our younger years, when we’re processing lots and lots of new stuff, seem to pass so slowly.”

The Inc. Magazine article pointed us to a 2011 New Yorker profile of David Eagleman, a neuroscientist who studies time perception. Inc. highlighted this passage, written by Burkhard Bilger:

 

The more detailed the memory, the longer the moment seems to last. ‘This explains why we think that time speeds up when we grow older,’ Eagleman said — why childhood summers seem to go on forever, while old age slips by while we’re dozing. The more familiar the world becomes, the less information your brain writes down, and the more quickly time seems to pass.

So in essence, the answer to slowing down time is to notice more.

Or – in a practice that has become very trendy and popular lately – practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness involves cultivating an attention on the present moment – the “here and now”.  By practicing mindfulness we can alter our brain and it’s perception of how quickly – or slowly – time is passing.

“Mindfulness allows people to appreciate their surroundings and can lead to the feeling that time is passing more slowly,” Dr. Steven Meyers, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at Roosevelt University in Chicago, told The Huffington Post in a recent article. “Paying attention to events that are pleasant or interesting certainly can enhance our mood and allows us to savor positive experiences.”

It’s easy to lose entire days in mindless distraction – and this is how we can feel that time is flying by.  However if we practice mindfulness – noticing everything around us – our perception of time is slowed down.

So how do we practice mindfulness in daily life?

Our morning commute is a great opportunity.  How many details of the commute do you see as mundane because it happens every day?  What if you took the opportunity to see – really see – the journey with fresh eyes.  What new things can you notice and really pay attention to?  There is always something.

On my journey yesterday I was captivated by the formation of the clouds, and sat in wordless silence for nearly the entire journey just staring at them (it’s okay I was a passenger!).

Another opportunity I took last week was to practice this whilst sitting in the car waiting for my partner to finish an appointment.  I noticed the colour of the cars parked on the street.  The colours of the paint on the building, and the patterns of the shutters.  I noticed the small butterfly that was alighted on the hedge in front of me.  All small things that I could have easily missed by surfing the net on my phone instead.

 In our society, multi-tasking is king.  The more we achieve, the more we pack into a day – or weekend – the more successful we are deemed to be.

Mindfulness brings us the realisation that this is not true success.

Success is stopping to appreciate the small moments in each day – moments that we would otherwise miss in a rush of activity.

And the more aware we are of every small moment – every intricate detail of our day – the more satisfaction we will achieve, and the more time we will seem to have.

And that time is so much richer as a result.

 

Mindfulness is engaging fully with your life on a moment to moment basis.
Being mindful of the now and improving your present moment sense of comfort, tranquillity and serenity.

Image

How mindfulness can increase company profits

*** A blog post I wrote for work 🙂 ***

Mindfulness has become a popular and fashionable word in recent times. 

The mindful workplace is gaining popularity in leadership development with forward-thinking public and private sector firms such as Transport for London, Google, Harvard Business School, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, the Home Office and Toyota.

But what is it exactly?  And how can it help your practice?

In today’s blog post we will focus on these key questions.

 

Our minds are our most important tool. Being emotionally intelligent and self-aware are important for so many reasons, not least because they equip you to take action.

 Image

 

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness, quite simply, is the act of focused awareness on the flow of the present moment.

It brings out attention from the past, or the future, right here into “now”, so that we can be fully conscious of what we are doing, and what is going on around us.

How often have driven our cars somewhere, and had no memory of the drive itself?  Or walked into the shops, and then had to go back to our car to make sure we locked it (because we had no memory of doing it)?  These are examples of mindlessness.  At the time we were likely caught up in our own thoughts.  And as a result we completely missed what was happening in the moment.

It’s natural that we want to spend time thinking about past or future events.  We want to analyse the past so that we can learn from those experiences, and we want to plan for the future. 

However, as in all things, we need balance.  We have to find the “middle way”.

