Tag Archives: senses

Practising Presence

I’m over a week into my challenge to be present. I could tell you that I’m completely zen, that I’ve attained enlightenment, and that I’m connected with and full of love for the entire universe. But I won’t do that.

I’ll be honest. I’m not there just yet. I’m definitely not present all the time. I’m probably not even present half the time. However, the knock-on effect from simply setting this challenge is that it’s making me much more aware. And once you’re aware, you begin to wake up.

I’m looking at my thoughts and feelings with interest. Rather than scolding myself for not being perfect, I’m observing my reactions with curiosity and humour. And when I notice my mind fleeing from the present, I’m now able to catch the tail of my projections and coax myself back to centre.

I recognise that I always have a choice as to how I feel in any given moment. I can decide which thoughts to believe. I can question my assumptions. And I can release stagnant patterns so that life flows with ease, joy and abundance.

For most of my life, the extravaganza of my ego hypnotised me. But now that I’m sampling pure pockets of peace, this mindfulness jazz tastes like more.

Today, I sit in the September sun. For fear of doing nothing, I walk outside armed with phone, book, journal and iPod. But I get a sense that I’m doing this out of habit. I ignore the paraphernalia, put my feet up, tilt my face skyward, and appreciate the wine-stained autumn leaves and the heat on my toes. The crumpled clouds remind me of a morning strand, slick from a recent tide.

This evening though, I huff and puff over the stories my mind barrages me with. Again, it dawns on me that I’m doing this out of habit. I take a breath, drop into my core, and let it go.

In bed tonight, my mind visits many foreign and oft-explored destinations. At first, I indulge these memories, fantasies and nightmares. Then, I shift out of the nonsense and into the present. Only in presence do I realise that my body is clenched and I’m not lying in a comfortable position. I give myself permission to relax.

zdravoslovnohranene.com

zdravoslovnohranene.com

If you want to become more present, remember that practice makes “perfect”. It may be helpful to figure out which places and techniques assist you with the process. Being in nature usually grounds me. So does concentrating on my breath.

And yes, it is easier to be present when faced with a special moment or a spectacular view. Being present comes effortlessly when you gaze at the enormous moon in a glittering sky. Or when you watch the holiday sun melt into the horizon. Or when you turn your attention to your other senses – sinking into a yoga pose after a long day; the sensation of a lover’s touch; the strangely comforting sound of the roaring rain and wailing wind at your window.

But what about all the other moments? How can you be present during the difficult, sad and angry episodes? Can you maintain your presence of mind, body and spirit throughout the mundane and the chaotic? When you’re stuck in traffic or shuffling at the back of a massive queue? When you’re exhausted after a trialling time or choked up with dread over an imminent event?

Don’t worry if your desire to be present doesn’t manifest immediately or if it vanishes at the first sign of struggle. Simply be aware of how you are. The key is to treat yourself with compassion. Whenever I have trouble with mindfulness, I  recall a friend’s suggestion:

“You must be gentle with yourself. Each time you attach to thought and abandon the present moment, bring yourself back with the lightest nudge. Like with the soft top of a paintbrush.”

With practice, presence will start to become automatic. Because it’s our natural state. We just got a little lost along the way. We got caught up in the adventure, we drank in too much drama, and our vision grew blurry.

But now that I’m sobering up, I can focus on the path home, and I finally understand that I don’t have to travel very far. I don’t have to go anywhere at all. I just have to be.

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About Time

I spent the evening watching About Time, a film about a man who discovers his ability to time travelI was expecting a lovely romance featuring the adorable Rachel McAdams, and it was that. However, as I blubbed into my hankie, the message of the movie became very clear: Live each day as though you had traveled back in time to relive it.

Notice all the little things. Appreciate every special moment. A hug. A kiss. Holding hands. Playing with your children. Laughing with friends. Tilting your face to the sun. Frolicking in the waves. The sound of the wind. A star-encrusted nightscape. A comfortable bed. Music. A forest filled with autumn leaves.

Don’t leave it until it’s too late. There’s no point wishing you could go back in time to savour these precious moments. Be present to them right now. Reveal the extraordinary in the ordinary details of your life. Uncover the magic of what is right in front of you…

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Taking the Mind out of Mindfulness

I gave my Positive Living group the homework of doing one thing per day in complete mindfulness. This means being present with every sensation and emotion that you experience as you participate in an activity.

It involves being aware of the taste, smell, colour and texture of each ingredient you eat. It includes really listening to the sounds and silences of the music that’s playing. It’s about the feel of the ground beneath your feet with every step you take. It is the subtle sense of your breath as it leaves your nostrils and touches your skin.

We had a week off class because of the mid-term break. So one week later, when I started preparing this week’s class, I remembered the homework. I hadn’t done it once. I was anything from an exemplary teacher. I resolved to start. I still had a week.

This evening, as I sat down to dinner, I remembered the task. I had totally forgotten about it again. This was the perfect opportunity to practice. I could eat mindfully right now. But it’ll take too long, my inner resistance whined.

The logical part of me suggested that it wouldn’t take much longer to eat mindfully than it would to just eat. The only difference would be that I’d have to set aside my mind chatter for a few moments. You know what happened? I lost my appetite.

