Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Mindful Step

This step, the one right now, is the only one that matters.

Taking a step on the beachIt’s easy to feel overwhelmed by to-do lists and the busyness of everyday life. It’s easy to feel intimidated by our dreams and aspirations. It’s easy to forget that all the stress, all the worry, and all our fears, are just mental chatter. We so easily identify with the stories we play in our minds, soon believing that we are being asked to take an impossible leap, far beyond our potential.

The truth is, we aren't. All we need to do is come back to this step, the present moment, and what it holds. We may need to face the stress, the worry, and the fears straight on, but eventually they dissolve in the light of our awareness.

Sure, this all sounds wonderful, but what does it really mean? What do I have to do? Is it really possible for a “regular” person like me? I asked many of these questions myself, and this is what I’ve learned.

When we allow ourselves time for stillness in meditation every day, a gradual, but steady process of un-layering takes place. We all come to stillness practices for different reasons, but often find the results are far beyond what we initially sought. The key, of course, is consistent practice. Mindfulness is a skill that we cultivate through practice, and just as any skill, it takes time and dedication to become proficient.

As we sit in meditation, we learn to see things just as they are, learning to let go of our judgments about the way things should be. As we become objective observers of our experience, we start to notice what the nature of the mind is really like, and how our thoughts, emotions, habits, and ultimately our underlying beliefs about ourselves and the world around us, affect our health and wellness on an everyday basis. There are no rules for how you must live your life to be happy. Rather, through the process of cultivating self-awareness, what is right for each of us tends to reveal itself organically. We have the choice of how to respond. The choice is always ours, and through mindfulness practice, we learn exactly how many choices we have available to us that might lead to happier, healthier lives. In truth, it is a choice we make in every moment. This moment.

Indeed, the biggest choice of all is the one that embraces the present moment. We cannot be stressed, worried, or fearful if we are truly immersed in the present moment, but it takes practice and a gradual process of revealing for us to both strengthen our mindfulness muscle (our ability to stay focused in the here and now), and understand the value of the present moment. We must go beyond an intellectual understanding of present-moment awareness and experience for ourselves what the present moment offers us. Until then, it remains a mystery which sounds good but doesn’t provide any real opportunity for change.

Monk walking on path of rose petalsEven this process can sound intimidating. It might feel beyond our reach. We might be fearful of the possibility of change, or what that change might require of us. Again, even in this place, we can find relief in the present moment. Worries and fears only exist based in an imagined future. All that really exists is this moment. Therefore, all that matters is this step. The step we are taking right now. Its okay if you are as wobbly on your feet as a baby taking its first step. This is why we call the cautious process of moving forward “taking one baby step at a time”! Even a monk walking on a path of rose petals once began with that first wobbly baby step.

May you open to the present moment and all it offers. May you embrace this step, and may it be everything you require, bringing you the opportunity for growth and healing which inevitably will prepare you for this moment. And this one. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

New Beginnings

Hello and welcome! As I launch this new website and new blog, I see a clear pattern of rebirth and renewal in my own life as well as continually in nature around me. There is birth and decay everywhere. Just last week we all experienced the New Moon (the beginning of a new lunar cycle) and the Autumnal Equinox (the beginning of a new season)! Certainly, there's a cyclic nature to this world we live in. The theme of new beginnings isn't a new one, of course. Its literally as old as time itself! In human culture, perhaps the most obvious new beginning might be the New Year, when people everywhere celebrate a fresh start, taking time to recommit to their goals with renewed fervor. Yet new beginnings take their forms in all manner of ways if we are only open to them. What if we could access that energetic strength of newness any time we wanted rather than waiting for the New Year? Well we can, because every moment is a new moment. Our goal in practicing mindfulness is to stay anchored in the present moment, letting go of our thoughts of a past that's only a memory trace and a future that's only an imagined outcome. Inevitably, though, the mind wanders, and when we come back to the present moment, we start again. This fresh start is available to us in any moment we choose to take it. And when we take that fresh start, time and time again, we often find that we can keep to our goals a little easier.

Sometimes it seems as though this cycle of new beginnings is like repeating a loop over and over. Yet when we observe closely, we notice that it is never quite the same. With each new beginning, we take with us the energy of the last cycle, re-birthing to a new beginning that is somehow a reinvented version of ourselves. Taking in a deep breath, we know that no two breaths are ever the same, even when they generally feel that way when we aren't watching. This is a place for inspiration and encouragement! We know that those things that seem to repeat are here to help us learn and grow. With a spacious perspective of objectivity, we give room to those places that feel tight or stuck, allowing them to be just as they are. Letting go of our judgments of ourselves, we can listen intently through each cycle for what is new, what is learned, what is asking for acceptance, and what will grow into the next cycle.

Starting a blog has been a goal of mine for awhile, and here I am! I bring to this new beginning all the up-cycled energy of my previous cycles: the lessons I have learned, the insights I have discovered, and the healing I have received. Please join me in this journey of learning and growth and let us share in it together. Engage if you like, share if you like, send me feedback if you like! I'm extremely grateful for you in these early steps of this new beginning. May you be mindful of your own new beginnings, and have the strength to start fresh, however that might look for you.

If you haven't been there yet, check out my new website! Its been a long time coming, but its finally here and I'm absolutely thrilled!