You know those times when you set goals with good intentions but life suddenly gets in the way?
Well, toward the end of last year I made a commitment to give my wellbeing much needed attention. Working on three areas, I continued my daily meditation practice, started walking again, and followed The Mediterranean Diet which studies have shown is good for heart, brain and mental health. I was going well until about a month ago when work hit a really busy patch. Out the window went good intentions and in a flash old habits moved back in! Like so many others, I tend to be hard on myself when this happens. I get bogged down in harsh self-judgement which goes round and round on a loop. Philip Moffits’s words capture this not unusual experience so well, while shining a light on how to start over.“So just how do you practice starting over? Think of it as shifting your attention away from controlling the outcome and abandoning your usual reactions – criticizing, judging, complaining, and lamenting – to getting off track. You don’t deny your thoughts and feelings, and you don’t try to make them go away. Instead, you acknowledge them without making any judgments about them and with compassion for how difficult this moment is. You then follow the acknowledgment with what I call “and” practice, in which you say to yourself, “Yes, I just got lost, and now I’ll just start over.”
You develop the strength to start over because you’re committed to moving toward your goal, not to being there. This is why I call it an attitudinal shift. Your goals matter because they give direction to your life, but your actual life happens in the endless stream of moments that occur between now and when, if ever, you reach your goal.
Ironically, the practice of starting over is a more effective way to achieve your goal than constantly fixating on it. That’s because most of us are not very good at simply delivering results. For instance, if you are trying to lose weight, curb your temper, or cease being a workaholic, you already know what to do to stop the undesirable behavior, but you don’t. Discouragement from your past and imaginings about how bad the future will be drain your energy and cause you to fail. When you embrace starting over as a practice, you focus instead on what you are doing right now and what you need to do or are failing to do. Thus, if you have agreed to take on yet another work project, you reverse yourself as soon as it dawns on you that it is too much. If you sense that you’re losing your temper, you just stop. No drama; you just get right back on your path and start over.” – Philip Moffitt
Meditation can be frustrating, irritating, testing, boring and challenging …Meditation can be moving, calmness, quietness, silence and stillness …
All of this is normal … all of this can teach us …
“The secret to living mindfully. Just don’t breathe a word of it …”
There are a couple of reasons that tempted me into buying the little book, The Art of Breathing. Firstly, the name appealed and also the author has an excellent reputation within the field of mindfulness. I think too, I fell for the look of it, the gorgeous blue cover and the smaller than average size of it. (In all honesty, I’m a hopelessly visual person). But the content of the book does not disappoint. In fact there is a light hearted joyfulness to it which is sometimes missing in meditation and mindfulness books. In no way does the joyfulness detract from the underlying message of mindfulness or the different techniques outlined.
Without giving anything away, the opening chapter of this book is breathtaking and drew me in at the outset. Other gifts in this book for me were its conciseness and that it can be picked up and put down at any time because of its ease of reading. If you have family or friends who may have expressed an interest in mindfulness, this little book would make a great introduction, and a beautiful gift. I dip into it regularly.
“The changes that mindfulness brings to your life aren’t instant. Be patient. They come gradually, slowly, almost invisibly. “– Tamsin BishtonI hate housework! It’s a gene inherited from my mother. Such a surprise then, when over the course of a month or so, I’ve experienced moments of pure happiness while washing the dishes. Not only moments of happiness, but a vivid awareness of colour, reflections and texture, not experienced before. So where have these moments of happiness come from?
I’ve posted before about my thirty year flirtation with meditation which became daily practice in early 2014. In the three years since, I have experienced benefits while at other times I’ve asked myself, has life really changed or am I just imagining it? Well, I think that question’s been answered. As Tamsin Bishton said, the changes “come gradually, slowly and almost invisibly”, and I think I agree with that.
Awoke this morning, to the sound of gentle rain; sitting in an upright position, with my back against the head of the bed, I settled in to listen. Focusing attention on the sound of rain on the roof, and then on the garden, back and forth, just listening. Noting when I got caught up in thought, and gently bringing myself back to awareness of the rain. Simple, mindful, listening to the rain …
glimpse of blue
soothes a weary spirit
I never thought I was a bully until I listened to how I spoke to myself. I think I owe myself an apology. – Anita OpperLeft speechless; unable to move for quite some time when this quote appeared in a feed. Is it the experience of having been bullied that makes this quote resonate so deeply? Or is it simply the power of words or ideas expressed with such clarity and truth? I don’t know. Whatever it is, I’m thankful for it …
“We can cultivate our well-being by concretely applying mindfulness to our daily living” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Do you apply yourself to informal mindfulness, or like me, has your focus been on sitting practice?
When I look back over 30 plus years of meditation, I wonder why it’s not produced better results. In all fairness, the first thirty years I only practised off and on. The last three years, my daily commitment has been very strong. For all that, I think I’ve bombed out a little on taking meditation and mindfulness into daily life, into the very place it needs to be. So, next step for me is setting up reminders, or prompts. Wonder how I’ll go …
What about you, do you practise mindfulness in everyday life? Want to share what you do, the successes and the challenges?
“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet. We have caused a lot of damage to the earth. Now it is time to take good care of her. We bring our peace and calm to the surface of the earth and share the lesson of love.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
In writing his description of a Walking Meditation, Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us to live in awareness of how much we take from the earth, the damage we do to it, and how much it freely gives us. A timely reminder to lift our game as we welcome Earth Day.
This book is the only book I’ve ever come across that has left me speechless and in awe. In all fairness, some of that probably has something to do with the author’s exquisite water colour illustrations (which I just love), coupled with his inquiry into the art of happiness by coming home to self, by awakening from our constructed stories; a meditator’s dream. The book has a subtle wit, beauty, and I keep coming back to it …
Nature creates her own art … if only we pause to look …
Into the Heart of Mindfulness by Ed Halliwell is one of the best books I’ve read on meditation and mindfulness. Why?
Firstly because the author’s excellent writing skills come into play, the book is so beautifully written. Secondly, the author’s personal story of depression and anxiety and subsequent journey into mindfulness is presented with raw honesty and wisdom, and will resonate with many experiencing the same challenges. There’s also clear instructions for a range of meditation practices.
In a world where meditation and mindfulness have become rather commercialised and surrounded by hype, Ed Halliwell’s book is a breath of fresh air. He talks about the hard yards of meditation and the fact that even after fifteen years of practice he still has occasional relapses. These relapses are met with mindfulness and as time goes by are decreasing in length and power.
A couple of the take home messages for me are his observations “… that I was a normal human being experiencing normal human suffering (and reacting to it unskilfully) … ” and also to “… be with whatever is happening …
For me as a meditator who has read many books on the subject, there were no negatives to this book. It’s one that will remain at the top of my reading pile to be read again and again.