This too will change

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.

You are

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. 💕

Staying open and letting go

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.  

Turning arrows into flowers

“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.

Simple everyday mindfulness tips

The beauty of mindfulness is that it is meant to be practiced in our daily life. We are not only practicing when we are sitting on the meditation cushion. And essentially, the more we practice the more mindfulness becomes integrated into all that we do.

Here are some simple mindfulness techniques to do throughout the day

– When you wake up in the morning take a few moments to feel and get in touch with your breath. It’s a good idea to do this before going to sleep as well.

– Connect with your breath as much as you can during the day – do a short breathing anchor meditation. Notice how many times throughout the day you are in touch with your breath.

– Pay attention to moments when you shift from one position or activity to the next. For example getting up from the chair or sitting down. Do these as mindfully as possible. Stay in touch with your breath and notice how the movement feels in your body.

– Belly breathing. Notice how you are breathing right now. Put your hand on your stomach and take a few breaths all the way down to the belly, feeling how it expands on the in-breath and contracts on the out-breath.

– Slow walks. Take a walk while paying attention to how your body feels. Feel the soles of your feet against the ground when you take each step. Notice how your body feels when you are walking slowly and then how it feels when you take faster steps. Remember to also feel your breath now and then during the walk. Then also, try to pay as much attention to your surroundings. See the buildings or the trees, notice the colors, the shapes, the movement you can see. Then you can shift by noticing the scents you can feel, or the sounds that you can hear.

– Make a habit of noticing some positive situations during the day. One idea is to write them down in the evening. You can do the same with a negative situations or events that seem to stay with you, and pay attention especially how you react or respond to them, what reactions they might have caused in your body – without making any judgements.

Why practice mindfulness?

Mindfulness can be described as a way of waking up to life. In mindfulness, we practice how to relate to life with openness, curiosity, non-judgement, and compassion. We make a conscious effort to be present, here and now. It is a state of being truly awake. A state of really paying attention. A state of presence.

Even though mindfulness has gained more attention in the last few years – partially thanks to an increasing number of studies that show the benefits of the practice – there are still many misconceptions about what mindfulness is. It is not that strange considering it’s still a relatively new concept in the western world.

One common misconception is that practicing mindfulness means to passively sit around and allow everything in life to be as it is and to never really make any efforts to change anything. But mindfulness is not passivity at all. In truth, it takes some effort, mostly in the beginning when we are just getting into it and making it into a daily practice, and ultimately a way to live our life. I believe that living connected to ourselves, to others, and to here and now, is our natural state. But it takes effort – and intention – in part because of our conditioning, and because our everyday life these days doesn’t really make it easy for us to live mindfully.

The non-mindful life
For many of us, life is stressful. We tend to operate from a “flight or fight-mode” a lot of the time. Society, unfortunately, promotes quite a non-mindful and unconscious way of living. The human brain hasn’t really developed for the modern lifestyle that we have created, which explains why stress-related illnesses keep increasing. It can be painful to see how disconnected many of us are today from ourselves, each other and just life in general – life as it’s happening right now. Many discover mindfulness when they are searching for ways to deal with the difficulties of life, stress, anxiety or any kind of mental or physical pain. This is something we all share in our humanness – we all go through difficult times in one way or another at some point. Life is a constant ebb and flow, a constant change, and, in a way, mindfulness helps us to ride those waves of life as gracefully as possible. Most importantly, it takes us deeper into our humanity. And, I would say, it gifts us with courage to meet life fully.

Some benefits of mindfulness practice
– Lowers stress and anxiety. Mindfulness practice and meditation have been shown to lower the stress hormone cortisol.
– Improved sleep
– A stronger immune system
– Help with pain management
– More creativity
– More focus
– More compassion and kindness, towards ourselves and others
– We become better equipped to deal with difficulties in our life
– We open up to experience more joy and peace in our life

The mindfulness brain
Several newer studies show just how mindfulness helps when it comes to stress-related problems. What effect it has on the brain and how the practice helps to calm down our mind and put us into a more relaxed and receptive state. How it helps us shift from the fight-or-flight mode that so many of us are in more often than not these days. Or the dopamine-triggered-state, which has become an even bigger problem with the addictiveness of smart phones and apps.

I love seeing new studies having to do with neuroscience, as I find it super interesting. So I might write more about this further on. Our brains are so complex and fascinating, and there’s still so much to explore in this area. It’s exciting to me that science is beginning to bridge the gap between our modern lives and what has been known in some cultures and parts of the world for centuries. In a way, neuroscience is just further explaining things that humans already know from experience.