Tasting Mindfulness

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.”

Commit to Mindful Living

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.

Be well.

The art of self-kindness and compassion

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.

The many faces of Mindfulness – Poetry

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.


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.


Mindful transition into the New Year

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.

End of year preparations

Every year Christmas (oh miracle) is on again. And although this is actually well-known, you may be surprised how quickly the year has passed, and automatically you may fall into the annual hustle and bustle at the end of the year … Sounds familiar?

Somehow you be running out of time, or getting a sense that you are running out of time, so you may have to make all the preparation urgent. And in addition, the house has to be decorated, biscuits to be baked, the ham to be organized, gifts to be shopped and wrapped and various Christmas functions to be attended. Phew …

How can mindfulness help you to stay calm and peaceful? Below are some tips for you:

  1. Be aware of what is really important to you at Christmas. What do you like, what do you appreciate and how much “do you care” about these things. Think about how you can live more fully in your daily life with mindfulness.
  2. Who is particularly important to you? With whom do you want to spend time, or have a nice glass of wine, or do some shopping … perhaps sitting under the Christmas tree, or celebrating joyfully with your loved ones?
  3. With all the gifts and delights, deliberately consider: who would you like to give a present to, and what kind of gift? And why, what is the intention: heartjoy, love, gratitude?
  4. Practice mindfulness: allow yourself time to step out to be present, i.e., a walk, a cup of tea, a glass of wine, a breathing exercise. Main thing is, you do it with intention.
  5. Take a moment to think about what you are grateful for. This can really be anything: people, tasks, and the many “little things” that make life lifeable and so often overlooked … Feel this feeling of gratitude, perhaps the joy that comes from it.

In general, less is often more! Not the quantity but the quality counts. Only one thing cannot be done often enough: always be aware of what you are really grateful for!

24 Days Meditation Challenge

It is the time of the year where we might feel exhausted, tired, and stressed. It causes some pressure regarding the end of year preparing. The holiday season can even cause some anxiety and that certainly doesn’t help to the nervous system to relax. The more you feel running out of time, and certainly not being able to shuffle 10 minutes aside for yourself, the more you need the time out.

You may remember that you came up with a great new years solution and plan for 2018. Mainly to do with your well-being and health. What happened there? Did you manage to carve out time for making yourself number one priority? If yes, congratulations. If the answer is No then don’t get too upset; simply start now. In the end it is your choice what you are going to do with your time. Just keep in mind pushing yourself to the limit without any down time might not be sustainable.

This 24 day meditation calendar is a gift for you from me and an invitation to catch up on your good intentions, to conclude this year with dignity, calm and peace.


You can make it. Good luck.

‘Don’t miss the moment‘ – Awakening Joy – How I have met James Baraz

James Baraz and myself, Yarra Valley, VIC, Australia, 2014







This post is about how I have met James Baraz – the co-founder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California (https://www.spiritrock.org/), the founder of THE AWAKENING JOY program (https://www.awakeningjoy.info/)  and the co-author of AWAKENING JOY (https://www.amazon.com/Awakening-Joy-10-Steps-Happiness/dp/1937006220).

This post is also an invitation to sign up for his Perth workshop in November 2018 (more info at the end of this post).

I have met James Baraz during a retreat in the YARRA Valley in Victoria (Australia) at the end of 2014. James Baraz and Jill Shepherd co-led this insight retreat in this magnificent landscape close to Melbourne.

After arriving at the retreat venue and being allocated a bed in a shared room of five people and moving in for the next seven days, I noticed a little bit of exhaustion, nervousness and tension in my body. For one, it was simply the tiredness after such a long travel (flight Perth to Melbourne, then 2hrs care drive) and two, adjusting to sharing a room with four other people, and three, not knowing what this retreat would be like.

I had a very tough year claiming a lot of grief, tension and heaviness in my mind and body. I must admit I was craving for some quiet, for recollection, rejuvenating and greater clarity. There could have not been a better time for this retreat. I felt it was the right space for me to review and conclude 2014 with kindness, embodiment and ease.

Once settled into my accommodation, I went for a little wonder exploring other facilities like the meditation hall, the garden and the walking path.

And then I met James Baraz. A dharma teacher, who was greeting and meeting everyone briefly with a huge smile in his face, with a few words of welcome and love, with an open heart making everyone feeling special and cared for. I have met many dharma teachers, all carrying, humble and loving, but there was something very special about James. Maybe it was his genuine and authentic, very natural and heart warming welcome, his offering of an exchange of loving words and HIS BIG SMILE … Meeting James in this very moment and being in his presence made me feeling very special and safe. I knew right then that he would be there anytime in case my mind, or heart, or body or all together would fall apart during the retreat. Time to relax J

In his daily dharma talks James was speaking about awareness, gratitude, forgiveness, love, joy, compassion, mindfulness, wisdom realities, equanimity and taught us every day a little more on how to apply all these aspects in relation to each moment of our existence. He spoke about the dance of awareness where everything noticing intention comes before action, so one moment to another can string together and dance in a flow.

