As the end of the year approaches I find myself reflecting on the year that has been and wondering what the new one will bring. Quite unintentionally, this year has turned out to be one of self-discovery. It has been difficult at times as I have been confronted with some insights that initially made me uncomfortable. As a result, I have gone round in circles and, despite these insights, have reverted back to old and familiar ways of being at various times during the year. Slowly, however, I am allowing them to resurface again and I think I am starting to accept and even embrace them rather than resist. Ironically, I feel I have actually made significant progress this year by slowing things down and not rushing into things. Taking the time to notice what is really going on within has been powerful.
So many unanticipated things have happened this year that I am thankful for. I have re-discovered my love of running (thank you Julia and Shauna!). Running has re-invigorated and inspired me; made me so much more aware of and grateful for my physical being; helped me cultivate more self-discipline; increased my self-confidence; and shown me the power of consistency. I have also made some wonderful and unexpected connections with people this year, whether though my online running group, the Do What You Love e-course I took recently or starting this blog. The support and encouragement I have received from people that I have not yet met has been overwhelming.
I don’t usually think too much about the year ahead, however I am keen to sustain and build on the positives from this year and so I have been turning my mind to the new year recently. I recently discovered Susannah Conway’s blog, ‘Notes on Unravelling the Heart’ and I love the look of her workbook which she has posted to ‘help you unravel your year ahead and say farewell to the year behind’. It looks perfect for the long plane trip back to Australia. I’m really looking forward to a break and re-connecting with friends and family as well as enjoying the light and natural beauty of Australia that I miss so much.
Whatever your plans for the festive season I wish you a happy and peaceful time.
This morning I received an email from a friend who thought I would enjoy this video. I loved it! It was a lovely start to my day. I hope you enjoy it too.
On May 2, 2011, the Copenhagen Philharmonic amazed commuters at the Copenhagen Central Train Station, as they created a kind of orchestral “flash mob” – performing Ravel’s famed Bolero, with the musicians gradually assembling in place as the work progresses. The video – which shows not only the assembling orchestra, but also the delighted faces of the commuters – has generated overwhelming interest, and indeed has exceeded the orchestra’s expectations.
(text from Classical Archives)
Over the weekend I stumbled across an interview with Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh in which he speaks about the connection between mindfulness and eating . I found his response to a question about the role of mindfulness in his everyday life very moving. He said this -
“Mindfulness makes life beautiful and meaningful. When I am mindful of my in-and-out breath and relax my whole body, I am in touch with how good it is to be alive. I am in touch with my state of health and feel grateful for everything that is going well in my body. Then with mindfulness I can be aware of the beauty of the sky, the smile of the flower, the singing of the birds. I can be deeply in touch with my own suffering and hold it with love and tenderness, rather than suppressing it or running from it. Because I can be truly present for myself, I can be truly present for those I live with, listening deeply to them and speaking words that inspire hope and self-confidence. In this way, I can bring joy to someone each morning and relieve the pain of someone each afternoon.”
What exactly is ‘mindfulness’? In his book ‘The Miracle of Mindfulness’ Thich Nhat Hanh uses the term ‘mindfulness’ to refer to “keeping one’s consciousness alive to the present reality”. He emphasises the importance of practising mindfulness, not only during sitting meditation sessions, but in daily life. He gives the example of practising mindfulness when talking a walk by keeping alive the thought ‘In this present moment I am walking’. Remaining mindful while walking could also involve noticing the sensations in your body as you walk, the sound and feeling of your feet as they strike the ground or the rhythm of your breath. He gives many other examples of how we can practise mindfulness in our daily lives. When washing the dishes trying to remain aware that in that moment you are washing the dishes – really paying attention to what you are doing rather than thinking about an unresolved issue at work or what you are keen to get on with as soon as the dishes are done; when drinking a cup of tea remaining mindful and appreciative of the delicious hot tea as you drink it; when brushing your teeth being really aware that that is what you are doing rather than drifting off with your thoughts. Daily acts such as these present us with an opportunity to practice mindfulness.
Of course, all of this is easier said than done! It sounds so simple and yet I find practicing mindfulness in my daily life incredibly difficult. Even when I remember to practice mindfulness I find sustaining it very challenging. I suppose this indicates just how important it is for me to keep at it, especially at this time of year which can so easily build into a frenzy of stress and busyness.
Do you practice mindfulness in your daily life? Next time you eat an apple why not try Thich Nhat Hanh’s ‘Apple Meditation’.
Ha ha! I’m definitely the second one. And you?
(from Pleated Jeans as seen on A Cup of Jo)
Since my previous post I’ve been thinking about the fact that I have often resisted aspects of my nature and wished that I were otherwise – witty, commanding, quick on my feet, comfortable in groups, decisive, ambitious, tougher. I’ve sometimes felt that possessing such attributes would make life more straightforward and easier to manage. Reading an article by Kate James of Total Balance recently I was struck by what Kate had to say about being sensitive. Kate says that she used to think that her sensitivity was a flaw that she wanted to change but didn’t know how to. Over time she has come to value her sensitive nature and realises that, despite it sometimes making life more difficult, it enhances her life in wondrous ways. Her words are beautiful and they really resonated with me. When I stop and pay attention I can see that there are many positive qualities in the aspects of my nature that I resist. Noticing them has helped me start to accept and appreciate them more. Thank you Kate!
Yesterday I unexpectedly discovered that Kermit the Frog has a similar message. I obviously didn’t fully appreciate his simple yet wise words as a child but I have had a lot of pleasure revisiting them. What an endearing creature!
“It’s not easy being green. Having to spend each day the colour of the leaves. When I think it could be so much nicer being red, or yellow or gold. Or something much more colourful like that.
It’s not easy being green. It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things. And people tend to pass you over ’cause you’re not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water. Or stars in the sky.
But green’s the colour of Spring. And green can be cool and friendly-like. And green can be big like an ocean, or important like a mountain, or tall like a tree.
When green is all there is to be. It could make you wonder why, but why wonder, why wonder, I am green and it’ll do fine. It’s beautiful and I think it’s what I want to be”