There’s one thing we can know for sure: this too will change.
Whatever it is, yes.
Some days will be easy, others hard.
The morning could be bright and sunny, and by evening there might be rain.
Just a quick reminder:
Whatever you are feeling right now is ok.
You’re allowed to feel it.
You can open up to it. A little, or a lot.
You can make space.
You can take a moment to feel how the body feels. Places you feel any tension. Places where you feel relaxed.
Connect to the breath.
Follow it for a few moments.
Allow it to be as it is.
For as long as you wish.
For as long as you need.
Then choose a valued direction – set an intention.
Return to it when you need to. Or set it again.
Make space for the weather, and remember the sky.
Lately, I’ve been writing about remembering.
There is this voice that I hear. The more I unplug from the many voices around me – the many distractions.
This voice grows stronger. Steadier.
It sits in my centre, like on a throne. And it is ready, at all times.
It is ready to bring me back.
To remind me. To let me know when I begin to drift.
It tells me: “No. That is not your way.”
It says: “No. We don’t go back. Those are old ways.”
It reminds me to return.
To come back.
To come back.
To myself. To here. To now.
To what I really know to be true.
It is my anchor. My lighthouse.
It says: “You have forgotten again. It’s ok. Just come back.”
Every time we forget, we can also remember. And we can return.
Breath by breath, we can begin again.
This is the practice.
And breath by breath, our foundation grows stronger. And that voice gets clearer.
Things will still happen. Feelings will come and go. We will have beautiful days, we will have bad days. But we can remember, and we can always return.
We can rest, knowing that there is a truth inside of us at all times.
It is there to hold us.
And that it will never let us down.
Wishing you a beautiful winter solstice. ❤
You are far more than the sum of your thoughts, ideas, opinions. Rest into what lies beyond, and feel it nourish you, give you life.
Pause, pay attention to the breath, feel into the space around it, and rest there.
Wishing you a beautiful weekend. 💕
Awareness brings clarity and empowerment. As we become aware of what arises in us, we can choose what to let go. There is no point in resisting what is already here, but we can practice seeing it all for what it is. By connecting to our presence, we can more clearly see what is ours and what not.
We cannot let go through struggle. Like a clenched fist trying to let go, it happens when the palm is open.
There are a lot of things we can let go of every day through staying open.
We can let go of what does not belong to us. We can let go of ideas and thoughts about who, what, and how we should be. Thoughts created by old, destructive values and conditioning.
We can let go of thoughts that are not beneficial to our well-being – and to those around us.
We can let go of the illusions (like the illusion that we really are our thoughts about ourselves).
We can acknowledge that for a brief while, maybe these ideas did serve us, maybe in some way they protected us. We can honour them, and let them go.
We can remind ourselves that they are based on the past, and that it’s ok to let them stay there.
We can let go of what is not ours. What we are not. What is not our Self.
Letting go is not a one time event, it happens over and over again.
We can put the past to rest, every new day. Every moment even.
We are always in the process of creation, and re-creation.
Something I’ve noticed over the years in the spiritual- or self-development realm, is how easily the path can lead us to self-criticism. This usually leads to nowhere, except possibly to more feelings of shame, and more judging of ourselves and in turn others as well.
Non-judgement is often talked about as one of the most important attitudes in mindfulness practice. But thinking about adopting a non-judgemental approach can make us feel inadequate if at that moment we feel far from it.
Whenever we think that we ”should” feel anything other than what we are feeling right now, we are often on the fast track to self-shame, judgement and criticism.
So here comes a reminder that in mindfulness practice there are no ”shoulds”. If there is anything to strive for, it’s to not judge our judging. This is the actual meaning of ”non-judgement”: to notice when we are being judgemental and to not judge ourselves for it.
Also, here is another, even more important reminder. Love and kindness are the antidotes to judgement.
This is the journey we are on. A call for love.
Here is a suggestion on how to work with these challenging emotions and thoughts.
We practice expanding our awareness of what we are feeling and thinking. This is the foundation of mindfulness practice.
This is the only way we will know when we have stepped into a state of self-judgement or criticism. In time we might learn to recognise the first or early signs of it happening. We might begin to recognise when it tends to happen, and what tends to cause it. When we get more intimate with ourselves in this way, we begin to get to know our common feelings and emotions better.
Next, we practice meeting those feelings with compassion and kindness.
We honour the place that we are at right now.
We practice being loving and kind to that part of ourselves.
We extend our love to these parts of us. They often carry our deepest wounds. It is also where the biggest opportunity for healing likely is.
If love or kindness feels too much of a stretch at that moment, see if you can meet your feelings with a little bit of curiosity. Feel where in the body you can sense the feeling the most? Get a little closer to it. See if you can even try to talk to it?
Why is it here?
Is there something it wants?
Is there something it is asking for?
Does it have something to say to you?
Can it show you something? Can you listen, even for just a brief moment?
See if you could extend love, kindness, or even simply some curious attention, to whatever is arising.
You are not here to remove or improve parts of you that you deem unwanted or unworthy. You are worthy and whole even on the days when you feel fragmented or broken.
We are all constantly in the process of change, just like all of nature and every living thing in this world.
Remember and connect to the place in you, where all of you is equally loved.
“What we call obstacles are really the way the world and our entire experience teach us where we are stuck.”
