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your natural state is peaceful…

Image courtesy of Judi Clemie. Perth CBD from across Lake Monger
Image courtesy of Judi Clemie. Perth CBD from across Lake Monger

I sometimes find this hard to believe, but I know intellectually that my natural state as a human is a peaceful one. External factors can sway me from my centre, but essentially my original and natural state is calm. Everything I do to bring calm to my mind is aimed at rebalancing this internal state.

With kids, I have to say, it’s often hard to maintain that balance.

On Friday morning, I woke early and did my usual meditation practice in peace. As I rose from my bed, I was immediately hit by the sounds of angry screaming from somewhere in the house. I moved quickly to the kitchen to find my 5 and 6 year old trying to scalp each other, in what appeared to be a Lego based altercation. They stopped momentarily when they saw me, and then started again with a vengeance. I surveyed the scene, eyed them both with what can only be described as marginal compassion, and then I contemplated the idea of simply exiting the room, quietly getting dressed and leaving the house. Mothers do that, I know. I’ve heard of mothers who’ve left and never come back…anyway, I didn’t leave the house, more fool me. Instead, I got heavily involved, and completely disheartened. I felt sad as I watched their behaviour rollercoaster even more out of control. I managed to stay calm for quite a while. I breathed slow breaths of pause that I’ve been trying to do whenever I’m pushed, and then I faltered, allowing anger to take hold of me. And I yelled…and yelled, and then I felt terrible.

I know I’m not alone, and I’m not about to waste any more energy on feeling bad, for behaving badly. But afterwards I was conscious of how long it took me to get over it. The amazing thing about kids is that they don’t seem to feel bad, for behaving badly. Mine don’t anyway! They readily let it go. They recover almost instantly from arguments with each other which appear to me to be relationship ending. They can cope with the swings. Unfortunately, I don’t always cope quite as well, and need to rely on the power of the love I feel for them, the calm of my early morning meditation, the peace and release of a great yoga session, or the liberation of a mid-morning run.

The dichotomy of family life is that on one hand it’s deeply grounding, and on the other, emotionally challenging to the extreme.

I think that for every ‘thing’ that knocks you off kilter or tips you askew, you have to know how to internally re-calibrate and find your place of centre. Your natural state of peace. It’s where we are meant to be.

Linked with Essentially Jess for IBOT

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a peaceful practice

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I read something inspiring a few days ago from Carrie Contey and Bernadette Noll’s Slow Family Living blog. It was a post called Resistance is Futile.

The practice is pure simplicity, and although it’s not really new to me, it’s also not something I’ve practiced, and until you really make something a habit, it isn’t a habit! So today I started practicing, and establishing the groundwork for it to become a habit in my life.

The principle is that every little thing which frustrates you, delays and holds you up in life is an opportunity to stop, to breathe and to really connect with your inner calm. Brilliant.

This afternoon as I sat in a photo printing shop, and was confronted by one delay after another, I just sucked in my breath, closed my eyes and savoured the moment. Instead of wasting time imagining a different moment for myself, or allowing frustration and anger to replace my peace, I just breathed. My 5 year old seemed to absorb my peace too, and just rested against my leg the entire time. I had a deadline, a huge list of things to do before the end of the day, but I just had to roll with it in a good way. The outcome was so positive. It’s completely obvious of course, but how often do we allow frustration to win. How often do we let our anxiety rise and consume the moment, or worse still take out our feelings of frustration on someone close to us. This is my newest habit, which I intend to practice constantly. I might even create some intentional delays just to cement the practice in my life.

Linking with Essentially Jess for IBOT

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the world needs a mindfulness epidemic

Sky gazing
Sky gazing

The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life

Mindfulness is everywhere, or at least the word is. It is the catch cry of right now. But as wonderful as it sounds to BE in the moment, it is often a struggle in practice. The reality is that life is fast, and it’s the future and the past which swallow our present moments most of the time. The journey of now, is completely overlooked, with the goal (often hollow and meaningless), up on a pedestal consuming all of our energy.

Mindfulness is such a ridiculously simple concept, and one which makes perfect sense when you read about it, and when you’re doing it. The problem is that culturally we are motivated so differently. Life today is about continual achievement and getting stuff done, not about focusing on the minute details of life as you experience them. The concept of being closely connected to all of those around us is beautiful too, but other pressures in life are all consuming. Being distracted seems to be a very natural state for humans. At least it is for modern humans.

I’ve carried out extensive ‘experiments’ on my children (on myself really), where I focus on them completely for really long periods of time. I give them my full uninterrupted attention, continuous eye contact, loads of happy words, praise, and smiles. My attention doesn’t wander or waver. The entire time I’m doing it, I monitor their behaviour and responses closely. When I compare this to how they are when I am distracted, dismissive, and absorbed in other life stuff, the contrast is mind blowing, but not really surprising. It’s actually almost impossible for them to be unhappy or to misbehave when they feel so connected to me, in that moment. It’s so obvious, but the thing which is even more surprising is how easy it is to sustain, because of the mutual happiness it brings. That happiness is sustained in me when I bring mindfulness to any activity I do, even the most mundane.

Obviously our lives are complex, and simply being mindful and living life in the moment isn’t always possible. But why, if our happiness is greater, our human connections deeper, do we allow our minds to wander, our ‘to do’ lists to overwhelm us, and the call of life to ring louder than who we are with, and what we are doing right now, in this moment.

Linked with Essentially Jess for IBOT and With Some Grace for FYBF