Aimlessness…the art of doing nothing, of just being

Mindfully Doing Nothing…
Mmm this is a potent reminder for me this week as my kids are on school holidays and I’m attempting to work less and hang out with them….yet it is tricky to let go of the to do lists, the rushing adn the hustling… Julia Cameron from the Artist Way talks about allowing yourself to just sit for 15 minutes doing nothing….and from there your creativity will spring! Remember as a kid lying in the grass and looking up at the shapes in the clouds? Or getting really bored and from there came the next idea, the next project… It is sooo fulfilling to just be – without agenda or schedules…. So what will you allow for yourself this week – in terms of doing nothing or as Thich Nhat Han says – in being aimless. Here is a blog I wrote awhile ago about this…and today I feel like having a picnic in the sun aimlessly

Mindfulness

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I was so fortunate recently to have a day travelling by ferry to Moreton Island, QLD with a good friend and the day held NO schedule or agenda.  Slowly I began to unwind with the ferry ride, the snorkelling, the fish for lunch, the walk along the beach and then as I floated in the tropical calm water I realised I’d finally reached that state of just ‘being’, no thoughts of the past or of what was yet to happen in the future, just a state of peace and pleasure with the present moment….and I couldn’t remember the last time I had allowed myself a day of just ‘being’!  As I returned home to school age kids and scheduled chaos I felt very disheartened to be entering the world of doing and not being….

Luckily I had Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh by my bed and he dedicates…

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Loving Kindness

loving kindness  Image from yoganonymous.com
Just recently in Mindfulness For Creativity by Dr Dan Penniman I read how doing this short meditation can help to grow your resilience. Below is Tara Brach’s version https://www.tarabrach.com/guided-meditation-metta-lovingkindness/ – 12 minutes long – but it can be a lot shorter than that and you will find many different examples online.
I have been using this meditation a lot recently to help when I am stressed and worried about my own wellbeing or a loved one’s wellbeing, and I always feel better afterwards. If I can’t sleep and I begin this then I tend to fall into a deep sleep. Sending goodwill and positive vibes seems more constructive than worrying….and it has helped me to heal some relationships and forgive some people.
The Dalai Lama approached scientists in the US who were studying depression, fear and anxiety and asked why don’t you study compassion and kindness? This is written about in the book ‘The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live–and How You Can Change The December 24, 2012 by Richard J. Davidson ‘ And lo and behold as they studied these positive emotions they found that the more you practice the loving kindness meditation the more your prefrontal cortex lights up (the mindfulness centre of the brain) and the less your amygdala / emotional part of the brain – fight, flight or freeze response lights up!). I always love it when brain research backs up doing a practice that is 1000 years old and I was doing it because it felt good!!
My preferred version of loving kindness is to first think of a loved one who you find easy to love unconditionally and keeping a vision of them or their written name in mind say silently to yourself:
May you be safe & protected
May you feel at ease and in good health
May you be kind and peaceful
Then to send that loving kindness to yourself by saying:
 
May I be safe & protected
May I feel at ease and in good health
May I be kind and peaceful
And then widen the circle to include others you would like to include in this wish and say:
May we be safe & protected
May we feel at ease and in good health
May we be kind and peaceful
And as you feel stronger at this you can include your wider community and you can include those people you are finding difficult or need to forgive, eventually!
To me this is the PERFECT meditation as a parent when you are worried about one of your kids or you feel like your connection with them isn’t as positive as you would like….somehow it seems to shift something….so I’ll keep on doing it….At really stressful times I might just say to myself repeatedly ‘may we be safe & protected’ – which feels better than ruminating on the worst case scenario etc.
What about you,are you willing to give it a go? have you experienced it before?
For more info there is a great article by Jack Kornfield at:
Yours in loving kindness, Sara 🙂
 