 

The Benefits of Mindfulness at work

Mindfulness can help us learn to manage our minds, to improve workplace resilience, focus and concentration, leading to improved performance and productivity. It’s like training a muscle – training attention to where you want it to be. 

With regular mindfulness you can:

  • Calm your mind on demand
  • Improve your concentration and creativity
  • Perceive mental and emotional processes with increased clarity
  • Develop optimism and resilience necessary to thrive
  • Increase empathy

 

And how does this relate to our work?

Greater Focus

In life, and in work, one of our biggest challenges to productivity is distraction.  And not just the phone ringing, but the distractions that our minds present us with.

We may be trying to focus on one pressing task, when we remember the 12 others that are also demanding our urgent attention.

Whilst thinking about that, it occurs to us that we should really check our email.  And since we are checking our email, we might as well check our social media accounts.  And then, we may as well make that cup of coffee since we are distracted anyway.  And so goes our entire day – in a frantic whirl of doing not much at all.

With mindfulness we learn to concentrate on one task at a time with calmness and focus.

And remember:  When you’re calmly focused on a single task, your brainpower is multiplied. Whilst it may seem more productive to multi-task, in fact it often reduces our efficiency.

 

Build better client relationships

Notice the difference when you phone client away from your computer or any other distractions.

When your only focus is listening intently to what someone is saying, you’re likely to make them feel that the conversation is important to you.

Making a genuine connection with your clients helps you build trusted relationships – by being mindful in the way you interact with your customers will have a positive impact on your business.

 

Improve memory function

Next time you meet someone new – whether it’s a client, or a new business colleague – listen ‘mindfully’ when they say their name. Pay proper attention to the conversation and bring your mind back when you find it wandering. You’ll be surprised at how much you remember about that person next time you meet them and how good your overall memory becomes!

 

Stress Reduction

A lot of stress is brought about through worry of possible negative future scenarios.  If we were to live completely in the present we would not suffer from this stress.

Stressing about future scenarios that haven’t happened is a pointless habit; with mindfulness we can redirect these negative and worrying thoughts back to the present moment and remind ourselves that the future hasn’t happened and so far is not controlling our present circumstances.

With mindfulness we can bring our focus back to the present.  Where are we now?  What’s happening in this moment (certainly not what we are worrying about).  And it may actually never happen, and we will have wasted our time and energy, and missed out on what WAS actually happening while we were worrying about the future.

 

How do we practice mindfulness?

Personal productivity begins with mindfulness, and mindfulness begins with controlling our attention. Mindfulness is our most important defence against the constant onslaught of demands on our attention.

Mindfulness means to pay attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.

 

Mindfulness meditation

Begin your own mindfulness meditation practice.

Find a quiet place, then focus your mind on the present moment. Don’t think of other things, but sit in silence. Begin with ten minutes and meditate daily. Be aware of your thoughts, but be willing to release them and stop thinking about or focusing on them.

 

Mindful Hand Awareness Exercise

Grasp your hands really tight and hold for a 5 to 10 seconds, then release and pay attention to how your hands feel. Keep your attention focused on the feeling for as long as you can.

 

Mental Focus Exercise

Stare at any object and try to remain focused on just that object for as long as possible. Keep a mental watch on when your mind starts to wander, then just bring it back to the object. The longer you can remain focused, the more your mindfulness will increase.

 

Candle Staring Exercise

Stare at a candle flame for ten minutes straight while studying everything you can about it. When your mind wanders, become aware of where it’s going, then bring it back to the candle flame.

 

You can also practice mindfulness outside of meditation. Be aware of your body, your emotions, and what is happening at that moment. Notice sensations. Reduce distractions and busyness, and practice living in the moment.

 

Here is a short video on how to practice mindfulness.

 

******************************

Take this moment to remember that the future hasn’t happened, the past is gone and the wonderful present, is all we have and all that is guaranteed. Make sure you are part of each moment and experience the gift that is Now.

