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Two common phrases this time of year are “Peace on Earth” and “Happy New Year”. Like many phrases they can be hollow unless we actually put our energy and intention toward manifesting peace and happiness.
Because of negativity bias and our own habits and patterns, it can challenging to change, even if we want to grow peace and happiness in our garden of life.
We make New Year’s resolutions and often they don’t manifest quickly and easily. We may feel like we have failed and become cynical, thinking we can never improve our outlooks. BUT, it is just like coming back to the breath. We can begin again, nothing lost!
If you are working with anxiety here’s a wonderful link to a short segment from the TODAY show’s recent broadcast about mindfulness and anxiety.
When we get stuck with unwholesome habits and patterns we have an opportunity, not for discouragement, but to see the causes and conditions that brought unhappiness and a lack of peace into our lives. Changing patterns takes repeated efforts.
In the midst of the difficult and painful lie the moment to acknowledge what is present and offer some compassion for the suffering. We change not through demands but through the gentle & enduring presence of love.
I am going to offer Mindfulness to the cast of Slave Play in New York this coming weekend. This play confronts our country’s painful history of slavery. The mindfulness community is focusing on healing and inclusion. I am happy to be a part of this effort.
Here are some opportunities I’d like to share with you…
I have added some new yoga videos to the website!Each video requires a password. For the first three, just fill out the form on the page and you will receive the password immediately.
The MBSR Yoga Tutorial is reserved for teachers or trainees. Please fill out the form. I will review it and then send you the password.
Wishing you mindful moments, sweet memories, and all the happiness a heart can hold.
Recently I had a 4 hour delay at Midway airport in Chicago, yikes!
The trouble with so many trips and too many fights lately is twofold. Flying wreaks havoc on the body and the carbon footprint wreaks havoc on the planet
My good fortune, however, was that amazingly enough the airport had a yoga studio. I was a happy camper!
I found myself in the yoga room on the mat with perhaps a middle-aged business looking type woman on her mat beside me. She did legs up the wall in her striped cotton dress and blonde ponytail while I eased my way through a few rounds of salutation to the sun. I suspect we both appreciated the quiet serene environment.
As she ended, I smiled and said “isn’t it wonderful to be able to stretch between flights?” She replied “yes, I was going to do some OMs but I didn’t want to bother you”. My response “no worries, go for it”. At which point she boomed out 3 hearty Oms.
I reflected for a moment and realized, if I had seen her hustling to her gate rather than standing in Tadasana with hands in prayer pose, I might have mistakenly made assumptions about who she was: or who I thought she was. I still don’t know who she was/is except that her beautiful practice touched my heart right there the Chicago airport.
I might have forgotten that just like most of us, quite likely she longed for ease and peace and connection. Maybe even a deep feeling for something beyond our usual routines and superficial conversations.
I gave gratitude for all those trying to make our world a better place and for those who thought to provide a space in the midst of the noise and bustle of an airport to turn inward and care for our bodies, and for the magical gift of a moment of connection
Guayaquil, Ecuador – First Annual Women’s Wellness Symposium
It is nearly impossible, while living in Western comfort to imagine the barrio much less the women and their families living there in poverty. But Mama Linda, the matriarch of Adopta Una Familia (AUF) and daughters Erica (who was a Peace Corp Volunteer in Guasmo) and Abby know them well. Together with the women of the community, they created the First Annual Women’s Health Symposium.
“Of course, I will go” was my reply when asked would I come along to offer yoga and meditation (in Spanish with great translators). We were a mighty group of 9 coming from the US to the barrio to offer massage, mindfulness, trauma work and prayer for 4 days, complete with meals and goodie bags for the 70+participants ranging from 16-75. This community is especially dear to me because my children each traveled there many times to do service work and our whole family went together there the year after 15 year old Ben’s adventures losing his passport and $$ (some of you may remember this tale and many of you have donated or could donate to AUF).
Some of the retreats I lead combine meditation and vacation. We practice yoga first thing in the morning followed by breakfast and then 2 hours of mindfulness and meditation. We practice sitting, walking and exploring themes and topics. This retreat took place in Italy at an 800 year old farmhouse. While very different from a silent retreat, each participant still meets themselves and challenges arise.
As we explored the Tuscan region of Italy in the afternoon, the participants had a chance to put what they were learning in the morning sessions into action as they interacted with others and observed the art and architecture of ancient civilizations. My college roommate and art historian, Kathy Daniels, guided us through cities, towns, museums and churches. As with silent retreats, participants here also met with challenges of past habits and patterns. They had to face their own discomforts of cold floors, unfamiliar food and the invitation to turn toward that which they might otherwise reject and learn to “just be” with what “is”.
