Here is a little recipe for some courageous living… working with the solid trees and fresh cold winter breeze that causes the skin on our faces to tingle and the fingers on our hands to freeze, until our minds settle and we can once again reconnect to the flesh, blood and breath that we are.
Benefits? To be discovered… In our own time. We each “walk a pathless path.”
Location: A forest, garden, or balcony. Anywhere where you can feel the fresh air and see trees. Although if this is impossible, this is where our imagination can help. I.e. if you are in an aeroplane imagine yourself somewhere green.
Inspiration: Tibetan monks continued to practice whilst incarcerated during the upheavals in Tibet. Nothing stops them from practicing. This is inspiring. If you struggle with motivation at times to practice (ha hummm) think of those practicing in jail right now, or less then perfect circumstances. There will be lots! Also perfect circumstances: ahh, I’m not sure they really exist for most of us. Better to take whatever opportunity comes… And for those of us who can go to a park, or an allotment, or a beach, or at least leave our houses, we are so lucky.
Time – How long have you got?!
Company – Wonderful if you have, no problems if not.
Silence – Sprinkle liberally. If with your child, let it be an intelligent silence. I.e. explain to them if this is something very different to what you would normally do that you are going to connect to your breath for a bit. Relax for a while. Be a bit more silent. If they want more information, they will ask for it. If they need you, or ask a question; respond to them. Including them in your practice is much more conducive to shutting them out. There are practices to do alone, this is one that you can do with others. The intention is to bring our attention to what is around us, be that our child playing, a seagull swooping for bread or a man hugging a friend; it is inclusive of everything. Not exclusive.
Iphones/phones/ipads – uh uh! No no! Nada. Niente. Not needed. Leave at home. Or on silent. Switch off if you’re brave.
Bring your attention to the trees, the grass, dogs, people walking by, the feeling of your feet on the ground. Feel textures, notice colours, feel the temperature and then observe the sensations of your body as impacted by the cold, or if you are reading this somewhere warm, the warmth, you lucky beings! Smell the waft of the air. Hear sounds: aeroplanes, cars, birds, wind, breeze. Let each sound be a vehicle that you work with. i.e. to bring you into the present moment. In this way, people shouting, or loud noises are just as conducive as birds singing! Think of them as the Zen monks who would wack their students on the shoulders if their thoughts had wandered. This is the beauty of external noises: they alert us to wandering thoughts!
As your thoughts calm, your belly relaxes (bring your hands to your stomach and feel it growing softer if you are unsure), relax your shoulders away from your ears, slow your pace of your walk if you are walking around. Bring your attention to your breath if it has become noticeable, or keep your focus with the trees and the outer elements.
If with your child, respond when needed. If they are immersed in an activity, they may well not notice, or rather they will notice and will be enjoying your increasing sense of calm!
If you do need to speak, keep your attention on your breath as much as possible. This is a soft attention, not too rigid – ‘my focus is on my breath and nothing is going to change that so help me god!” Attention is fickle. It will wander. But it can be brought back once your awareness notices uh oh; it’s gone walkabouts. Getting het up about it, don’t serve nobody.
When space arises in your thoughts, your body relaxes and your muscles in your face start to sag*, Presence is getting close!
If you are feeling tense and your brow is furrowed, your thoughts charged: stop. Bring your attention to one thing: a tree, the feeling of your feet on the ground, your breath and stay with that till your thoughs calm. If your thoughts are really active, walk. Move.
*Face sagging? Bunito! This is truly splendid. The recipe is working. Beware of vanity or neuroses which may lead you to smiling if anyone passes and instead allow yourself to experience, “something deeper then a smile,” as one of my teachers Godfrey Devereux said once. This is a concept/practice that touches me to the very core as it is something I struggle with. To smile when sometimes it would be more honest to cry.
Because this is the thing. Sometimes when we start touching into where we really are, we surprise ourselves. Where we had been telling ourselves we are happy, we may feel tenderness, or sadness. The hardest thing is to acknowledge it. As opposed to pushing it away. And I will be writing more posts about how we can directly work with these feelings soon based on the work of Karla Mclaren. Often when we can acknowledge a thing, it brings us closer to deeper truths about ourselves. When we take the time to be, insights arise, that would otherwise be overlooked. Best of all: they are free. The more we can spend time getting to know ourselves, the more we are empowering ourselves to think for ourselves. This is pretty important. This is the fruit of spending time hanging out in the present as our attention transitions from external to internal. And then maybe settles somewhere in between.
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