I have taken to doing a shortened version of the three stage breathing space regularly within my day as a way of becoming more mindful. I have discovered that I often have a frisson of anxiety, which manifests in the heart, even when I am feeling quite happy.
This is what I do:
Firstly, I check in with my feet on the floor for a few breaths, then I briefly notice what I have been thinking about, what emotion I am feeling and what physical sensations are present in the body. Then I take a couple of deeper breaths and then spread out my awareness with a sense of allowing, first breath spreading through the whole body, second breath including metal activity and third breath opening to my environment via the senses. Then I rest in presence in this experience as I move into the next bit of the day.
These are strange times and I am sure many of us are feeling an underlying, or indeed a strong, feeling of anxiety. There is heightened uncertainty and change. There is also estrangement from loved ones, friends and family. Then there is the truth that any challenges, such as health problems or emotional upheavals, are made more challenging by the strange circumstances and restrictions we are all caught up in.
My teacher in India, Tai Situpa Rinpoche, gave on online teaching on Sunday on finding inner peace. He made a distinction between inner and outer peace. He talked about the truth of reality, that everything is changing all the time (impermanent) and that these changes are a result of myriad causes and conditions beyond our control (interdependence). If our expectations are contrary to this reality, ie. if we attempt to control what is happening within and around us to keep things as we would like them and in an unchanging way, then we are fighting a battle with realty and reality will always win – so no inner peace that way! Instead, if we are able to realign our expectations with reality and embrace change and challenge with kindness and curiosity, then there is some chance of inner peace.
If we experience inner peace, then the external environment is less of an issue. However, for those of us who don’t experience inner peace a lot of the time, then we can practice. We can set alarms on our phones to go off each day reminding us to ‘Let go of control’ or to ‘Embrace change today’, etc. I have found these alarm reminders very useful over the years in enabling me to remember to think and then to believe more in accordance with reality.
I read an interesting article in the Guardian recently, about embracing the coming of winter.
Autumn is a wonderful period of change, this year especially with the tress showing such beautiful displays of colour. Many of us dread the coming of winter. The cold, the bad weather, the dark nights, which are especially extreme in Scotland. The changes as we move into winter are inevitable, and so there is no point fighting against this reality. Instead, can we embrace these changes.?
One of the things I like about this time of year is that I get to see the sunrise and sunset. I go outside and look at the sky, which also makes a beautiful display of colours. I also like looking into the night sky. Observing the phases of the moon. Seeing planets glowing brightly, closest to the horizon. Wondering at the myriad constellations of stars. Again, I am lucky where I live as there is very little light pollution and so I can see the milky way.
As a dog owner I get out of the house for a walk each day, rain or shine. I subscribe to the belief that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. I have an array of waterproof and warm clothing, acquired over many years, which I can apply in layers depending on the outside conditions. You don’t need a dog to do this and I would recommend everyone getting out in the middle of the day, if possible, for a lunchtime walk.
We can relish the good fortune that many of us have of a cosy house, often centrally heated, or we can experience the joy of a fire or electric heater. We can retreat and snuggle under a blanket or duvet as we listen to music, a podcast or watch the TV. Make a plan to be cosy, do something you enjoy, with a hot drink to hand.
Many of us have very comfortable lives through this winter. Can we focus on our good fortune. Can we relish the many good things that the winter brings? As we obliged to experience the winter months, might we not cultivate the attitude to enjoy them? Light a candle in the evening, wonder at the flickering flame. If it is a scented candle, enjoy the aroma.
Write a list now. Five negative beliefs we have about the winter months and see if we can cultivate a different belief or make a plan to change our experience – be creative. Then write a list of five aspirations – things we might do over the winter months that we will enjoy – perhaps resurrect an old hobby, re-read books or re-watch movies or a box-set that we love. Stick these lists on your fridge as a reminder.
I wish you all a happy change of seasons.
Photo by Josh Hild from Pexels