Next Saturday, 10 April I will be interviewing Piero Falci. Author and Meditation teacher. Please register for this free event
Change is permanent and most of the time, we don’t even notice. Only when change is requiring resources for adjustment we become aware. Sometimes, we get distressed because we are not aware of early cues of distress, and/or we don’t have the resources available that we need for coping.
Mindfulness helps us increasing our interoceptive awareness facilitated through the insular cortex region. The more in tune and aware we are of our bodily sensations, the better we are able to detect the arising and co-emerging sensations.
Did you know that there are always and with every thought (aware or unaware) co-emerging sensations? They are deeply stored in our system associated with emotions that we often can’t describe, or they are too intense that we feel we can approach them.
That is why we have developed an adaptive (to avoid or to fight) system that keeps us safe in the moment, but it may not serve us in the long run. Avoiding or fighting change causes greater difficulty to let be and eventually let go of. It keeps us trapped and prevents us from discovering a different way of being.
Mindfulness can help you learning this different way of being. Having said that, it doesn’t mean that it is easy. But it is possible. Combined with self-compassion, you will be able to step out of the cage and liberate yourself to the good.
Wanting to learn about it? Contact Regina Gerlach firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tasting Mindfulness by Jon Kabat-Zinn
“Have you ever had the experience of stopping so completely,
of being in your body so completely,
of being in your life so completely,
that what you knew and what you didn’t know,
that what had been and what was yet to come,
and the way things are right now
no longer held even the slightest hint of anxiety or discord?
It would be a moment of complete presence, beyond striving, beyond mere
beyond the desire to escape or fix anything or plunge ahead,
a moment of pure being, no longer in time,
a moment of pure seeing, pure feeling,
a moment in which life simply is,
and that “is-ness” grabs you by all your senses,
all your memories, by your very genes,
by your loves, and
welcomes you home.”
How did you transition into 2021? Did you get a chance to do this in a mindful way? And what did that mean ‘transition in a mindful way’ to you? Let me share what I did and how it echoed into this fresh new year.
Originally, I’d planned to take part in a mindfulness insight retreat with a very well known Dharma teacher. I was registered and all set up for the online retreat. And then, on the the first day I had to pull out due to some unexpected event. Disappointment passed through the sky of awareness and freed up some new space.
I ended up taking part in a short introduction Thai Chi course. Seven days, 5 minute practice – no big deal. It was a very interesting exploration of the standing pillar and its imprint as well as its inner sensations of movement. Here I was, expecting to learn a Thai Chi routine and being surprised that this course was not about it at all, however. I loved it – the daily practice and the impact of this five-minute insight-way of being worked. This short course was finished on NY and set the foundation and intention for this coming year. My intention COMMIT TO MINDFUL LIVING and MINDFUL ACTION arose from within, from this stable and balance stand. Grounded, rooted and confident.
Mindful Living and Action include regular meditation practice, frequent in-depth insight work and the sharing of my experience with a wider community. After five days of an online silent retreat with two amazing Dharma teachers, Cindy Ricardo and Piero Falci I felt very grounded, calm and inspired. I have had the opportunity to explore the qualities of awakening and was amazed at how much clarity, energy, awareness, wisdom, joy and equanimity arose out of investigation from within. A deep sense of gratitude, appreciation and privilege was felt inside my mind and body. It was like both, mind and body were fully connected.
A very dear friend of mine asked me the other day ‘why do you want to bring your light to the world’?. A question that I carried into the retreat and although I wasn’t searching for an answer, it poured out of me in this very moment were everything felt connected with no boundaries – out of this sense of pure oneness.
And from this place I know that even ‘just’ sitting here, meditating and cultivating this way of being offers so much to the world. It is my contribution to let everyone shine and warm everyone g with my light from inside.
And what is your light? Community is so very important and it can only exist peacefully if everyone learns to own their experience and who is willing to contribute. That it is not so easy, but the good news is it can be learned. Let’s explore this together.
The practice of loving-kindness meditation is the art of being present with oneself and other beings in a loving, kind and compassionate way. And with every other ART we need to learn this technique many many times. We need to learn how to hold the brush that is colouring the canvas and filling it with live. We need to learn the basics and all about the colours, the characteristics and qualities of the different supplies like oil colour or aqua colour. Mastering the art of painting requires a lot of practice and learning.
And I would say that learning the practice of loving-kindness is very similar to this. It takes time to find your own soft and gentle voice that is offering warm, compassionate and soothing words or phrases.
Loving-kindness is a metta meditation that is training the mind to be more loving and kinder. Loving-kindness is a wish for all beings to be happy. When we experience suffering, we often wish it goes away. And when we persist, resist, push or pull away the suffering increases; it may temporary fade, but it won’t take long for it to reappear. Another way of relating to our suffering is the practice of loving-kindness and compassion (wishing all beings to be free of suffering). Both practices help us shifting from reactivition to responsiveness and have a very healing component.