 

 

Mindfulness of exhaustion

Even though I am halfway through my week of concentrating on right speech, today I also found the opportunity to practice mindfulness more extensively.

The process of living is such a fascinating experience when you experience it from the aspect of the eightfold path.

Today I noticed extreme tiredness and disconnection around mid morning.

It’s true that I hadn’t slept well last night (I haven’t slept well for a long time), however this was different.  It wasn’t a sleepy tired, it was more than that.

I was booked in for a work teleconference at 11am, so I made myself a cup of tea about 30 minutes beforehand in an effort to focus my mind and wake up a bit.

And it occurred to me to question – why was I so tired?

And the answer – because I was resisting.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I dislike talking on the phone.  I mean REALLY dislike.  Apart from speaking to my mother, I will avoid all other calls as a general rule.  Text – love it!  Email – definitely.  Facebook – just try to stop me.

I realised that I was unconsciously resisting having to have this work teleconference.  For no particular reason – I liked the other caller, and have had regular pleasant dealings with her (via email :p).   

However my distinct “don’t want to” undercurrent that was in the background was making me excessively tired.

So I re framed the situation.  I spent time thinking about the opportunities in the conversation.  For connectedness, for kindness, compassion, and deep listening (yes, even in a work call).

By the time she called, I was calm and ready and enthusiastic.

And the call went really well.  And afterwards I felt GREAT.  I felt happy and lighter and more cheerful.  And I realised that was because it was such a good phone call – and the positive interaction with another person had brightened my day.  

So that was where “right speech” also came into play today.  During that conversation, and also others that I had during my day.

Blessings to you all,

Meg

4 daily steps to become more positive (and happier)

I recently came across a great article about re-wiring your brain to become happier and more positive.

As I have read frequently lately – it is possible to change the pathways in your brain.

Importantly for me, I realised that the more you look for the positives, the more those pathways in your brain will be strengthened, and the more automatic it will become.

So I have spent time deliberately looking for ways to become more positive.

These are my 4 favourite daily activities for increasing positivity and happiness:

Keep a gratitude journal.  Before bedtime, make a list of the things that you are grateful for that day.  It can be in a notebook, on your computer in a word document, or even a blog.  As much as possible focus on the feeling of gratitude – and let it stay with you as long as you can.

Reach out to someone at least once a day.  Send an email expressing your gratitude or thanks.  To a friend or a co-worker, or anyone who has touched your life recently.

Practice acts of kindness.  Try to do at least one kind thing each day.  It can be as simple as making someone smile.  Or really listening to them, and giving them your full attention.  The more that you do it, the more opportunities you will find.  And the more natural it will become.

Practice mindfulness.  When we are aware of the present moment, we are able to appreciate it fully, and really notice the abundance we have in our lives.  And not only that – it has been proven that mindfulness meditation affects the brain’s plasticity, increasing grey matter in the hippo-campus  an area of the brain important for learning, memory and emotion, and reducing grey matter in the amygdala, an area of the brain associated with stress and anxiety.

I have been practising the above daily in my life for the past couple of months, and have noticed such huge differences.  Mostly in my level of happiness and satisfaction with life, and my ability to bounce back from difficulties and setbacks.

I also find meditation incredibly important in maintaining a sense of peace and calm – both of which lead to increased happiness.

Do you have any practices that you do daily to increase your happiness?  I would love to hear about them.

Image

The Elegance of Slow

Living courageously is choosing to find, notice, cultivate, and savor the good RIGHT here in our everyday lives! 

~  Lisa, www.barefootbarn.com

 

I feel like the Universe is trying to tell me something this week – about the value of mindfulness , and truly experiencing and enjoying the present moment.

It started with a surprising conversation with my brother over a copy of “Zen Mind, Beginners Mind”.

And followed on with:

A beautiful experience yesterday holding an injured bird, and tenderly stroking it and whispering to it.