To be perfectly honest, I still haven’t done my homework. Some stubborn part of me is refusing to let go of the busyness, to quiet the din, to slow down, to simply be.

I’m sure the reason for this will become apparent but I’ll probably have to do all of the things I just mentioned first.

Could you do one thing per day in complete mindfulness for a week? If so, please let me know how you get on. I’d love to learn from you.

runningahospital.blogspot.ie

runningahospital.blogspot.ie

Slow Down

I am currently on a weeklong holiday in the west of Ireland. Each morning after breakfast, I do some work. Then, I take myself out for a walk. I rush the walk to get it out of the way so I can pop into a pub or café to use the WiFi.

Not too long ago, I felt peace. I appreciated nature. I could lie in a bubble bath and listen to music or read a novel over a frothy cappuccino.

How easily I’ve forgotten. How quickly I’ve transformed into a busy, perfection-driven woman who finds it hard to sit still.

Lately, I’ve been trying to fit as much as possible into every single day. No wonder I wasn’t glad when morning arrived.

Even the things I’d once enjoyed had become just another chore to tick off the self-renewing to-do list. Cycle – check. Meditate –check. Prepare Positive Living class – check.

Even nature, my most favourite thing in the entire world, had become an afterthought to work and exercise. When I did get out in it, I sped through it, favouring body tone over nourishment of the soul.

Today, the sun comes out and I decide to go for a walk. Alone. I leave the phone in the car. I don’t listen to music or take photographs. Today, I walk slowly. I roll up my sleeves and feel the heat on the back of my neck. I breathe. I inhale delightful fragrances that bring me back to simple childhood holidays.

I pause to take in the aqua milkiness of the ocean. I watch a man swimming. A fluffy green caterpillar inches its way along the path. Seagulls congregate on a large, flat rock. Cows graze in a field below.

A woman sits on the cliff edge, eyes closed, face tilted towards the sky. I wonder if she’s being truly present, mindfully aware of all of her senses. Or is she simply completing her daily chore of meditation?

Even though it pains me, I challenge myself to sit for a few moments. To just sit. I exhale a sigh of frustration.

Then, I gaze out at the waves as they crash upon the rocks. The waters roar mightily like the exciting take-off of an aeroplane.

The ocean speaks to me of opportunity and adventure, beauty and impermanence, creation and destruction. Tears spring to my eyes.

But even now, in this blessed moment, I am eager to get back. Because I have been mentally making note of everything I’ve experienced. This is the curse and wonder of being a writer.

I take a deep breath. I breathe in and out. I accept myself as I am in this moment. A writer who is forever composing. A human being who is doing her best. A person who is learning and growing and steeping herself in the awareness that will ultimately set her free.

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This evening, I go for a second slow-paced walk along beach, cliff and country road. I peer out at boats bobbing in the bay. I stroll past jellyfish, seaweed and salt-polished pebbles.

I sit several times along the way. I marvel at the sheer magnificence of a cliff face. Gulls soar overhead. I walk beneath a cacophony of starlings perched upon wire.

The sight of fuchsias makes me well up. The scent of cow dung and the perfume of a passing stranger make me smile.

I saunter past stone walls, a tractor and a good-looking horse. I feel my body as it moves. My hips roll and my arms sway. This evening, I do not rush or yearn for the finish line.

I stop to taste roadside blackberries. I pick a handful to take home. For the remainder of the journey, I walk palm up, my hand ink-red with an offering of sweetness.

I realise that when I’m an old lady, reflecting on the beauty of my life, I won’t be thinking about the times I power-walked up hills. I’ll remember the magical moments when I sat and witnessed the silent majesty of a gliding gull and the mesmerising movements of the ocean.

Images: Author's Own

Images: Author’s Own

Coming to my Senses

Every so often, I have a flash of what life would be like without one of my senses. And so I give thanks for my five functioning faculties.

I am grateful for my sense of hearing because of the following…

The soprano song of a violin. The passionate pounding of a piano. A talented vocalist. The morning call of a Collared Dove. A baby’s laughter. Howling wind. Hammering rain. Thundering waves.

I am blessed with the sense of sight because I get to see…

Fairy lights. Ballet. A handsome man in a tight T-shirt. The explosion of colour that a sunset brings. A night sky crowded with stars. The ocean. The dimple of a smile. Flowers and foreign lands.

My sense of smell allows me to enjoy…

Coffee, cut grass, and Christmas trees. Sunscreen and spices and incense. Baby smells of Sudocrem and innocence. The whiff of a cooking dinner when I come home after a long day.

My sense of taste gives me the pleasure of…

Kisses. A mug of tea made by somebody else. A glass of juice after a hard night’s drinking. Gyros and Greek salads. Chips from a brown paper bag. A home-cooked meal following a day in the mountains. Picnics.

Without my sense of touch, I would be unable to appreciate…

A tight embrace. The warmth of an open fire. Sun on skin. A welcome breeze. Skinny dipping. A lover on my neck.

Images: http://patriciaquintessence.blogspot.com/2011/06/oceans-day-today.html; http://weheartit.com/entry/18825370; http://favim.com/image/152231/

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