We choose our family every time we show up.
Relationships with family are an opportunity to practice being mindful—in the present moment—in our speech and action. Often we are not. Instead of seeing the person standing before us, our perception is clouded by attachment to ideas about who that person was in the past, could be now if they only tried or should be if they listened better to our advice.
We are hard on family—like we are hard on ourselves.
The camera has the ability to capture movement and stillness simultaneously. So do we. When we get still in the body and the mind, we can feel the subtle movement of our breath rolling through us and delivering life.
We all spin constantly, twirling around the ones we love. Spinning deep into ourselves and flying to the outer edges of our own sanity. We close our eyes and hold on for dear life, wait for the ride to slow down. But during the holiday season it feels like it never does.
What will happen if we open our eyes in the storm? If we soften and release to the pull of our hearts? What if we take our tight grip off old thoughts, ideas and perceptions? What if we dance with the ones who show up?
Safe and peaceful holiday to you all.
And look forward when walking forward.
Today I started my car to defrost the windshield so I could see where I was going. Then I forgot about it for about an hour while I worked on the computer, warm inside my house.
When I left for my meeting I was surprised to see the puddle of melted snow under the hood; the car still wore a sharp Mohawk of ice across the roof that stood at least a foot in the air.
I am thankful for the cold wind that snapped me out of deep contemplation of this sight. I was only 15 minutes late for my meeting (sorry Amber).
A little later I bought 2 carrots, an onion and a jar of chocolate hazelnut spread at the Green Grocer. May have seemed rather an odd assembly to the woman behind me in line, but my total was under $11 (I also had a cup of soup) which seemed like a bargain. As, I walked to the car with my small package I thought nothing. My mind was blank and I felt light.
After working for the remainder of the afternoon, I left the house in a hurry to meet Atticus after school. I stepped outside the door and pulled it shut behind me. I felt it bounce in my hand, so I looked back to check that it was closed while still moving quickly forward off the porch steps. My body was on its way to the school but I left my face behind—and my eyes.
I tripped off the last step and skid across the sidewalk on my side; my Lifeproof cellphone case took the beating. Lucky for me I was bundled in down and wool. As I type now, I feel the effect of the fall on my right elbow.
Generally, I am fine. Anyone watching might have worried, though. Because I just stood up and kept walking as if nothing had occurred—there wasn’t time.
Why am I sharing all this?
At first I thought the lesson today was to slow down or look in the direction we are walking. But that was not it. Yes, we often need to slow down. And we should always look where we are stepping.
If we can Lifeproof our phones, can we Lifeproof our minds?
And if you skid across the pavement because you were looking too long at the past—know that you are not alone. Exhale, get up and keep on going.
Begin by doing just one thing.
This morning while listening in on a conference call I was responding to emails, drinking coffee, eating a bagel and petting Jack the Cat. Then I hear, “If you are multi-tasking right now, please stop. Exhale and give this conversation your full attention for a couple more minutes.”
I heard this because it applied to me. I was doing too many things half-ass and not giving my attention—or respect—to any of them. I stopped, but not until I had finished the email I was writing. It is like a compulsion.
For many of us, the idea of meditation and dwelling in stillness feels challenging, if not impossible. We need to start where we are and get comfortable with turning off autopilot.
Practicing awareness without self-criticism is a great first step. Begin to notice the habits we have. Then explore what it feels like when we do less. Practice doing one thing at a time and observe the sensations and state of the mind.
This is mindfulness. Simple. We all know this. But how often do we put our knowledge into practice?
Do one thing at a time.
Little me in the red leotard was pretty good at focusing in gymnastics. On the mat then and now I find my way to myself. Now it is time to find myself in all the other moments—at my desk, on a walk, making love, cooking dinner, talking with friends. All of these moments deserve our attention and respect.
“What if you get in an accident and end up in the emergency room? What would the doctors think?”
I heard this repeatedly as a child and for many years this is why I wore clean underwear. I pictured the doctors scowling and turning away at the sight of my dingy pink lace. It never occurred to me at the time that a car accident may lead to dirty underpants, regardless of whether they were clean when I left for school in the morning.
When I hit my teens, my reasons changed. I was less concerned about what doctors would think and more concerned about what the girls in the locker room would say when I changed into my gym clothes. Then in college, my attention shifted to what my boyfriend would think about my undergarments of choice.
Now I could care less what others might say about my underwear. I choose it based on my own comfort and the needs of the day. Lately, I have been wishing for more Wonder Woman underwear—and wondering what other female super hero underwear possibilities are out there.
I am learning to worry less about what other people think in general.
Inhale; think, “I have done my best.”
Exhale; think, “I leave the rest.”
I use this every time I need to let go of worry or fear.
Other people are more worried about themselves and their own underwear to care too much about me and mine. And I am quite certain at some point I may crap my pants. I doubt the doctors will be too disturbed.
After 25 hours of car, Metra, walk, Amtrak, shuttle, car…this is where I will be.
I have a small bag of clothing and personal items, a pillow with a blanket stuffed into the case, a cooler of food and my work bag containing my computer and purse. It didn’t seem like too much, but looking at the pile now I feel the need to reduce my load by half—just to feel lighter.
I have started to do this with my thoughts. Our beautiful, talented brains are skilled, providing a constant flow of thoughts, ideas and emotions for our consideration. Often we don’t consider—we just accept. We take off running. We are used to our spilling over the top minds and we create days like this, so loaded with activities we forget to breathe.
Today I am leaving for a week of yoga therapy training at Svastha Institute in Taos, NM. I will be the houseguest of two dear friends. I have what I need to travel and I am leaving the rest behind.
There is no space in my suitcase for fear or worry. Burdens of past actions won’t fit on my arm with my computer bag and cooler. Undone work will remain undone until I return.
Getting clear on my commitment to travel lightly makes me feel lighter—weightless and starlight bright.
A pile of leaves is an opportunity to live joyfully.
And so is the pile of work on the desk, the laundry, and the dishes. We may choose to feel buried under all the necessary tasks of the day, or we can choose to feel joyful. It really is that simple.
The challenge comes when we attempt to change our thought patterns.
When we look at a sink full of dishes, do we feel joy? Or do we decide to avoid eating so often and thus limit the amount of dirty dishes we make each day? Or do we get pissed at our spouse for making complex meals that require the use of every pot in the house? Or do we do the dishes reluctantly while thinking about tomorrow’s work meeting we have not yet prepared for?
It is fair to say, we often let our mind run off with the moment—our moment. This practice can leave us feeling anxious and frustrated with how busy we are all the time.
Mindfulness is our way to retrain the mind.
We can learn to take each moment we feel buried and make it a moment to find joy.
Bury your body up to the chin in fallen leaves.
Take it all in.
Breathe the crisp air heavy with the smell of autumn.
Something inside needs to die.
Learn from the trees.
We all get buried and we are all OK.