The other day I made a new and lovely discovery during my meditation session. It took me just a few minutes sitting their on my cushion before I got the feeling you get when doing a physical relaxation program. You know, when you go through your body, tightening your left hand and relaxing it, then tightening your right hand and relaxing it, and so on. After a while it feels like your whole body is soaring above the bed, armchair, floor, or wherever you’re lying or sitting. That’s the sensation I reached – without a single second of physical relaxation – several times over the last few days, and it certainly does not make me less inclined to do my mediation.
Category Archives: Soul
Last night I slept on a train while travelling from one end of my country to another. Sleeping on trains is usually something I enjoy – and I particularly enjoy not flying and leaving big dirty ecological foot-prints when train is an alternative. This time, however, I was a bit unlucky. Firstly, a group of students going by train to their new campus decided to have a late-night party (= loud music and loud voices) in the compartment next to mine. Secondly, I woke up at four o’clock while the train was standing still for some time, and couldn’t manage to go back to sleep although I didn’t have to get off the train until 6.30. Besides, I didn’t feel comfortable doing my daily evening meditation in the minuscule compartment in the company of two unknown women. Having worked for 12 hours the day before and having to work for about as many hours today (including giving a four-hour lecture), the situation could have turned into a real disaster. But it didn’t.
The reason – at least I strongly believe so – was that when I couldn’t fall asleep because of all the noise yesterday night, I decided to treat myself to a reiki healing session. As I almost always do, I fell asleep before having gone through my whole body, but I still seem to have got the energy I needed to cope with today. I’ve heard somewhere that a reiki treatment can correspond to four hours of sleep. If that is true or not I cannot say, but I haven’t been tired at all today – in spite of only four hours of sleep and two really hectic working days. No headache either. I have actually had a really lovely day, in spite of rainy weather, the best part being when one of the teachers participating in my workshop exclaimed that “This was a hallelujah moment!”.
PS. Note to self: Whenever I get to bed too late, do a session of reiki, no matter how short, before I fall asleep.
Ho, ye thoughtful, strong and gorgeous ladies. So many ideas, goals and strategies! Whatever you do the coming year – flood it with love for yourself! Work with your habits and possible flaws only because you love the divine person they are part of – and love that person because she has those flaws, not in spite of her having them. Love is the stream capable of carrying your project the whole way through, and much further. Lots of love and luck to you both!
The words come from my friend S, one of the wisest people I know, and a constant source of inspiration in my daily life. What she writes is so true: acceptance, tolerance and – especially – love are important ingredients in a project like ours; otherwise there is always the risk of ending up with performance anxiety, an ingredient we definitely don’t need. Something that makes my part of the project a bit different from Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project is that I’m not so much trying out new things in order to find out if they could make me happier. I am already happier than I’ve been in my entire life. I have stopped hunting, and found happiness all around me. What I want to do is simply to find more room for things that I really enjoy doing.
With this perspective as the starting point, I feel that my project is infused with love, in every part of it. The commandment I put at the top of my list runs Give love, respect and attention to yourself and people around you. The very essence of my project is to show love and respect towards myself by focusing on things that I know make me feel good, or that are good for me. For instance, I loved my daily meditation routine three years ago, and I’ve longed to get back on track. However, with a life so filled with activity and people needing me as mine, it’s sometimes difficult to find time to do all the things I enjoy. I’ve tried, half-heartedly, for several months, but as soon as I integrated meditation in my project it became so much easier to prioritize.
Being able to document and reflect in writing on what happens in my project is another way for me to prioritize something that makes me go wild with happiness, thus again giving love to myself. Many thanks to you for patiently reading what I write!
In recent years I have found an excellent strategy for coping with household chores and garden work: listening to radio programs (from online archives) on my smartphone. It now feels so much less boring – instead I get some time and space to be on my own, while beings served glimpses of interesting life stories or documentaries on exciting topics. Welcome laundry, dishes and lawn mowing, let’s have some quality time together!
