Inspired by my daughter Miranda’s blog post about her plans for her first month of our project, I decided to put down some thoughts about my own first month too. I have decided to focus on an area that has been partly neglected for some time now, since I’m living a life constantly filled with activity (four children, a creative job, a big house and garden always in need of attention, and a large social network): mind and soul.
The reasons I chose this particular area as the one to focus on first are (a) that my August (especially the second part) will be crammed with activity, and thus I will benefit from all the rest and relaxation I can possibly get, and (b) that for a long time I have felt a longing to go back to the daily routine of meditation that I got rolling some years ago, but lost track of when I was pregnant and had problems sitting down on the floor for more than a few minutes – I have just had difficulties getting down to business. So this is what I plan to do.
I will simply remember the catch phrase of Nike: Just Do It! (which will in fact be the title of one of my future focus months as well). It is actually so much easier than you might think. You just have to prioritize and do it, just like you do other obligatory activities, such as brushing your teeth and going to the bathroom. I know that as soon as I’m sitting there I really enjoy it. I’m not that good at concentrating and keeping my thoughts at bay, but I have come to learn to accept my shortcomings and feel that I’m good enough a meditator anyway.
I actually have a specific room in our big house which I have furnished exactly in the way I like it – with a lot of big cushions on the floor, beautiful furniture, purple-coloured wall-paper, several candle sticks and so on. Typically, I meditate just before I go to sleep, so it’s important not to wait until I’m too tired. What I do is I put on one of my favorite CD:s with relaxing music, light some candles and then I sit down on one of my cushions and close my eyes (sometimes after watching the flame of one of the candles for a little while) for somewhere between five and twenty minutes and just try to focus on my breathing.
In summertime, I sometimes prefer sitting outdoors, enjoying the silence (since we live in the countryside) only interrupted by the twittering of birds or the buzz of a bumblebee. Sometimes I use a mantra, to get focused, such as Energy In – Worries Out (following my breaths) or All Is Peace. When my thoughts wander away and I notice, I try to take them gently by the hand like a little child and lead them back to the breathing anchor in my stomach. I will not be fussy about time, and try to sit longer than I want to. The important thing is to make meditation a daily routine.
Quite a few years ago I took a course where I learnt an old form of Japanese healing called reiki, which you can use both to treat yourself and to treat other people. Back then I was really motivated to do it every day (although a complete round of reiki healing takes a whole hour), mainly because I wanted to do anything in my might to help support my health and immune system, as I was recovering from skin cancer. After a year or so, however, I started feeling that it took too much time and I lost the routine. Since reiki is a wonderful way of relaxing and sending love and energy to your whole body and soul, I would really like to get going again, but knowing how many other things I want to squeeze into those 24 hours a day, I will not set the goal as high this time. If I manage to give myself a reiki treatment once or twice a week I will be more than satisfied.
Yoga has in one way or another been present in my life ever since I was a small child. My mother did a lot of yoga when I was little, and we kids followed her example and learnt some of the basic positions, such as “the candle” and “the plow”. When I was in my early twenties I took a course in yoga and mediation, but I never liked it – only felt restless and wanted to go home to my then very young daughter (Miranda, who is now almost 22!). Pregnant with my third child I gave it a go again, and this time I really enjoyed the course. I also felt that what I learnt in the course came in handy during delivery – the best of the four ones I’ve been through! When I was expecting my fourth child I didn’t feel I had enough time (and money) to take another course (since I was already going to body combat classes at a fairly expensive gym, and managed to continue doing that far into my pregnancy), but I bought a DVD and did some yoga at home in front of the TV.
My sister and my best friend have been doing yoga for quite some time, and they have inspired me to want to get started again. My best friend actually gave me a yoga class for my birthday almost a year ago, but we haven’t managed to fit it into our busy schedules. But now’s the time to do it! Just as with reiki, I don’t want to set my goal to high, but what I want to do during my “mind and soul” month is to do the yoga class with my friend, and then dig out my old yoga DVD from somewhere and give it a try a few more times. Perhaps I get inspired enough to buy a punch-ticket at my friend’s yoga place. Since the focus of my first month is body, I’m mainly interested in the mental aspect of yoga, but my second month will focus on body, so getting started with yoga would not be a bad idea at all.
Mindfulness is of course a central element in all the three activities that I have already mentioned. However, I will also try to think of other areas where I can practice really being “here and now”, such as (1) really listen attentively to my family and friends when they are talking, (2) avoid doing more than one thing at the same time – such as checking e-mail while I’m watching something on TV – and (3) pay attention to what I’m doing while I’m watering my flowers, brushing my teeth, eating, cooking food and so forth.
Focusing on these four areas for one month does not mean that I will then just stop once this month is over. What I hope to do is create new routines in my life so that, for instance, fitting a daily moment of meditation into my schedule will not feel like a burden, but something that I just do.
Looking forward to getting started! (I might even make a false start and do some meditation tonight…)