Occasionally, we are able to experience a moment in time, when everything conspires, like magic, for us rather than against us. It’s like a mindful magic moment for which we are grateful. One of those moments when we find ourselves in the perfect place or with things we love. A time and place where little surprises lift our spirits and make us smile. Where conditions are such that we are able to relax deep into our body and being and notice how we feel. Where we feel nurtured and happy and can wrap ourselves up in the moment. They can be quite rare, but when they happen it’s like there is some mindful magic at work.
This last weekend I realise that I was very fortunate to experience 24 hours of mindful magic moments. It was mindful because I was aware of how this fleeting interval of time played to each of my senses and how it made me feel, in a very positive way. It was magic because all the elements that manifested were easy, simple, came mainly from nature and flowed with ease. It had the feeling of being immersed in a wonderful dream.
On this very cold January night, I walked across icy, crunchy grass and hard mud to a little wooden house, in the middle of a wood. The house was surrounded by a landscape which hinted at once having been a fairy tale enchanted garden. The whole scene was lit by a beautiful, silvery, full moon which illuminated the landscape in monochrome. Frost glistened like diamonds on blades of grass and the bare branches of trees. A clump of snowdrops were emerging from the icy ground and proudly stood out like bright white jewels in the shadows.
Three rivers surrounded the house. I could hear water trickling over rocks and stones from every side of the house. The water moved slowly as the warmer, deeper flow escaped from the solid icy surface. I could feel the energy of the water flowing gently across the chalky earth. The only source of heat on this very frosty day and night was a wood-burner. It glowed its comforting warmth into my body and the whole house. The uplifting smell of burning wood filled the air.
The next day was lit by a low, golden sun in a clear blue sky, which enticed me to go outside. There was a wooden deck which led down from the house to one of the rivers. A pair of ducks, laugh-quacking, glided past. The surrounding trees were full of birdsong. Every now and then I would catch sight of a woodpecker, wren or long tailed tit flying from tree to tree. There was a beautiful white egret fishing in the river closest to the bathroom window. Dreamlike flashes of a beautiful vivid blue appeared, as kingfishers sped past in search of the best place to pause, perfectly still like a statue, and watch for fish. I took a mindful moment and stared into the woodland of stillness. Every now and then there would be a little movement created by the abundance of creatures hidden there. I caught occasional glimpses as they moved with stealth. A hint of their presence, even though most often I couldn’t determine what it was. Absorbing the whole scene, it became a practice – a mindful moment.
Experience is the practice
Mindfulness teachers come in many guises. Often unexpected. There is a proverb which says that ‘experience is the best teacher’. Often this applies when we are going through tough times and we learn a hard lesson. However, in this case, my experience was a wonderful teacher of mindfulness. And how it is to engage all our senses and feel the joy that nature and the simple things in life can bring. By Living mindfully we can fully immerse ourselves in each experience as it presents itself and benefit from its teachings. From living a mindful moment immersed in nature, I learned how to fully experience all my senses. I noticed warm feelings fill my body. I became aware of feeling uplifted, joyful and happy. In turn I realised that it is important to create a balance in my life, and make sure I experience the free gift of joy that nature provides me.
On taking a moment to reflect within my mindfulness practice I began to get a sense of the ‘experience becoming the practice’. Nairn, Choden and Regan-Addis (2019, p.181) refer to this in their new book ‘From Mindfulness to Insight’:
“Once we experience some degree of stability, we expand the focus … to include all our experience. This is the main point of meditation – everything becomes the practice.”
The next day, the clear sky was covered in grey clouds. The white frost on the ground had melted into brown sticky mud. The snowdrops had closed their petals and dropped their heads. The moon had disappeared, and a grey mist shrouded the scene. Birds had taken to cover in the hazy landscape. The water in the rivers flowed with more urgency than the lazy trickle from the day before when ice restricted its flow. The magic moment had dissipated. I noticed how this made me feel. I became aware of my preferences. The moment had shifted and so had the sensations and the experience. I became aware of the moment by moment experience that is my life.
In our compassion training (Level 2 – Responding with Compassion) we learn that we have a threat, drive and soothing system operating autonomously in our brains. Paul Gilbert (2010) informs us that we tend to spend too much time in threat and drive modes and need to be able to generate an element of soothing in order to create balance. There is a compassion practice which invites us to take ourselves to a safe place. Here we conjure in our minds eye, a place, real or imagined, which makes us feel happy, safe and nurtured. Just by imagining this place, with all the details of sights, sounds and smells, we are able to induce feelings of warmth and calmness in the body and mind. Therefore, I was able to store the detail of the dreamlike scene I experienced the previous day. Then in my practice I am able to call upon this ‘safe place’ in the future and notice how this makes me feel in that moment. I can use this practice with an intention to nurture, restore and create balance.
This week’s challenge is to recall any mindful magic moments in nature you have experienced. Places where we have been aware of feeling calm and comforted. How would it feel to bring this place or moment into your practice and notice the effects it has on your body, thoughts and emotions? Notice your preferences. How can you create balance in your life and between your threat, drive and soothing systems in the brain? Are you able to notice a mindful moment everyday, wherever you are, whatever is happening and make it your practice?
I’d love to hear your experience. Please share your thoughts with us by commenting on this post or by emailing me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I wish you well during the coming week.
Gilbert, P., 2010. The compassionate mind: A new approach to life’s challenges. New Harbinger Publications.
Nairn, R., Choden., Regan-Addis. H., 2019. From Mindfulness to Insight: Meditations to Release Your Habitual Thinking and Activate Your Inherent Wisdom. Shambala.