When we begin with the practice of loving-kindness meditation (including compassion) we may struggle a little bit with the wording. Words matter and language can be very powerful. When we are practicing loving-kindness images and words are the anchor eliciting a sense of care, connection, comfort and nourishment.
How do we find our voice in the practice of loving-kindness? Traditionally we start with ourselves, but that is often not so easy. See what works for you, beginning with someone else might be easier to give love to.
Evoking love, kindness and compassion is like poetry. Who is talking to whom and who is listening? The phrases or words can be directed from a compassionate part of ourselves or a wise part of our Self to the body, or to a part of our childhood, or to a wounded part of us.
Address ‘I’, ‘you’, ‘sweetheart’, ‘dear one’ with a soft voice and in a slow pace. If possible, make the phrases simple, clear, general and kind. Keep in mind that cultivating goodwill allows the mind and heart to rest. And the practice is about evoking goodwill, not good feelings, however. Good feelings are often created by loving-kindness.
Consider ‘What do I need?’ and write down your responses, i.e., good health. Once you have discovered a few words convert them into wishes for yourself, i.e., May I be well. Take your time, don’t rush and keep in mind words and phrases may change over time. Next question ‘What do I need to hear? What words do I wish to hear from others?’, i.e., I am here for you. See whether you can come up with a wish based on, for example, ‘I am here for you’ converted into ‘May I know that I belong’. Maybe you come up with a few phrases expressed as wishes. And when you are feeling ready practice and listen to these loving wishes directed at yourself.
Please feel free to listen to the guided instructions for finding your phrases. Alternatively, practice the guided loving-kindness meditations as a starting point and allow yourself time to find your own voice.
When you are feeling overwhelmed allow yourself to anchor and ground any time. Safety comes first and is very important. When you need to close keep in mind that this this too is an act of loving-kindness and compassion.
Being purposely fully present in the moment leads to greater mindfulness and a non-judging capacity as we are experiencing the coming and going of mental events, the breath, bodily sensations and the sensory features of our senses. Introspection and self-inquiry foster awareness resulting in better understanding of ourselves, of our behavioural patterns, of our emotional reactivity in order to become more responsive and resilient.
Mindfulness can be practiced in many different ways such as sitting meditation, walking meditation, movement practices, in everyday life and also by reading or creating poetry.
Poetry is Mindfulness and helps sharpening our awareness and understanding of our thinking mind and experiences to do with our emotions and relationship with events. It helps us identifying a particular theme like non-attachment, acceptance, connection, purpose and meaning. And it offers a taste of being good enough just as we are.
Any moment or experience can be turned into poetry as it happened to me this morning. Being fully present with a great sense of equanimity and bliss I walked down the beach to discover the unexpected.
Poetry by the Sea – A morning encounter of beauty, inspiration, love, connection and wisdom – A morning encounter of beauty, inspiration, love, connection and wisdom
This morning was welcomed by a beautiful blue sky with a few softy cotton clouds.
The rising sun added to the intensity of blue colour strengthening the contrast of white and blue. White puffy clouds (just a few) painted on a bright blue sky overseeing the ocean. Can you see it?
A gentle breeze diffuses the rising heat and gently strokes the skin on face and body. Warm feeling sensations grow inside the body as a subtle response to this loving touch. Can you feel it?
The attentive mind is fully aware, calm and present. Can you imagine it?
The body movements vary between sitting, standing and walking on and alongside the beach. The sand under the soles of the feet feels soft and gentle, firm and supportive. Can you sense it?
The sound of the ocean is very rhythmic, a coming and going sound. Silence in between. Can you hear it?
I am the pause, I am the moment, I am the sound, I am the sight, I am the touch, I am the sense … I am nature. One connection, one love walking on the beach on this beautiful morning.
As I am walking I realise that I am walking on a canvas of nature – a piece of art always changing. Thich Nhat Hanh comes to mind ‘Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet’. Yes, that feels home. I am home, I have arrived with every step, a soft touch, a gentle imprint not lasting long as the ocean is claiming its space.
Letters written on the sand are jumping into my eyes. Wondering who wrote a message for their beloved ones here? A male name written on sand, maybe a girl who wrote this to express her love. Who knows?
The walk continues and more letters forming words and words completing sentences appearing in front of me, on the sand. Beautifully written, very artistic and with love. You can see the loving effort that has gone into it. The completeness of letters connected to words are making sense the more I am walking and reading. My mind gets excited at this discovery of a free display of art on the sand. My heart opens up with joy, so very happy being here right now, being offered a quote by surprise. Who made this?
I am taking it in and feeling tremendously grateful of this moment. I am glad that I have chosen the attitude of walking as if I would be ‘kissing the earth with my feet’. Would I have seen this unfolding poetry on the beach canvas without this attitude? Maybe not.
Many people walk by, appear to be engaged with their minds attending to something else than this very moment in nature.
I am walking, touching the sand with the soles of my feet. Soft sand receives my foot print and a few moments later washed away by the ocean in the gentlest way an ocean can be. It is like the ocean too is kissing the earth.