A wonderful recent blog post by Lisa at the The Barefoot Barn.  Her blog post touched me very deeply.  It was about finding the good in every day life.  As she said in her post:  

“This is EXACTLY when we need to PAUSE.  To stop right in that moment you feel a tightness coming across your chest.  And soften.  Looooook fooooor the gooooooood.  It’s right here.  In your everyday life.  This is where the magic is — right here in the messiness of our ordinary day.  Put down your cell phone.  Let the dinner-making be for a bit.  Pull out a popsicle if you need to!  And hold your little one – your toddler or teenager – and look at them!  Look at them with regard and love.”

 

And then today, listening to a dharma talk by Gil Fronsdal, and the 4 Foundations of Mindfulness.

So many wonderful reminders to just stop and notice the present moment.

To pause, and breathe and reflect.

It’s especially a great reminder for me to just slow down.  

These days society exemplifies busyness and multitasking.  The more you do, the more you achieve, the more you can juggle, the better a person you are – apparently.

I am taking a stand against this common misconception.

I am going to slow down.  

Life goes by too quickly.  My son will be a teenager before I know it.  And I don’t want to look back and regret the time I didn’t spend with him.

I’m going to enjoy the luxury of sitting and chatting to him while he has his bath.  Instead of rushing around washing the dishes and folding clothes.

I am going to pause and see – really see – the people I am speaking to.  Instead of stopping for a rushed hello as I race off to my next destination.

I’m going to allow myself the luxury of a slowly drinking my tea – savouring every mouthful.

I’m going to sit and eat my dinner without distractions – no computer, no TV.  Enjoying the tastes and textures, and the comfort in a home-cooked meal.

I’m going to accomplish less, and enjoy more.

I invite you to join me in “the elegance of slow”.

Blessings, Meg

 Image

Don’t be afraid to give yourself

In every interaction you have – no matter who with – you have a choice in how you respond.

Once choice is politeness, formality, a lack of connectivity.

This is the easy thing to do…. the safe thing to do.

It doesn’t require much risk.  You don’t have to expose who you really are.  You are not risking rejection.

The other choice is to give yourself.  Share your heart.  Your passion.  Be open and without boundaries or reservations.

This other type of interaction usually leads to interesting discussions, friendship, love, and connection.

In this way you are giving a piece of your heart.  You are giving the real you – your attention, and your presence.

This is the hard thing to do. The risky thing to do.

And it provides the most rewarding and “real” connection.

Instead of thinking about what you want to say, or do.  Or what message you want to convey, you engage fully in the present moment, and act from your true intentions. Your true “self”.

It requires great truthfulness.  Mostly to yourself.

And it requires great courage.

However it leads to the greatest rewards.

Everyday Wisdom #99

Instead of immediately trying to fix our mistakes, take a chance and just stop.

See if it’s possible to relax and take note of whatever is going on.

It may lead to some new understandings.

Image

 

Everyday Wisdom #58

Jigsaw puzzles as meditation

There are so many opportunities in everyday life to practice meditation or mindfulness (or both).

One of my favourites is by doing a jigsaw puzzle.

When I was a teenager, before I was even aware of buddhism, or meditation, I used to find great benefit in doing jigsaw puzzles.

My mind would become incredibly still and clear.

Thoughts would slow, and I would become extremely present.

It’s only since learning more, that I’ve realised that I was actually practising a form of meditation in doing these jigsaw puzzles.

So today, give it a go.

Find a large space where you can do a jigsaw puzzle uninterrupted (coming back to it over days/weeks as required).

Allow your mind to become still as you pour over the pieces.  

Breathe slowly and allow your eyes to take in the colours, shapes, patterns and sequences.  

 

My favourite puzzle is trying to work out the parts myself, after all it is a solo effort.
Adrian Belew

Kudos to Karise

I love this video.

To me it’s another great example of mindfulness.

This young woman – only 19 years old- is clearly singing from her heart.

With soul, passion and authenticity.

And it gives her performance true power.  The power to move people.