James spoke about the relationship between wisdom and compassion and the four sublime states of Brahma Vihara: loving- kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity. He talked about the willingness and capacity to face and embrace suffering and acknowledged the amount of courage and compassion this would take. Both, compassion and joy combined and in full balance leads to equanimity, a balanced and non-reactive mind.

James guided us through many shorter and longer practices of Brahma Vihara. Here a re a few examples to recite and cultivate self-compassion by practicing this on a regular basis (and if it feels right placing the left hand over your heart region or any other body part during the practice)

In this moment there is suffering.

Suffering is part of life.

May I hold it in kindness and compassion.


I am aware of this pain.

I care about this pain.

At the right time may this pain release.

May I know peace.


May I hold my experience with balance and ease.

It is as it is.

Life is unfolding as it should.

It is like this.

Right now.


The profound richness and depth of James teachings have offered me a lot of insight, and it indeed made me feeling much happier and joyful at the end of this silent retreat. I’d gained new perspectives in relation to a few issues that had caused me so much suffering during the year. And returning from the retreat offered me an opportunity to conclude a few chapters of pain with compassion and forgiveness. Something I thought would not have been possible at all. However, in the end it was so very liberating and freeing.

Reflecting back on my retreat experience and of James in particular makes me smiling, remembering what he often said at the very end of each day: ‘DON’T MISS THE MOMENT’ and a few other encouragements like ‘Stop and start again. That is always an option’, ‘Peace is always within’, ‘Don’t cure, but care’ and last, but not least ‘You don’t have to figure it out’.

James and his wife Jane Baraz are visiting Australia in 2018. Please check workshop and retreat dates online and see whether you can attend.

About James and Jane Baraz

James Baraz has a master’s degree in psychology and has been a mindfulness meditation teacher since 1978. He is a co-founding teacher of the prestigious Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California, is a guiding teacher for One Earth Sangha (a website devoted to expressing a Buddhist response to climate change), has taught at the Esalen Institute since 1983, and has led retreats and workshops throughout North America and Europe for more than 30 years. In addition, he created the Awakening Joy course in 2003 and is the co-author of Awakening Joy: Ten Steps to Happiness, the book based on the course. He is also the co-author of Awakening Joy for Kids, which won the 2016 Nautilus Parenting and Family Gold Award. James lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, Jane. He has two sons and three grandchildren. For more information, please visit www.awakeningjoy.info

Jane Baraz, MA, is an instructor of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at the University of California Medical Center.  She has been meditating since 1976 and is a founding board member of Spirit Rock Meditation Center. Jane completed professional training in MBSR with Jon Kabat-Zinn and is also a trained teacher in Mindful Self-Compassion.  She teaches for both the community at large and for a special National Institute of Health study to investigate whether mindfulness can slow down cognitive decline in patients suffering from HIV.   In addition to teaching at the medical center, Jane teaches courses and weeklong retreats at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, The Cancer Support Community, and in Europe and Australia. Jane enjoys bringing a friendly, gentle attitude to meditation practices and infuses her teaching with guidance for bringing more self-compassion into our lives.




Get yourself of the cushion and meditate in nature.

I just came back from Europe where I meditated quite a few times in nature. Every morning I cycled to a lake for my morning swim and on the ride I could hear the sound of nature, bird sound, leave sound, air and water sound. I could smell the soil beneath and see the lush green of the trees and grass wrapping the path I was cycling on. I fell in love with my early morning routine in this summer in Germany. One morning I stopped to record the sound of nature to be able to share this with like-minded friends (please feel free to click on the below meditations for your practice).

Being in nature makes me feeling fully connected on the inside and outside, to the space and the relative stillness – it makes me feeling one with this moment. Arriving at the lake I always felt welcomed by the ducks and the wild geese on the grass or in the water. Sometimes, we shared the lake and swam together. I could see the ducks and geese paddling through the water and I could hear them communicating with each other. I watched the duck mothers walking their little ones to the water and helping them to swim, cute and simple. No reason for me to leave or to change anything – just to be and to meditate with my eyes.

People often think that meditation has to be done on the cushion in a cross-legged posture and unmoving. I am so glad that there is always choice and there are many different ways of meditating. The invitation of this post is that you make time for meditating in nature. Meditation in nature offers you working with all senses and it helps you seeing more clearly how the here and now is unfolding. Continue reading “Get yourself of the cushion and meditate in nature.”

The ‘being busy’ demand and how we can relate to it

‘I am busy’ seems to be the default answer to the question: ‘How are you?’ The ‘I am well, how are you?’ automatic response seems to be replaced by ‘I am busy, you too?’. Telling each other how we busy we are is indicating how important we are, and it also implies that being busy is the new ‘usual’. Being busy is a benchmark that ‘decides’ who is worthy, or who is not, who is important, or who is not, who is lovable or who is not and so on. The ‘I am busy, I am worthy’ message does have the potential to be an underlying driver of our response and believe in being busy all the time.

The ongoing multi-tasking overload, the constant need to be on the go, every minute checking of our phones, the jumping from one task to the next, juggling demands, appointments and meetings is fed by the need to control our lives all the time. No wonder why we believe we are busy, because there is so much to do at home or at work. Workloads are increasing, resources and budgets are dropping, we are expected to do more for and with less. Everywhere is demand and there doesn’t seem to be an end to it. The result is that we feel exhausted and stressed and we do the best we can to meet daily challenges. And we accept and believe that life is busy – full stop.

