What can we do when our minds are too frazzled to focus on our breath to even begin to be mindful?
I was so fortunate yesterday to have 50 mins in the car -a perfect time to listen to a podcast from Zencast.org. My mind was feeling really scattered and by chance I listened to a talk by Gil Fronsdal, (Zencast 427, July 2013) labelled ‘Here’ that really resonated with me.
Gil shared a simple practice he uses to calm his mind down. He gently repeats ‘here’ to himself, and each time he says this he has a moment to just notice, without judgement, what is happening right now externally and internally. On a really frazzled day this might only last a moment but then you say it again, and what I found really effective is you might say ‘Hear’ for a different focus, what can you hear right now? This is a beautiful mindfulness practice that can be done in a meditation while your mind settles but it can also be done as you drive, sweep, listen to your children, wait in a queue….I tried it this morning and loved it!
What was so powerful in this talk was that Gil insisted that if your mind isn’t calming down as you would like then this is the perfect start to beginning to understand your mind, observe without judgement, where does it wander to? Does it wander to ‘there’ and ‘then’? He really emphasised the need to sit with where you are at – as if you were holding something precious in both hands, just watching it, OR as if you were sitting with your best friend in comfortable silence, just allowing them to be whoever they are in that moment! I found both of these images very powerful in being gentle with myself and just sitting with what is rather than judging myself or chasing a ‘better’ mindful moment or a better meditation!
So I’ll leave you with 2 words to take a moment to sit and reflect on…
‘here’ & ‘hear’
What do you notice?
I was really lucky recently to be able to go camping on Moreton Island, QLD with my partner and four kids for 8 nights with just the basics (e.g. cold showers)…. and it really felt like a retreat from the world as we slept, snorkelled, kayaked, ate and slept some more!
But as the layers fell and we slowed down… and we focussed more on being and less on doing I noticed that even then….even when things were really peaceful and less stressful, my mind would STILL be classifying each moment as ‘like that’ or ‘don’t like that’ and I would be disappointed that this holiday wasn’t PERFECT!
It was almost as if by slowing down I became more aware of my mind’s ‘chatter’ and I was amazed that even when on a tropical island there was still potential to be unhappy… e.g. ‘it’s too hot’, ‘it’s raining’, ‘there’s mossies’, ‘I wish we had fresh fruit’ ‘the kids are fighting again’ etc. It didn’t seem to matter how relaxed we were I was still finding things I wanted to avoid or crave. I would dwell on memories of past holidays and wish that this one would have that same or even better moment of happiness, connectedness or relaxation… I was spending a lot of my holiday in the past or the future and not in the present!
This got me thinking about the Buddhist principle that aversion & craving cause our suffering/distress. As humans we tend to classify moments as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral and crave more of the pleasant and try to avoid the unpleasant. Maybe this is human nature and it may even be an important survival strategy? But if we are to be content with the present moment we need to observe our judgements and not get too caught up in them. E.g. ‘I’m having the thought that it would be really nice to have air conditioning/ a more comfortable mattress / a hot shower right now’ and let that thought drift by and remain in the present moment…
As I noticed these thoughts and became less caught up in them I was able to be more and more immersed in the present and less and less bothered by the ‘unpleasant’ features of camping. Each time I noticed them I would think ‘This isn’t perfect, it is as it is, and within that are some really great moments!’ and somehow this helped – in fact it is still helping me to adapt to life back in the real world!
I hope you all had a good start to the New Year with some time to reflect and be mindful 🙂
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 2 pages to the art of Aimlessness. He writes: ‘In the west we are very goal oriented. We know where we want to go and we are very directed in getting there. This may be useful but often we forget to enjoy ourselves along the route…..The idea is that you do not put something in front of you and run after it, because everything is already here, in yourself.’ ‘We must stop from time to time in order to see clearly.’
And it dawned on me that I didn’t need a whole day of just ‘being’, I could incorporate it into my day….maybe meditation in the early morning for 10 minutes, riding my bike the scenic way to work or best of all, remembering to stop on the way home and sit on a rock for 5 minutes….allow myself to just be, to pause between work & home and acknowledge and appreciate the good bits about life in general….by just stopping for a moment!
The first day I tried this, just 2 days after my island trip, I sat on the rock by the sea, with no expectations, no striving, just being….and a whale breached out of the water in front of me, then another, and another…..and I watched in awe as those whales breached 21 times, playfully being in the water……it really felt like the universe was saying, ‘about time you stopped and now here is what you have been missing out on!.’ Quickly though I get caught up in the world of doing….so writing this blog is to help me get back on track…and prepare for a weekend of watching the clouds go by!
I felt like I was quite old (I was a new Mum and in a relationship with my partner) before I realised that if you can brainstorm solutions and think laterally there is always a win:win solution….there will always be a way through if you just look hard enough!
I was fascinated with the recent Life at 9 series on ABC IView when the narrator said:
“Navigating life depends on our ability to solve problems, a skill scientists understand as creativity” and “Creativity is a greater predictor of success in life than IQ”.
David Cropley, a creativity expert on the show, then said : “The basis of creativity is all about starting with divergent thinking and that means if we hope to get a good solution we first of all have to go through as many solutions as we can”
And this got me thinking of one of the best Positive Discipline Tools from www.positivediscipline.com which I use at home and teach other parents all the time….the idea that as parents, once we understand the child’s underlying feelings and needs behind a behaviour we can then brainstorm solutions and in the brainstorming phase we need to write down all possible solutions, there is no right or wrong!
It’s so true we often need to brainstorm left field ‘way out there’ solutions to be able to come up with solutions that will work! Something I especially love is the idea of involving our own kids from the age of 4 in brainstorming the solutions for particular issues / behaviours. The kids always come up with the most crazy solutions but also the most simple and best solutions too! (e.g. in resolving shared bedroom issues: first suggesting their brother could sleep with the chooks or in the hallway cupboard but eventually deciding duct tape down the middle of the bedroom will do!)
How great is it that we can involve our kids in helping to brainstorm solutions but also help boost their creativity skills at the same time! It is certainly something we want for all our kids once they become adults isn’t it? To be creative problem solvers who are able to resolve conflicts by finding win:win solutions…mindfully…
(At www.positivediscipline.com there are podcasts on Focusing On Solutions and one of their books is called Positive Discipline A-Z, 1001 Solutions To Everyday Parenting Problems)
I was walking along on the beach one evening just recently….totally caught up in a whirl of thoughts and drama and plans and worries (as so often happens), when a wave washes up and as it recedes, there beside me, is the perfect reflection of the moon, twinkling at me! Immediately I ‘wake up’ and realise where I am and how lucky I am, right in that present moment, to have the moon dancing by my feet. Every time my mind attempted to drift, another wave would wash up and there again was the moon almost winking at me, reminding me to be right here, right now!
Hope you all have a beautiful ‘wake up’ moment this week.