It is clear to me that even at such a young age, she has experience suffering.  More so than most.

However she has turned that suffering around.  To stop it eating away at her from the inside.  Instead she has focused it outwards.

And it’s amazing, and beautiful ♥

Everyday Wisdom #34

Zen and the art of calm driving

Heavy traffic can cause even the most zen-like of us to become frustrated.  Especially if it’s also causing us to run late.

Next time you are stuck in heavy traffic, try the following tips to keep your cool:

Have a conscious intention to stay calm whilst driving.  Before starting the car, state this intention out loud.

Write yourself a note ” I have inner peace within me”.  Put it somewhere you can see whilst driving.

If you find yourself getting frustrated with another driver, try to visualize what might be going on for them to be acting the way they are.  Are they speeding?  Perhaps they are on their way to the hospital to see a loved one that is gravely ill.  Are they going too slow?  Perhaps they are bringing their newborn baby home from hospital.  Did they forget to signal?  Perhaps they have screaming kids in the car and are at their wits end.  Or perhaps they’ve just received very bad news.  Everyone has accidents and makes mistakes, it doesn’t make them a bad person.

Put other cars needs ahead of your own.  Let people merge in front of you.  It won’t make you arrive any later, or earlier, than you would have anyway.  However by focusing on being kind, it will help you keep calm whilst driving.

Always leave at least a car’s length between you and the vehicle in front of you.  That way you are never in danger of being cut off, and the frustration that can go with it.

Treat other drivers as you would like to be treated.  Allow people plenty of room – don’t tailgate them.  Be courteous when they are parking, and wait patiently.

Make sure you always have your favourite music, or an audiobook, or podcast to listen to.  Make the most of the time spent in the car.

Use the time you are stuck in traffic to do a quick body scan.  Do you have any tension anywhere in your body that you can soften?  Shoulders?  Neck?  Are you frowning?  To finish, take a deep calming breath, and smile.

Listen to classical music – or anything that is light and calming and soothing.

And finally Charles Friedline – one of our Facebook followers – had this great suggestion for how he keeps calm:

I just try to “assume innocence”–which is to say,always assume that the person who pulled out in front of you, or cut you off, or whatever, just didn’t see you. Assume that it was an honest mistake. Now, I just try to smile and breathe.

What strategies do you find help to keep you calm in traffic?

Image

This is what happened to my car when I wasn’t as mindful as I should have been…

High Tea

Today I had the best fun holding a “High Tea” at my house for my friends and I.  We had a wonderful time, and it made me realise…

High Tea is really just tea with extra mindfulness.

It’s all about stopping to take notice of – and enjoy – the little things that we normally overlook.

Beautiful china.

White clean tablecloths.

and my favourite…

Small morsels of yummy cakes and sandwiches.

I love that – the extra small portions of food.  Instead of the frequent approach to food in our society – gluttony. And more is better.

High Tea is all about eating and drinking tea in moderation. With mindfulness.

Appreciating the tastes and textures and colours.

The feel of the fine china.

And of being mindful of the entire experience itself, and dedicating time to enjoy it and make it special.

 

There is a great deal of poetry and fine sentiment in a chest of tea. 
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Image

Image

Image

Image

My late Grandma’s china

Image

The beauty of mindfulness

Thank you to Gems of Delight for sharing this breathtaking video.

To me this video truly captures the sheer beauty and exquisiteness of mindfulness.

More than words ever could.

There is absolutely no doubting that the nurse is giving 100% of her mindfulness, attention, love and tenderness to this baby.  And the act of giving the baby it’s first bath.

And even though it’s a newborn, it’s equally obvious that the baby is aware of this complete mindfulness.  And that it is loved and safe.

Imagine if we all gave such mindfulness to every one of our interactions.  Regardless of the person.

If we allowed ourselves to be that open and present.

If we treated each person as respectfully and tenderly as the nurse treated this baby.

It would change the world.