Mindful Writing / Sketching / Journalling & GOLDEN MOMENTS

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I have just finished reading Brene Brown’s Rising Strong – I love what that woman has found in her research!!! Brene found that if you write about your experiences, or sketch about it or create something around it (e.g. art journal) then you are more likely to work through the experience in a positive, wholehearted way and to feel better – to be healthier and have more wellbeing…
Brene quotes Dr Pennebaker’s research about using expressive writing to help people get over traumatic experiences by writing about their experiences every day for I think 4 days?? (here’s more info in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GyXrKHGzZs). If you were to do this around a traumatic experience I would recommend you do it under the guidance of a mental health professional. But if you were to do this to process events from your week – how beneficial could it be for you??
I have kept a journal since leaving home at 18 and traditionally used it to process all my negative feelings for the day so I could sleep…it really helped! But then once I started doing mindfulness and learning more about parenting 5 years ago – I began to ALSO use it as a tool to record what I am grateful for and those…..
GOLDEN MOMENTS….. those magic moments where you feel joy in your heart – they may be fleeting but they are what life is really all about (e.g. seeing a whale breach or the moon rise)- and so often we forget them in the course of our busy days! So often we can judge a day as negative when really there were many OK and some good moments in there – it is human nature to focus on the negative…….Writing or sketching our golden moments or capturing them in a photo can help our brains to rewire to notice more of the good stuff in our lives as they happen!! Brene’s calm down strategy in Rising Strong for herself is go out and take one photo!
Since August last year I have been doing stream of consciousness writing and keeping an art journal as I work through the book The Artist Way by Julia Cameron – and it is making a HUGE difference to my day – clearing out the negative self talk, helping me set a mindful intention for the day, recording the golden moments and just being more present to what is as I write about it / or sketch about it! I also find if I’m sketching or creating then I am in the flow and there’s no way I can worry or be anxious….
What do you think? Is this something you could do – weekly or when you need to or daily??
One of my most favourite mindful activities is to do a Mindful Walk in nature with a sketch book and take time to write / sketch my experience! It might only be 45 minutes once a week – but it is where I feel the most peace! Somehow writing or sketching as I walk – REALLY helps me to relish and be in the present moment!
That is why I have organised the Mindfulness In May Peace Walk – where we will walk mindfully – and then sketch our messages of peace in the sand, take photos and upload and share on facebook! I hope, wherever you are, you can join us!!!! 🙂   You can find us at:
Happy Sketching / Writing or Journalling or Taking Photos,  Cheers, Sara 🙂

Mindful Memories

bonnie baby 2
We are often told that mindfulness is about not dwelling on or ruminating in the past and about being present. Yet at times it is healthy to remember the past or plan for the future – as my mindfulness teacher would say ‘just do it mindfully!’

Today is my daughter’s 14th birthday and it has just been fantastic to revisit photos and memories, it helps to bring an enormous attitude of gratitude. Mindfully revisiting memories can also be very healing and it can help to develop perspective.

If you have a relationship that you are finding difficult or awkward it can be good to go back to remembering when you first met or when the relationship was strong. So often we can get really caught up in where that person/relationship is at right now….forgetting that within the other person is a vulnerable self just like we have a vulnerable self too. Revisiting positive memories can help us to relate to that person from a positive, caring mindset rather than the tight, irritated or defensive mindset we can find ourselves in.

In MindUP, a program in US and UK that is introducing mindfulness to kids in schools, they teach optimism and how to actively cultivate wellbeing.  One way they do that is to create a ‘Happy’ wall – where photos, and pictures of happy memories are hung, so that whenever you are not feeling so good you can remember that there have been many great times in your past.

In Steve Biddulphs book on relationships he talks about each memory in your relationships being a souvenier…a building block on which it was built. How lovely to go back and revisit some of those souveniers mindfully – being very aware of the emotions they bring up and even the lessons and the new perspective with which we can view that person / relationship.

Often when we change our mindset towards a relationship – the relationship changes – have you ever noticed that? Just switching my anxious thoughts of someone and what they may or may not say, to sending them loving kindness can help to change the interaction…

A beautiful meditation to free up our judgement of another is from Tara Brach:

https://www.tarabrach.com/heart-meditation-letting-go-of-judgment/

I love how she talks about seeing that our defensiveness comes from our own vulnerability and by bringing kindness to the vulnerable parts of yourself you can then be open and give kindness to another….

Enjoy revisiting some happy memories mindfully 🙂 Sara

Mindful Posture

I’ve just started reading a really cool book called ‘Presence’ by Amy Cuddy and she did some research that showed if you stand in a power pose (just like Wonder Woman) for 2 minutes in private before a job interview you will raise your testosterone (yes even us ladies!) and reduce your cortisol compared to those who didn’t do the power pose. This means that you will have increased testosterone to help you deal with a stressful situation and feel more confident and you will then feel less stressed and produce less cortisol – how cool is that! I tried it with the kids and we all laughed and had fun – and we all felt a difference! So your challenge this week is to mindfully stand as a super hero would for 2 minutes each day and notice the difference! If nothing else it will make you laugh!

wonder woman

Amy Cuddy emphasises that this is not someting you do with other people in your interactions as it may have an adverse effect (unless you are in a situation where you need to come across as really powerful???)! The research that shows how our body language influences other people is abundant. What her research shows is that by changing the way we stand and move our bodies – we can influence and change the way our minds think! Very cool! She has an awesome TED talk if you want more info.

Her key phrase is ‘fake it until you become it’ – this is in line with other research where they have focussed on changing your body and not your mind, for example they took kids who were being bullied and taught them to stand taller and smile….and they were no longer bullied….or by smiling at yourself in the mirror you can lift your mood or by standing taller we feel better on the inside which then influences all of our interactions. Food for thought!

So take this chance this week to bring in some imagination – choose your favourite superhero and take up their stance in private and see what happens?? And who knows – there might even be some other lessons we can learn from superheros. I reluctantly watched Green Lantern with my kids this weekend and there were some great messages in there about ‘Your will turns thought into reality, it helps you take action. It can only be defeated by fear’. ‘Your job description isn’t to be fearless it is to overcome fear with courage’. Who knew?? 🙂