I love how my walk down the road with our dog brings me all sorts of surprises. I told you already about the snail I met. Today it was a kingfisher – the only dash of blue, high up on the tree. Yes, I found a spot of blue in the greens…. I had to snap a picture – slightly distorted because I had to make sure that Lucky didn’t get away while I took it.
Finding The Blue In The Greens
I love how we can find the extraordinary in the every day ordinary events of our lives. There’s always something special to find if we look. If we are mindful.
Even when life is at its hardest, it’s possible to find that little ray of light. That small thread of hope. Grace shining through when we feel we’ve messed up our lives.
What is required to make a place holy?
The ordinary becoming extraordinary,
The common interrupted for a moment
that we wish would last forever,
God coming into our forest, decorating our trees,
Inviting us to remove our shoes.
– Rev. Robin Ringland
Last month I met a snail – a big, seemingly clumsy fellow (let’s assume he’s a ‘fellow’) who was wandering down the road right into the path of a cars and vehicles. Thinking I would ‘save’ him I attempted to push him off the road and onto the flower beds. Later that day, I found him wandering on the road again. I decided to leave him to his own devices and am happy to report that I found no snail corpse to prove my fears were right. So apparently he knew what he was up to.
Feeling At Home In The Now
Mr Snail caused me to stop and think of several things about h
- He knew where he was going.
- He set his own pace and was happy in it
- When he was put off the path, he found his way back again…
Most of all, I realized he was at home. Because for him, literally home is where he was at the present.
Today, I saw this lovely cartoon from Francois Lange ,thought of my snail friend again and realized what an apt choice he was to give meaning to the words of Eckhart Tolle.
When you make friends with the present moment, you feel at home no matter where you are.
Image via : http://www.sketchesinstillness.com/
Home is a space where we can most be ourselves. It needn’t be a physical space, it could be a physical state. I’m drawn to think of what Tara Brach in her book Radical Acceptance describes ‘querencia‘ to be a great description for ‘home’.
“In bullfighting there is an interesting parallel to the pause as a place of refuge and renewal. It is believed that in the midst of a fight, a bull can find his own particular area of safety in the arena. There he can reclaim his strength and power. This place and inner state are called his querencia. As long as the bull remains enraged and reactive, the matador is in charge. Yet when he finds his querencia, he gathers his strength and loses his fear. From the matador’s perspective, at this point the bull is truly dangerous, for he has tapped into his power.”
Feeling at home in the now is to be the most fearless we can be.
Do you feel at home in the now?
Image credit for snail on the dirt track – Shutterstock
I keep making promises to myself to write more on mindfulness. But it hasn’t happened as yet. Instead, today, I’d like to showcase the quotes of one of the masters of mindfulness – Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. Today he celebrates his 90th birthday. I always associate him with the concept of mindfulness because I first heard of it through his writings. I thought it was only fitting that I do this post today.
Who is Thich Nhat Hanh
He is a global spiritual leader, poet, and peace activist, revered throughout the world for his powerful teachings and bestselling writings on mindfulness and peace. His key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment—the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world.
Thich Nhat Hanh has published over 100 titles on meditation, mindfulness, and Engaged Buddhism, as well as poems, children’s stories, and commentaries on ancient Buddhist texts. He has sold over three million books in the United States alone, some of the best-known include Peace Is Every Step, The Miracle of Mindfulness, The Art of Power, True Love and Anger.
Thich Nhat Hanh has been a pioneer in bringing Buddhism to the West, founding six monasteries and dozens of practice centers in the United States, Asia, and Europe, as well as over 1,000 local mindfulness practice communities, known as ‘sanghas.’ He has built a thriving community of over 600 monks and nuns worldwide, who, together with his tens of thousands of lay students, apply his teachings on mindfulness, peace-making, and community-building in schools, workplaces, businesses – and even prisons – throughout the world. – via
Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation
Thich Nhat Hanh Quotes
“Life is available only in the present moment.”
“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
“When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.”
“Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos — the trees, the clouds, everything.”
“The source of love is deep in us and we can help others realize a lot of happiness. One word, one action, one thought can reduce another person’s suffering and bring that person joy.”
“Around us, life bursts with miracles–a glass of water, a ray of sunshine, a leaf, a caterpillar, a flower, laughter, raindrops. If you live in awareness, it is easy to see miracles everywhere. Each human being is a multiplicity of miracles. Eyes that see thousands of colors, shapes, and forms; ears that hear a bee flying or a thunderclap; a brain that ponders a speck of dust as easily as the entire cosmos; a heart that beats in rhythm with the heartbeat of all beings. When we are tired and feel discouraged by life’s daily struggles, we may not notice these miracles, but they are always there.”
