Peace is Flowing: A Mindfulness Meditation.
Life has been feeling a bit uphill these days… well, these months. There has been a litany of struggles over the past year, and without listing them all here and risking this post becoming one big moan, I will sum up my year by saying ‘I’m tired’.
This became funny and the analogy of life being ‘uphill’ became real when I found myself up a Scottish mountain this past weekend. My friend and I decided to do a circular walk up Lochnagar, a mountain which has many, many steps, so to speak, and when we were nearly at the top, I jokingly made up a song around the words ‘I’m fed up’.
We giggled as I sang and we jointly created new verses in all the ways that ‘I’m fed up’ and somehow we got to the top of the mountain with energy to spare (just).
Throughout the day, even though our out of shape bodies were probably biting off more than it could chew, and even though we both felt diminished every time we saw someone actually RUNNING up the mountain, there were moments of peace and acceptance.
We were both tired, but we kept going and we didn’t give up. We didn’t give up because we accepted the fact that we needed to move slow, and we made sure to stop regularly to enjoy the views and each other’s company. And you know what? There was peace.
In our acceptance of the fact that we were not climbing with tanks full, we found peace in the quiet lunches, the lingering rests and the silence of two friends walking side by side supporting one another.
The first time that peace came to me on this ‘uphill’ walk was when we had finally arrived at a small meadow where we had lunch. There was a sense of arrival, a beautiful view and my friend and I had unpacked most of the troubles that had fallen upon our shoulders that week. I felt my shoulders drop and a profound sense of ‘it feels so good to breathe’ came over me.
I then immediately remembered an article that I had read by Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist, which had focused on peace and the importance of peace. Rick Hanson often speaks of rewiring the neuropathways in the brain (for happiness) by ‘taking in the good’ whenever we feel it. In this article, he was stating that we also need to do this when we feel peace. Hanson recalls the proverb “the highest happiness is peace” and explains that
“When you’re at peace – when you are engaged with life while also feeling relatively relaxed, calm, and safe – you are protected from stress, your immune system grows stronger, and you become more resilient. Your outlook brightens, and you see more opportunities”.
He then outlines 4 different types of peace that we can all look out for and experience with the suggestion that when we do stumble upon peace- enjoy it! Take it in! This process will help us turn towards peace and balance what he calls the brain’s negativity bias.
As I sat enjoying my lunch and the view, I felt what he calls the ‘Peace of Ease’. I named it to my friend. ‘I am feeling peace’. And I inhaled it deeply. It felt like a tall glass of water on a hot day. What a welcome visitor into my house of emotions!
It took my mindfulness practice to notice this peace. It began as a sense of relaxation in the body, my eyes felt soothed. It moved on to a sense of space in my mind. Sure, I have troubles, but when I remove myself from the tight grip of trying to fix them, I can see that there is also so much more than troubles- there is a vast expanse of possibility. Then finally, I felt a sense of happiness. I was with a dear one, surrounded by beauty, with ultimately ‘no where to go and nothing to do’.
Ah peace. This is a benefit of mindfulness meditation. One that I am grateful for.
As we continued on our uphill trek, I continued to catch glimpses of peace. Sometimes it was out of the corner out of my eye, other times it smacked me in the face. EACH time, I made sure to notice it and drink it in, smiling that actually peace really can be in every step. We just need to tune in to it.
So, this week’s challenge is to notice peace. You might want to start by tuning in to sensations in the body, noticing when the body is at rest and in turn, noticing when the mind is at rest. Body sensations are a wonderful gauge that can communicate the state of the mind. Touching in with the breath and noticing its rhythm. Is there an ease to the breath? Once you have noticed peace, take it in! Soak in it! Or, as Rick Hanson says, marinate in it. Let’s change some neuropathways for the good! Let’s tip the scales- then maybe this feeling of ‘uphill’ might feel a little more manageable.
If you are a member, make sure to log on to the online ‘Weekly Sit’ as I will be guiding a practice around noticing peace this evening.
Not a member but would like to become one? Sign up here.
I also start the new online version of our Level 1: Being Present course next week- why not sign up and join me for some mindfulness meditation?