Today I’ve been doing garden work all day – splitting logs and mowing the lawn in our huge garden – and thus had an excellent opportunity to listen to the radio for hours. I was a little disappointed then, when doing the last 20 minutes of my mowing and my smart phone ran out of power. Suddenly all I could hear was the distant sound of the lawnmower outside of my hearing protectors. But then I decided to turn the last part of my mowing into really mindful mowing. So I focused on feeling the grass under my feet, the handle of the mower shaking in my hands (the machine is a really old one), smelling the newly mown grass and watching the sun set.
And then tonight, I dug out my old yoga DVD from behind all the children’s movies and did a short session. I became a bit nostalgic when I heard the voice of the yoga instructor; it reminded me of my last pregnancy – I haven’t done any yoga since then. I had forgotten how hard it is when your body is unused to the positions (especially, I think, “the dog position”), but I will definitely give it a try.
To finish off this day, which has been very much focused on physical rather than mental activities, my younger daughters and I had a few lovely (and mindful!) minutes in the garden just before they went to bed, trying to spot bats, which tend to fly around our house at night. Before getting back inside, we also sang a traditional Maori song that we learnt at a wonderful camp a few weeks ago: Ma The Aroha – Where There Is Love, There Is Life!
I didn’t think it would be this easy to get started with a daily routine of evening meditation, but after a few days it already feels just as natural as it did a few years ago. Even if I’ve been up very late at night lately, I have had no problems motivating myself to sit down for my little session before going to bed. Yesterday I got the feeling that I recognize so well from the time in my life when I actually did meditate every evening: the feeling that I could sit there for ages – although it was over one 0’clock in the morning. Simply lovely!
When I did my mindful walk to the mailbox this morning I noticed that I was walking very slowly. This reminded me of the time when I was on parental leave with my youngest child and started doing things – such as shopping, laundry, watering my houseplants – very slowly (often because there was a little one hanging from a baby carrier in front of me). I had forgotten how much I enjoyed this, that it felt like meditation, and I decided that one part of my mindfulness project will be doing things, such as driving my car and eating, more slowly (otherwise I’m the kind of person who usually does things at high speed…).
I have also created a playlist for my Reiki sessions (for the first time in many years I did half a session the day before yesterday). A session is one hour long and contains twelve positions – so twelve tracks, five minutes each. The playlist also works very well as background music when I’m working (today I’m doing this at a really cosy café in the town where I live – and in a little while a friend of mine will be joining for a cup of tea). Enjoy your day!
Today, 1 August, it was time to go ahead with my first project, focusing on Mind & Soul. The day started with a really mindful walk down to our mailbox – a very short walk, but I carried it out without thinking about a thousand other things (which I usually do…), and instead focused on the gravel under my feet, the lovely sunshine, the green leaves of the trees above me and the birds twittering in the sky. Otherwise this is probably my toughest challenge, to be 100 per cent here and now – my mind tends to float away and I really find it difficult to concentrate on one thing at a time.
On my way to work, I listened to a radio program. It turned out to be a person describing his life story – from being a successful (but unhappy) financial yuppie to spending 16 years as a monk, in Thailand and elsewhere. It was a fascinating story and – of course – full of talk about meditation and mindfulness! It simply felt like the perfect introduction to my project.
One thing in particular caught my interest in the program, a sentence the speaker quoted from one of his former masters: “You will get to know everything you need when you need it, not before that – as long as you’re 100% present in life.” It reminded me that acceptance (including patience) is an important ingredient of mindfulness, and the well-known Serenity Prayer is a good guide here:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Accepting what I cannot change is something I will also try to practice during my Mind & Soul month. Two such things came to my mind today:
- to be patient when your car has to go very slowly on the road because there is a slow vehicle in front of you
- to stop sulking about unpleasant unexpected expenses that you cannot avoid
Now time for my daily meditation session. Good night!
PS. I met my best friend today, and we booked a yoga class at the end of the month! Tomorrow I’ll try to find my old DVD and start practicing a little at home to prepare. And while I’m writing this a friend of mine posts an ad on Facebook that she wants to sell two books about yoga – must have been a sign for me, don’t you think? 😉 I’ll definitely buy them!
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…)