“The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”
Happy birthday, Thich Nhat Hanh. Keep inspiring us!
Picture credit for Water Drop from Shutterstock
In this crazy life, it can be difficult to slow down and appreciate your surroundings, even when you want to. One way that you can make your life more peaceful is by practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is a system of engaging in your current circumstances by taking notice of your physical and emotional experiences. A body of research indicates that this practice can lead to improved physical and mental health. Does that sound good to you? If so, here are some tips for incorporating the principles of mindfulness into your everyday life.
Practicing Mindfulness From Dawn Until Dusk
Sunny Side up
You can start your mindfulness practice from the moment you wake up. Hitting the snooze button always seems so satisfying, but several studies have indicated that doing so actually makes you less alert for the rest of the day. If you get out of bed the first time your alarm rings, you will be more awake and capable of engaging in your surroundings all day long.
Meditation is an important feature of mindfulness, and yoga is its traditional physical outlet. Pairing the two is a surefire way to invigorate yourself for the day ahead. All you need is a ten-minute routine to wake up your body and mind. Accomplishing this small but significant task first thing in the morning will arm you with the mindset you need to meet your daily goals.
Food for Thought
People often rush through their meals without a second thought. However, food is an essential part of life, and you can acknowledge its importance by eating mindfully. Mindful eating is not about meticulously counting calories. Rather, it is about respecting your body and the world around it. One way to do this is by choosing foods that are both nutritious and sustainably sourced. For example, Hampton Creek foods are made by a company whose goal is to change the way we consume food for the better. They combine healthy ingredients with responsible manufacturing practices for some delectable results.
Once you have chosen foods you feel good about putting in your body, you should make an effort to be fully present to the experience of eating. Instead of chowing down as fast as you can, take time to notice the tastes and textures of your food. Not only will enjoy what you are eating more fully, but you will also be more grateful to have it in front of you in the first place.
Another important aspect of mindfulness is being fully engaged in your surroundings. You can put this principle into practice by focusing on having better conversations with your friends, family, and coworkers. Demonstrate that you are listening carefully by maintaining eye contact and having an open posture. Instead of just throwing out an “Oh, really?” every once in a while, ask specific follow-up questions about what the person you are talking to is saying. Active listening engenders meaningful interactions, which help you forge deeper connections with the people who are important to you.
Unwind and Relax
Having a relaxing nighttime ritual is just as important as having a stimulating morning routine. Instead of zoning out with brain candy, try reading books or watching programs that engage your intellect. Turning off all screens at least thirty minutes before you go to sleep will help you wind down for the evening.
One hallmark of practicing mindfulness is keeping a journal, and your screen-free time before bed is a good time to make entries. Write down five things you are thankful for, or simply document what happened that day. It does not matter exactly what you write as long as you are engaging in some form of reflection. If you prefer not to meditate in the morning, doing it just before bed could be a helpful relaxation technique. After you have gone through your nighttime routine, you can turn out the lights and drift off to sleep.
Make Each Day Count
Your life is busy, and it is probably not going to slow down on its own. Instead, you have to learn to create your own peaceful oasis in the midst of all the chaos. Approaching life with mindfulness will not solve all of your problems overnight, but it can certainly put many of them into perspective. By cultivating the ability to appreciate each moment, you will feel more at peace with the world around you. There is no time like the present to start making every day count.
A long, long time ago and very far away, in the land of ‘If-and-when’ there lived a young woman. As was the habit of all the residents of this land, our girl too would be heard telling herself, ‘I will be happy if………..’ or ‘My heart will overflow with joy when……….’ You can only imagine how sad the people of this land were. They didn’t enjoy the beauty of Nature around them, or appreciate the love in their life. They took all their blessings for granted. In fact, they more or less put their lives on hold while they waited for those events they thought would make them happy and joyful.
This girl took things a little further. Whenever, she accidentally had a happy moment or an enjoyable experience, she would be quick to tell herself, “This isn’t going to last, so you better not get used to it.” She, like Charlie Brown, was afraid to be happy. She’d always make herself think dark thoughts, so that when bad things happened, she’d be prepared for them.
