Monday, July 13, 2009

Taking Stock/Mindfulness

Quote of the Month:
Your entire life journey ultimately consists

of the step you are taking at this moment.
There is always only this one step,
and so you give it your fullest attention.
-Eckhart Tolle


It is hard for me to believe this post is the 12th month of the blog! When I began, I thought there would be 6 or 7 and now, almost a year later, I feel as though I've scarcely scratched the surface. As you read this month's post, think about where you were a year ago, what has changed since then and where you might like to go in the next year. Are there things you have changed in the past year..... or are there things you have wanted to do or change that you have not done in the last year? The earth will continue around the sun for another 365 days either way.... to paraphrase a friend of mine! It is up to you what you do with those days in between now and then to make the changes you want to see in your life.

I thought it might be appropriate for me to end this year coming full circle to where we began. The first post was on meditation, but I want to put a little twist on it now and introduce mindfulness.

Mindfulness simply means that we are paying attention. Paying attention to what we are doing, what we are feeling and everything that happens around us in the present moment. Often we go through life on autopilot. We act or react unconsciously or out of habit. This does not allow us to choose our response to a given situation. With practice we can begin to take more control and switch off the autopilot, learning to be fully aware of our sensations, thoughts, emotions and responses.

Do not set a goal to be mindful ALL the time, just to be there as often as you remember to. NO ONE [except possibly those who live in the mountains at a monastery] is mindful ALL of the time. Most of us are doing well, if we remember to be mindful for a few seconds, 2 or 3 times a day! Sometimes, I go whole days without remembering... so the idea here is to challenge yourself to do it as often as possible while at the same time being gentle with yourself!

One can think of mindfulness in the example of a tightrope walker. When walking on a high wire, one's attention can be no where else. The walker's full attention is on the step they are taking at that moment, the placement of the foot and where the weight is placed in the foot. I had a similar experience last winter walking down steep snow covered steps. It was of utmost importance to be aware of each step and where I placed my foot, so that I would not fall. Walking these steps daily for a number of weeks last winter helped raise my own mindfulness which has carried over into every day life.

There are a number of simple ways one can practice mindfulness in dialy life. A recent posting on Oprah's web site listed a number of suggestions for increasing mindfulness. A few of those are listed below....

Breath - When you wake up in the morning before getting out of bed, notice your breathing. Take a few deep, comfortable breaths.

Motions - Be aware of how your body feels as you move from lying down to sitting up, standing and walking.

Eating - Pay attention as you eat. Chew slowly and completely, and notice the textures and flavors of your food.

Listen - When talking to another person, take a moment just to listen, appreciating the person's experience of the world, though it may be different from your own. Try not to begin formulating your own repsonse until they have finished speaking.

Walking - Practice mindful walking, consciously placing your attention on each foot as it connects with and leaves the ground. (As I did on the snowy steps!)

Standing - When standing in line or waiting, use the time to feel your feet on the ground and notice how you are holding yourself.

I'll add - Completing Chores - doing repetitive chores with awareness rather than rushing through them to get finished. I have a friend who loves to wash dishes and another that folds laundry more peacefully than anyone I've every seen!

Once, while cleaning green beans [with my laundry folding friend] we seemed especially in the moment and enjoyed the actual process of cleaning the green beans together. This reminds me of how families came together in the past and prepared food together. This is something our fast-paced society misses out on in the drive through world of today. My suggestion this month is to do as Eckhart Tolle suggests in the quote above and give your full attention to the step you are taking at this moment, no matter what that step is.

I would love to hear your feedback as well as any questions you may have or topics you may be interested in for the future. You may comment at the bottom at the blog where it says "comments" or if you prefer, send them to me directly at penelope@simplyspirituality.com . All posts will be archived on my blog along with other useful information at: Simply Spirituality or http://simplyspirituality.blogspot.com/

To continue reading next month's post on The Voice.... click here.

Until next month....
Here's hoping you keep your spirituality simple!
Penelope

Photo of the month:

This one step.... Florida, May 2001