A few years ago, my husband gave me a card (slightly tongue in cheek, but a humorous nod to my enthusiasm for my mindfulness and meditation practice), entitled ZEN DOG. It has a picture of a dog languishing in a bath tub boat, donning sunglasses, bobbing along at sea, the sun beating down on him. The words below read like this:
“He knows not where he’s going
For the ocean will decide –
It’s not the DESTINATION…
…It’s the glory of the RIDE”
I actually framed the card and it now hangs on my bathroom wall, serving as a daily reminder that striving for answers to everything or trying to second-guess the future is a pointless, energy-sapping exercise.
When I do allow myself to come away from all that’s going on in my head and notice any tension I may be holding in my body, it really is such a relief, as I know that help is at hand and it’s entirely down to me! So, for self-confessed control freaks out there, how cool is that?! By turning our attention to what is actually happening in the present, we are able to see the situation for what it is – we have absolute control over how we react in any given moment. That is mindfulness in a nutshell.
Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).
“Go with the flow” – what a ridiculous thing to suggest when life was ALL about deadlines, rushing about to catch planes and trains, answering emails at the same time as talking on a conference call, etc., etc. – you get the picture. How could it be possible when we all have so many responsibilities and ‘to do’ lists, to “go with the flow”? I used to think that I had a high tolerance of stress but, in reality, that belief simply meant that I’d take on more responsibility and add more stress to my life!
The saying “necessity is the mother of all invention” springs to mind when I think back to the turning point in my life; to the time when I realised that if I wanted to continue functioning as the person I really wanted to be and knew deep down that I was, I’d need to make some fundamental lifestyle changes. Enter my inspiration and dear friend Shelley, fellow yogi and meditation junkie. For the next several years I went on my own wellbeing journey and soon discovered the joys of a meditation and mindfulness practice. The changes didn’t mean quitting my job and living in a yurt (I have been tempted!), but I went in search of the peace within that would enable me to regain the natural energy needed to live a happy and fulfilling life, that would fully embrace the day job, and my role as mum, wife, friend, daughter, etc.
I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time with Zen Buddhist monks and inspiring yoga teachers around the world, I’ve read many dozens of books and have attended several wonderful courses, all in pursuit of inner peace. And do you know what the single magic ingredient is that makes this all possible? The breath! How we direct our Chi, Qi, Prana or, simply, energy with the use of our breath, is the answer to living mindfully, in the moment.
In yoga we learn that the breath is the link between the mind and the body. Learning, moment by moment, to direct our attention to the present using the breath as our anchor, can be truly life-changing. It’s such a simple thing but, of course, as with many simple concepts, that isn’t synonymous with easy. Yes, it takes practice, but the rewards are instant and exponential. Every few minutes that we choose to direct our attention to the breath and relax into the body, is like having a 30-minute power nap, only much quicker and longer-lasting and no-one need notice ☺.
So, the next time you’re feeling frazzled or just out of synch with life, take 5 minutes to sit or lie down undisturbed (we can all find 5 minutes) and connect with your breath. Inhale and exhale deeply, noticing any areas of tension in the body and allowing yourself to simply relax. You wait, 5 minutes will soon become 10 and 10, 15 and so on.
You may have realised that I’m a big fan of quotes so I thought I’d sign off this introduction to mindfulness with one by Albert Einstein:
“Life is a preparation for the future; and the best preparation for the future is to live as if there were none.”
Join the conversation by commenting below, and let me know your favourite life quotes too.
Until next time, enjoy the moments!
With love and wellbeing wishes,