Mindfulness Monthly | AUGUST

I am finally coming to the end of the flu. Not the cough cough, sniffle sniffle kind, but the blocked head, razor throat, rivers of muck (too much information?) and the I will NEVER EVER be okay kind. 

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This sickness has caused me to miss one of my closest friend's big birthdays. I sadly missed saying goodbye to my wonderful MBSR group on their last night. I had to pass up a few teaching gigs and I still miss my good friends and beautiful family who I have strategically distanced myself from to prevent their contamination.
 
I know people are in much worse places than me and it's just a cold, but boy oh boy, does laying low give one's thoughts and emotions time to play out their course. They went in waves:

My brain will never work again so teaching is off the cards.
My friends will forget me and I'll be No Fun Rita.
My family can do without me and eventually I'll fade from their lives forever. 
No energy means no walking, so energetic holidays are over…….
It's actually all over really….
Blah blah blah

It's been fun.
 
So. What to make of it all?
 
I've been thinking about perception, about how I look at life when its not going the way I want it to. In this blog post, I'm going to be looking at attachments and expectations, and try to put a few things in perspective.
 
Welcome to the August Mindfulness Monthly. May you all be healthy and live life with ease and energy.

"This is a wonderful day. I've never seen this one before." 
- Mary Angelou

On Attachment

There is an old story about a Zen master and his student:

The master and young monk were about to cross a river on foot, but before they did so they came across a young woman on the riverbank who wanted to cross but was too small and fragile to make the journey. So the kind old master carried her on his back across the river. This upset the young monk a great deal as he felt his master had violated the vinaya, the ‘rules’ of the masters. The monk kept quiet for a few days but felt increasingly upset and angry with his master as each day passed. Eventually he couldn’t help it and told his master he was very angry. The old master laughed and laughed telling the young monk, ‘I left the woman the minute we finished crossing the river, but you have been carrying her until now. 

How do I live a free life when I care so much about the things I am attached to?
 
Thanks to a timely gift by a good friend, I have been reading Everyday Enlightenment by His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa. His Holiness points out that it is good to have tenderness and care about certain things in our lives. However, that is not the same as having attachments. 
 
He says we should recognise when those connections support us, allow us to grow, provide inspiration and momentum. And then to recognise when they keep us stuck, fearful, jealous or even bored. It could be people that drain us, wealth that fixates and drives us, and habits that waste our time.

When we label a person, a material thing or a fixed idea of who we are or where we're going as "me" and "mine", we set ourselves up for the possibility of hurt, disappointment, jealousy and anger. The person may change, you may lose your wealth, you may be boxed in through old memories of yourself, and finally, your expectations and untamed desires may have you looking for happiness in all the wrong places.
 
We are human beings, it's in our nature to form connections, especially when we are inspired by a person or place. However, they need to be examined. Whether our attachments are positive for us and have a relaxed joyful nature or whether they stir up the more disturbing, ‘grasping’ emotions in us, I think we all know the difference.

Expectations kill the beauty of life. They keep us fearful of disappointment and keep us running and busy. At the end of the day it will all be gone: your possessions, reputation, relationships and body. Businesses and buildings will collapse and good friends and families will leave or be left. At the end we must be comfortable being alone with ourselves. Practicing non-attachment can make you one of the luckiest people in the world.

How To Practice Non-Attachment

Notice when you are feeling desire for something - a person, a new watch, new job, new car, a slice of lemon meringue pie. The next 'thing' that is going to make you happy.

Then take a moment, walk away. Relax. Play with how long the desire lasts. Can you distract yourself? Does some other desire take over?

And of course, you may become so fixated that you must get it. We're only practicing, remember?
Then notice how long the satisfaction lasts. Five minutes, a day...

And then what do you desire next?

Becoming conscious of desire and aversion (what we like and what we don't like) changes our perspective and interrupts the cycle of dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Perhaps you'll be able to step lighter in the world. It's certainly worth a try.

Happy exploring,

Rita x

Good Morning!

Do you jump out of bed in the morning revitalised, refreshed rushing to get into another day? Big smile on your face and hugs all round; the cat, your partner, your barista.

Or is it more like this.