Brené Brown once said: ‚one of the most universal numbing strategies is what I call crazy-busy’. There is no need to be busy. Of course, there are many tasks and duties we got to do, but believing we are busy all the time doesn’t seem to help, and it doesn’t seem to be a true reflection of facts. We are feeling busy because it feels good, it implies a status symbol and provides a sense of being in charge and being important. Being busy doesn’t mean that we must make tough decisions, decisions are already made, and we simply act on it. External demands and circumstances are in control of our way of lives. So being busy is an easy way out. It actually takes courage to step out of this vicious cycle.

‘Ben Hunnicutt, professor of leisure studies at the University of Iowa, explains, busy is actually one of the seven deadly sins; it is slothfulness. In the Middle Ages, slothfulness had two forms: one is lazy, the other – acedia – is running about frantically. “There is no real place I’m going, but by God, I’m making great time getting there.” (taken from Tony Crabbe, https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/five-reasons-everyone-busy-tony-crabbe/ ) How thought provoking.

Yes, think about it. There are many reasons why we are busy: avoiding making tough decisions, being addicted (dopamine release), society demand, reward and expectations.

So, the question is how can we work with this trend more wisely, and how can we respond with mindfulness and compassion?

A few questions to consider: what to say when being ask ‘are you busy too?’, ‘how to deal with the inner critic and judgment?’, ‘how to deal with a sense of unworthiness that might be evoked when our answer is ‘I am not busy’?’, and ‘how to deal with a sense of guilt that may surface when we are not buying into the mandatory busyness default reaction?’.

What to answer: As we all know the answer is not only words, it also contains non-verbal cues and can be displayed in posture, facial expression and gestures. Perhaps taking in an attitude of compassion for the other could help to start with. Take a breath or two before responding. Be aware that the feeling of being busy has underlying reasons (fear to be unimportant, unworthy, unlovable, bored, underachiever, vulnerable). Rather than saying ‘yes, I am busy too’ – see whether it is possible to say ‘I am focusing on … at the moment’.

Dealing with the inner critical voice and feeling of guilt: Keep in mind that probably no one ever said to you ‘what, you are not busy, then you must not be important, or must not be clever, or must not skilled enough’. Right? But you can hear that voice inside acting as if this would be the truth. The good thing is that it is not the truth. It is just our mind that is making it up.

Nevertheless, you are perceiving and experiencing a combination of tasks not as busy, but your mind may come up with the same story again ‘what, you are not busy?, ‘everyone is, what is wrong with you, you should be busy, others are too, you should work harder …’ Does that sound familiar? And it might evoke a sense or feeling of guilt too.

The invitation is to simply notice and acknowledge the thoughts, to bring kindness to the mind and body by practicing self-compassion. Descend awareness into the body, ground and anchor yourself. For example, being aware of the soles of your feet, being aware of all senses, placing your hands over that part of the body where you feel the judgement or guilt or any other feeling the most. Notice the gentle touch and the gentle rising and falling of this part of the body with every in-and outbreath.

The regular practice of mindfulness meditation and compassion helps developing greater capacity for attending to and being with any discomfort. The brain becomes less hooked and reactive with further practice. A very useful practice for  coping is the three minute breathing space. Feel free to listen and practice it on https://soundcloud.com/mindfulness2go/three-minute-breathing-space

Explore your relationship with ‘being busy’: Do you find yourself saying ‘I am busy’ very often? Then a good way to explore this to list every task and activity right from waking up in the morning until you go back to bed at the end of the day.

Write down what happens during the day, morning, afternoon, evening, work days, weekends. Maybe just chose one typical day of yours and see whether you can be detailed and specific (include brushing teeth, shower etc). Once the list is done have a look at it. What do you notice?

Then go through every task on the list and divide the list into things that lift your mood or that feel nourishing and into things that feel more draining or depleting. Put an ‘N’ next to all things that are perceived as nourishing and put a ‘D’ next to all things that dampen your mood. Sometimes you may not be able to decide whether it is nourishing or depleting. Then put ‘N/D’ next to it.

Investigate and consider depleting activities that can be stopped or that might feel a bit more nourishing if you would bring a different approach to them?

Ordinary and routine tasks may often feel depleting. What would happen if you could bring a beginner’s mind to it? Here is a way to consider ‘The cup in your hands. . . There are two ways to wash the dishes. The first is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second is to wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes. . . . If while washing the dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.” What’s more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future – and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.’ (Thich Nhat Hanh ‘The Miracle of Mindfulness’)

Back to the list. Having a look at the nourishing activities and considering how you could have more of them? Is there anything you could let go of to have nourishing activities more often? Explore your sense of busyness. Look for where there are any attempts to fill space with stimulation. Can you bring more mindfulness presence to it?

It is OK to not be busy. It is OK to be focused or having a sense of accomplishment without any sense of busyness. It is OK to pause and stop and to think clearly, and to fill the gaps with awareness and presence. It is OK to just BE.