‘Poetry is an act of peace. Peace goes into the making of a poet as flour goes into the making of bread’ – Pablo Neruda
At the end of this in the sand written quote there is an elderly man standing there and holding a bamboo writing stick in one hand, a camera in the other hand. A hat on his head protecting his skin from the sun, he is wearing a t-shirt and short pants. No doubt, he is the creator of this beautiful gesture inviting people to stop and read, to let the poetry and messages resonate from within.
The sound of his compassionate voice and the curiosity in his eyes make it very easy to connect. We chat about his art on the beach, the motivation behind, talking about grief and loss and watching the sea claiming back parts of the beach and washing away the letters and words he wrote. We both agree this is a great opportunity to practice letting go and to celebrate the witnessing of the ever changing elements of nature.
‘I WAS PUT ON THIS EARTH TO ACHIEVE MANY THINGS – AT THE MOMENT I AM SO FAR BEHIND I AM NEVER GOING TO DIE’ – GWS
Geoff’s loving efforts and creations have certainly made a difference to a few life’s this morning. And to mine too. It was an enriching encounter developing into something much bigger and lasting in mind and heart all day.
A new year is about to approach and the current year is about to end. The time between ending and beginning can be welcomed as a conscious and mindful transition time. Acknowledging and being aware of transition is an opportunity to stop, pause, reflect, review as an act of mindful self-inquiry. And this post provides some guidance for your mindful self-inquiry.
Mindful self-inquiry can be done in a formal practice of meditation focusing on a particular theme or questions. When you are doing this inquiry bring some playfulness to this practice, no force, no pushing, no pulling – simply be curious to the unfolding.
And here are a few guiding questions for your reflection:
- What comes to mind when reviewing the passing year?
- Is there a particular pre-dominant theme, thoughts or emotions surfacing right now?
- What is it exactly that I am noticing and how can this be felt in the body?
- What is the instant feeling tone whilst doing this self-inquiry?
And a few more questions might pop up for you:
- What stood out for me this year?
- Anything that felt very challenging and how was I able to cope with it?
- Is it still around or does it feel resolved?
- What felt pleasant and how did I relate to experienced pleasant events?
- Is there a person that comes to mind when thinking of the last year?
- Was there anything that felt demanding and forceful? And how did I relate to it?
- How did I take care of myself and was has helped to do so?
- If I struggled with putting myself first, what was in the way, what hindered me to allow myself?
Or if too many questions simply check-in and notice what is coming up for you when concluding this year? What are you noticing right now?
Again, bring an attitude of kindness, compassion and friendliness to whatever is coming to mind when doing this end of year reflections.
When deliberately and intentionally reviewing this year, a few things might pop up. Maybe the new year’s resolution of this passing year is showing up. Memories of good intentions, determination and good will including the enthusiasm encouraging you to do everything or a few things differently this year. Maybe you managed to follow your promises and intentions, maybe not.
There might also be some judgment coming up in case you didn’t succeed with your good intentions. Expectations of others, work, society could have been in the way of following the set intentions at the beginning of this year. Because of our underlying need to be accepted, recognised, appreciated, approved and be seen. And if our good intentions to do things differently differ too much with what is expected of us, we may give up and get hooked again in what others want us to do. This could be the result of avoiding being seen as not good enough and not being successful enough. A vicious cycle keeping us trapped and making it harder to step out. Has this happened to you? Please know that this happens to all of us. We all this common humanity.
Nevertheless, recognising this underlying pattern and motivation helps to gain greater confidence and to do whatever you feel is the right thing to do. This is your one life and you are good enough no matter what the EGO tells you, or what others have to say.
Say YES to putting yourself first as part of self-care and as an act of self-love. What are you passionate about? Is it different to what others are passionate about and could your passion possibly be seen as a waste of time? So what, who cares? Do whatever feels right for you.
And this takes us to the coming year.
Consider what is it that you wish to continue in the next year? Perhaps bringing an attitude of openness and friendliness to your experiences and encounters? Continuing with the practice of mindful movement, yoga, Pilates, relaxation and meditation? See whether it is possible to expand on this list and be open for new experiences. Add to this list right now: what other nourishing activities you want to expand on? …
In summary: use this transition time to reflect on what you are grateful for, what you can let go off, what nourishing activities you want to increase and if possible, consider what is it that you would like to try.
You don’t have to do this mindful reflection all at ones, revisit whenever it feels right. Do the self-inquiry whilst as part of your meditation practice (sitting, walking, moving). And use mindfulness of breathing as a tool for anchoring, settling, calming and new beginning.
If it feels right for you frequently check-in with the above questions and change or add whatever matters to you. Doing something different or new can take us straight into overwhelm.
Remember, if you do experience overwhelm or if you feel pushed out of your comfort zone be kind, practice calming strategies, e.g. mindfulness of the breath, soles of the feet, compassionate touch.
May you be well.