The way we greet the first few minutes of our day can have a profound affect on how the rest of it will unfold. It makes it possible to be more mindful, self-compassionate, connected, and resilient throughout the day.

Try to do the following 3 simple things EACH morning for one week and be curious about the outcome.

  1. HEARING. Rather than starting the day off tense and startled by loud alarms choose one that’s gentle and soothing — chimes, bells, more relaxing music. Instead of hitting the snooze button or peeling yourself off the ceiling take the time to indulge in three mindful breaths… or maybe even five (radical!). Deep in-breath, long slow out-breath till you can no longer exhale. And then another, and then another.
  2. TASTING. Drink a BIG glass of water. You will be dehydrated after the long night. The coffee or tea can wait a few minutes, even if you think it can't. Your gut will be grateful.
  3. SEEING. This is the biggest but most profound. Before grabbing your phone, computer etc. go outside or open the window wide. Look at the sky, a tree, a pot plant. Observe something natural. Most likely your day will hold plenty of technology and I promise you won't miss anything in these few minutes.

Give yourself a moment giving these a try. Then move on to the rest of your day.

Agghhh! I Need Some Impulse Control!

I have been spending time lately looking at my impulses. I am learning to watch when desire takes over and I become grabby. I must have that, this or whatever. NOW. I am trying to being more responsive and less reactive. It’s a wonderful skill but easier said than done.

It’s tough but I’ve learnt a lot. I am less reactive around family. Not all the family but hey I am seeing growth. I am eating more mindfully, unless there is alcohol involved. If there’s alcohol I can eat anything. EVERYTHING!!! I have limited my coffee intake from four a day to one and realise I don't actually like coffee that much. And I am trying to not get up from my meditation cushion on impulse because I remember something I need to do NOW. I’ve found that one of the ways to tame an undisciplined mind is to watch an impulse arise and take a pause, check in with your quiet mind and watch what happens to the impulse if you don't act upon it.

But here’s my downfall. Ask me to sign up for any summit, teaching, new online course and my fingers hit that keyboard as fast as I can get that credit card out of my purse. Ah now I am about to do something constructive, learn some new skills. Grab grab grab. Gimme gimme gimme. The problem is I don't actually log on to do it, BUT I feel like I’m doing something.

On the good side though I used to do the same with books. So many impulses, so many unread books. But at least I HAD them on the bookshelf. Again I felt like I’d done something! I rarely buy a book these days. There is so much good stuff online and my bookshelves can now breathe easier. My kindle on the other hand…

So why am I writing about this. Well this week I decided to attend to my wardrobe. Younger sons’ birthday present was to sort out my clothes, get rid of stuff and then take me shopping. Great present. So there was younger son texting on the phone on the floor in my bedroom directing me to chuck, keep and more than a few times asking ‘What were you thinking?!”

I need to paint a clearer picture here. This son is seriously cool. I know he won’t read this so I feel very safe saying so. He has hair half way down his back, one of those awful beards, wears black t-shirts, torn black jeans, worn R. Williams boots and rides a black Harley. I am telling you that guy is gorgeously cool. So he is telling his mum what to dispose of and I am left with a very spacious wardrobe of black white and denim. Happy Mother.

I had so many clothes in there that I never wore. Boots that weren’t made for walking but looked great in the shop. Dresses that were fine when I bought them but could never be worn because I never had the right shoes. There was my denim period, my primary colour lets-be-happy time, my corporate outfit that I could never wear because it was so uncomfortable. My three pairs of exactly the same coloured sandals in case they ever wore out. I was over them before the first one left the house. My hippy summer beach cover ups that never ventured onto any beach. And lets not go anywhere near the swimming costumes! The list could go on and on... All bought on impulse, all gave me that retail therapy high, for a few moments at least. All now ready to give away.
So the next step was to fill in the empty spaces. YAY! This time I will be more discerning. No impulse buys.

And then same son sends me a link to a documentary he had just finished watching - The True Cost. A good documentary will make you stop and think, a great documentary will make you change your behaviour. I urge you to take some time to watch this. Sometimes we just need to be exposed to the right thing at the right time to curb our impulsivity. I think this was it.