This quote is by one of my favourite Buddhist teachers Pema Chödrön. It’s from her incredible book When Things Fall Apart, which I highly recommend to anyone looking for wise words on how to meet difficulties in life.
These particular words encourage us to practice befriending what we see as an obstacle, instead of viewing it as the enemy. Pema Chödrön tells the story of how Buddha was sitting under a tree, on the night he was to attain enlightenment. While sitting there, he was attacked by the forces of Mara (illusion, desire, death and rebirth). The story goes that they shot swords and arrows at him, and because of his power of awareness, their weapons ended up turning into flowers.
She reminds us that we call obstacles, are really the way the world and our entire experience teach us where we’re stuck. What may appear to be an arrow or a sword, can turn into a flower, depending on our relationship with ourselves. The first step is being able to acknowledge and willing to meet whatever discomfort or pain that is arising. If we are not open to it, if we just push it away, it will be hard to find any teaching there, and to move through that place where we are stuck. Sometimes that is needed too, and the flower in that situation is just being aware of what and how we tend to push things away.
Mindfulness gives us awareness about when and in what ways we try to escape those difficult emotions (a natural thing we all do). It’s not something we should be hard on ourselves for, but instead see as very valuable information – it’s how arrows turn into flowers. Most importantly we will notice that we can fully meet all these experiences, which are a natural part of life. And that to be truly alive means to never really arrive. There will always be new arrows – but we learn that we can let life have its natural ebb and flow, and still rest in our presence and find wisdom there.
Through meditation and mindfulness we expand our awareness of the constant flow of thoughts, sensations and emotions that occur in each moment of our life. Through our practice, we also begin to notice the connection between the thoughts, sensations and emotions, and how they are constantly influencing one another. Awareness is key in our practice. In one way, meditation and mindfulness are an art of paying attention. To meditate is to really pay attention, deeply and sincerely.
Once we become aware of, for example, the thoughts that are arising in a given moment, we automatically create a little bit of space between our being and those thoughts, or the mind. In yoga, teachers often talk about creating space in the body. Most of the yoga poses are designed to lengthen the muscles, and as we do them, along with breathing deeply, we are creating more space in the body – so hopefully muscles that were previously tight or had knots in them, become expanded and relaxed. Energy can flow more freely in the body. Similarly, mindfulness and meditation create space, not just in the body and the mind, but it creates a sense of space that expands into all areas of our life. The truth is, this space is always present, but just like the space in a room it can become cluttered with objects so that it ends up being almost unnoticeable. When we have more space it becomes easier for us to notice the more subtle things in ourselves and in our life. We might see patterns in our behaviour and simply notice things we would have otherwise missed. So not only does this space give us a bigger sense of ease and peace, but just like a muscle that becomes stronger and more flexible, we become more and more perceptive, and more skilled in that art of paying attention.
To pay attention is also to focus or concentrate on something. In meditation we work with different techniques of concentration. A common one is focusing on the breath. As I mentioned in the previous post, our breath is a great tool for our practice because it is always there with us. And it connects us to our body and the present moment. Once we start practicing this in meditation, as well as our daily lives, even just by taking a few moments during the day to notice and feel the breath in our body, we will notice that space is starting to expand.
If you want, you can take a moment right now to notice your breath, how it feels in the body, how it is flowing in, and out. Pay attention to the small pauses between each in and outbreath. Maybe close your eyes for a few breaths, and see if you can notice any difference in how your body feels when you open your eyes.
I want to share one of the most simple mindfulness meditations, sometimes called a breathing anchor. The beauty of our breath is that it is always there with us, so it makes it a very good tool for focus and concentration, as well as a tool for connecting more to our own body and sensations – always right here and now.
This meditation or breathing anchor can be done at any time, for example if we want to take a break during the day or even when we are walking – in fact the more we do it the better. In this post I will explain it as a seated meditation.
1. If you want you can set a timer for 5 to 10 minutes – but of course you are welcome to sit for as long as you wish. Find a comfortable seat, perhaps a chair or sofa. Lower your shoulders and sit up straight, but not stiff. Find a position that you can hold for a few minutes, one that feels relaxed but also attentive. Close your eyes.
2. Direct your attention to the soles of your feet. How does the floor feel against your feet? How do your legs feel against the chair? Your back or shoulders against the back of the chair? See if you can notice any sensation anywhere in the body?
3. Now direct your attention to your breath. See how closely you can follow it. From the inhale, through the nose, down into your chest, and further down into your belly. Then all the way out again. Follow the natural flow of your breath. Where do you feel it the most? Perhaps in the nostrils, or the chest, or down in your stomach – perhaps when it expands on the inhale, and lowers on the exhale? See if you can notice the small pause between each exhale, and the following inhale. And the pause between each inhale, and the exhale. Can you feel the body expand on the inhale, and relax on the exhale?
4. Keep following each breath, as closely as you can. When your attention shifts from the breath – maybe you drift off into your thoughts, or to a sound you hear – just gently direct it back to your breath. All you need to do is notice when your attention is no longer on the breath and gently guide it back to it. As many times as necessary.
5. When you are ready you can end the meditation by taking three deep breaths, and notice how your body feels at the end.
Remember that you can connect with your breath at any moment, so you can do this meditation anywhere, even standing or walking, whenever you want to come back to the present moment or deepen your connection to it.