When we go on retreat, we leave our customary comforts and move into the unknown. As they say, our old problems will not be solved with the same thinking that created them. There are gifts that come to us from the challenges that being out of our comfort zone brings. It is of benefit to hear, really hear not just with our ears but with our mind and heart what the world of another sounds, looks and feels like. When we go on a retreat, our view of ourselves, each other and our world expands. We become more fluid and curious. This benefits not just us but all those with whom we share our world. We may find that in our routines at home we are unlikely to “travel” outside of that which is familiar and comfortable and consequently we may be limited in what can be experienced. It is a big wide world outside and inside… take a chance, take a look, explore!
Folks sometimes say they want my life. I agree it is good and being involved in retreats is a big part of what makes it so good. I have been hosting retreats for the last several years and I hope that sharing some thoughts on the experiences will be of interest to you.
- Sept 2019 – Spirit Fire, Leyden MA – 7 day Silent Retreat
Participants came from as far away as Japan and Brazil and brought with them their cultural traditions. We all brought our own habits and patterns and points of view!
At the end of the retreat the feelings expressed by many participants was overall surprise that one could feel intimately connected with another whose name was barely known, much less any superficial details of their lives. This has been a common experience in all the silent retreats I have led and it is inspiring to see the commitment to the practice of Mindfulness and to the well-being of the participants themselves that radiates out to the world.
Participants entered into silence on Sunday evening after a social supper and an orientation informing them abouthow the week would proceed. At all times the intention was to direct one’s attention to the present moment. This was practiced while meditating on a cushion or chair, walking, eating meals, doing yoga, and upon wakening, showering and preparing for bed.
This practice can be tiring, even exhausting. It takes effort and diligence and no small degree of courage to come back, over and over again to the present moment, seeing one’s own thoughts and mental patterns. Interviews or small group meetings are held during the retreat which give the participant the opportunity for individual check-ins. These sessions are intended to support the practice and engage in conversation around difficulties that may be arising. At the first group interview on day 3 a couple of participants expressed a desire to leave. Neither truly intended to leave but were simply sharing their struggles and unhappiness. On some level they could see that there was the possibility of insight into what was causing their unhappiness. By the end of the retreat both were in tears of joy with what, for them, was a transformation. As the leader/facilitator I am always in awe of the meditator’s journey, and to know that it comes at no small cost in terms of self-compassion and a willingness to visit the parts of ourselves that may have been abandoned.
This spring a mother dove chose the cherry tree right outside our kitchen window to make a nest. Now I know it’s “just” nature, but that mother dove, and apparently the father dove also, sat on those eggs for weeks through the nastiest April weather we have had in history.
COMPASSION WITHOUT WISDOM
One morning I woke up to see only her shape under 5 inches of snow. Being a well-intentioned and sometimes misguided humanoid, I wanted to go out and brush her off. Of course I restrained myself but it took a lot of effort not to “help”.
It appeared off for this mother dove to place her nest 5 feet from the ground where squirrels jumped and played but once again, nature knew more than I. Now that her babies have hatched, they are safely sequestered under a blanket of blossoms.
I have been married 35 years this September and raised, with my husband, 3 amazing offspring.. I know something about commitment, yet it still amazes me, the willingness to forgo oodles of one’s own comfort for another who is loved. All this often without even a thought of “if not for_____, I could have______ or be doing___”
I keep trying to take a picture to share, especially now that the babies have feathers and appear to be about the size of a tennis ball but every photo I take hides them. They blend in so well with the bark of the cherry tree. So I will share a photo but you probably will just have to enjoy the blossoms on this rainy morning and trust that she and they are there, nesting in the rain, ready to fly off one day soon.
It is obvious, and we know it intellectually, but when life sends us storms, we are often surprised. How we meet those challenges mindfully determines, to a great degree, how we will be affected. AND…making mindful choices to meet life’s challenges is a process that cannot be rushed.
Be it illness, loss, a fading flower, or a betrayal, every arrival challenges us to pause and take a few moments to notice our usual reactivity ( hating, resisting, pushing away). Then invite a nice long, slow, easy breath and see clearly what is really present. Sensations in the body such as tension and contraction give us the first clue. Habit patterns and rumination in the mind give us the second clue. And a tumble of emotions, when recognized, give us the third clue.
It is our choice –always- to resist and suffer more OR to soften and maybe grieve or regret, depending upon what has arrived at our door, and then if possible, to meet what is present with some equanimity. When we make mindful choices we suffer less.
So the first step is to become aware that you are suffering by using mindful attention. The next step is to console yourself, the way you would comfort your own child. Take care not to rush or bypass this step. You may be tempted because of the discomfort or pain. The third step is remember that you are not alone. We humans experience human suffering and it is a choice to make it better or worse. We might even choose to look for some beauty in our tenderness. Believe it or not, sometimes there are gifts and new growth that come with life’s storms.
My neighbor’s photo of a recent rainbow reminded me of both the storms and the beauty. Thanks Barb
#Heartbasedmindfulness #MBSR #katemitcheom #branfordCT #meditation #HaycockPoint