Very soon bad things did start to happen to her – she hadn’t realized how powerful self-fulfilling prophecies were. It wasn’t until she fell into a dark pit of despair and discouragement, that she realized that this was no way to live. A new way of thinking and living was what she needed.
She looked inside herself and found that there were indeed things about herself she could be happy about. She looked around the world and found that there was so much beauty in it. So much to enjoy, so many things to laugh about, and endless things to be grateful for.
She moved out of the land of ‘If-and-when’ and decided to move to the land of ‘The-present-moment’. In this land, live people who have learned to find pleasure in little things, who don’t miss out on the Now in a pursuit of extraordinary things. They take pleasure in a puppy’s antics, laugh at their own idiosyncrasies, enjoy every lick of ice-cream and are grateful for all they have at this very moment.
And our not-so-young-woman-anymore lives there now, happy to share her experiences and hopeful that others too will move to this land of joy!
“Joy comes to us in ordinary moments. We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary” – Brené Brown
Today I’m adding responding the #FridayReflections Brené Brown quote prompt.
I’m also responding to the Finish The Sentence Friday prompt “A long, long time ago and very far away, there lived…” hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee and this week’s sentence thinker-upper, Deborah Lovel Bryner from Life is Like a Hand Grenade.
Today I’m happy to share ‘Safe Spaces’ – an extract from Just As You Are: Buddhism for Foolish Beings.
Satya Robyn is a Buddhist Priest & runs a Pureland temple in Malvern in the UK with her husband Kaspa. She’s also a novelist & psychotherapist. Find out more about Satya on her website – SatyaRobyn.com and about the temple here.
My first connection with Satya and Kaspa was via their lovely website : Writing Our Way Home – Engage The World Through Mindful Writing. When they announced that they would be moving on to set up a Buddhist Temple I was intrigued.
Then recently an update from them spoke of their new book, ‘Just As You Are: Buddhism for Foolish Beings’. I wrote to Satya asking to feature the book here. She very kindly allowed me to share an extract of the book with you.
Just As You Are: Buddhism for Foolish Beings is for anyone who wants to live a good life but is tired of endlessly trying to perfect themselves.
Pureland Buddhism takes a realistic view of our foolish natures as human beings, and offers us an alternative to the ‘do it yourself’ self-help movement. With anecdotes of temple life and instructions for simple Pureland practices, the authors introduce us to this ancient and unique tradition of Buddhism and show us how it can make a powerful difference to our everyday lives.
Covering topics such as trust, overcoming suffering, grace, being kind and self-care, the book also contains the voices of different Pureland Buddhists speaking of their own diverse experiences. This book shows us how we are all lovable just as we are, and that understanding this is the key to deep and lasting change.
Buy on Amazon
Safe Spaces by Satyavani
Last night I sat in a circle with four people I’m close to and lied to them.
Every Sunday evening in the temple we sit in a circle and pass a stone, taking turns to speak and be listened to.
These kinds of spaces are incredibly rare. I’m always amazed at how the stone produces a kind of magic. The words we speak (whatever they are) take on a preciousness as the others all listen quietly. The words of others become tender and wise. The space between us fills up with empathy – we can really begin to understand what it’s like for others at the circle to live their lives. (Much like it is for us to live ours.)
I usually come away from the circle feeling warm and fuzzy. Last night I came away feeling resentful and tired. When I had the stone I talked lightly about my week and what I was doing tomorrow.
My lies were lies of omission. What I should have said was: I really didn’t want to come along to the Listening Circle tonight. I’m tired of people. I’m grumpy. I don’t want to listen to anyone. Now leave me alone.
I don’t know what would have happened next if I’d started with that. I might have felt more angry. I might have cried. I might have realised what the grumpiness was about. But I think it probably would have brought me closer to the people I was sitting with, rather than distancing me further.
“Our society is so fragmented, our family lives so sundered by physical and emotional distance, our friendships so sporadic, our intimacies so ‘in-between’ things and often so utilitarian, that there are few places where we can feel truly safe.” Henri J M Nouwen
Safe spaces are scarce for most of us. Even when we find them, it’s not easy to make use of them. It’s not always appropriate to share what’s in our heart, and often we are too afraid to show others what’s really going on. I didn’t share more honestly because I was scared – of being rejected, of hurting others. That’s okay – that’s how it was last night.
But if you can look again and find somewhere safe, you will find the magic. I can feel it now. The magic that arises in the circle is a warm and accepting tenderness.
Where are your safe spaces? How can you find more of them?