Friday, January 20, 2012

You Are Here

I've been reading Thich Nhat Hanh's book, You Are Here, and am being encouraged again and again to sloooooooow down, not just my life, but my steps, my thoughts, my breath. If I can just DO this.... my life will be happier, more open to love and joy.

But it's not a matter of DO-ing, is it? I can't DO anything to slow myself down. I have to let myself BE... that is how it is "done."

Most days I am able to spend at least 30 minutes in quiet meditation. Sitting still rather than standing still. Sometimes I just focus on the in-out... in-out... in-out... of my breath, my stomach rising and falling. And sometimes I go into the netherworld of my imagination and spend time in my Inner Sanctuary, which is a big cozy house on the ocean with a forest behind it. And sometimes I do a bit of both.

One of the things he says in his book, and often, is that we are to stop judging ourselves, stop being unkind to ourselves. And just to be with what is. Just to let it be. To surrender to what is.

There is a fine line, I am finding, between settling for what is and surrendering to it. Like, my Naturopath tells me that certain of my blood levels are rising instead of falling. If I settle for that, and say "Oh well, that's how it is, I guess the cancer is back," then I am giving up. But surrendering to it means accepting those blood levels just as they are. Not punishing myself because the levels are elevated instead of lowered. Not wondering what I did wrong to make this happen. And as soon as I can find that space of true acceptance, as soon as I surrender to WHAT IS, I have opened a space in my being for change to occur.

I am still working with this, but I can tell you that everything he says in this book is true, true, true!

I had the thought, reading it this morning, that when I finish reading it I will start reading it all over again, because the book itself (altho small and slim in volume) is a compendium of wisdom, a classroom on mindfulness in 135 pages... and I could keep on reading it forever and ever and still get new things out of it every week, every month, every year. But I have underlined and highlighted and circled and written in the margins. So I will buy another copy of it, fresh and clean, and read it again. And again. And again. Until the lessons within start to adhere to my soul and to the pages of my own days. Until all my thoughts and feelings are coated with compassion and acceptance. Until the lessons in surrendering are as habitual to me as my breath.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Creating Happiness at Will

I just read something in Thich Nhat Hanh's "Your True Home" that really jumped out at me:

Suppose you are offered a cup of tea, very fragrant, very good tea. If your mind is distracted, you cannot really enjoy the tea. You have to be mindful of the tea, you have to be concentrated on it, so the tea can reveal its fragrance and wonder to you. That is why mindfulness and concentration are such sources of happiness. That's why a good practitioner knows how to create a moment of joy, a feeling of happiness, at any time of the day. (#6)

Something inside of me jumped up and said YIPPPPPEEEEEE!!! when reading this, because this captures exactly what I am trying to do, discover, experience in this Standing Still Experiment which of course is all about mindfulness.

I am wanting, yearning for a stripping away of the old, deluded thoughts and feelings that have been governing my actions for years and years. I want to be in the PRESENT, not bemoaning the past or harboring fear about the future. I am wanting to be able to create these moments of joy and happiness throughout my days, at will, intentionally, because I CHOOSE to feel joy, because I CHOOSE to be present and mindful and attentive.

And every time I remember and choose to stand still, to pause, to let go of past and future and simple BE here, right now... I am choosing to feel joy because the wonder of each present moment brings joy to my heart.

This is why, when we went to the vet's on July 15, 2011 to put dearly beloved Sasha to sleep because of her seizures, I was able to not be torn apart by sorrow. I was able to be present right there, with her and the vet and his assistant and my husband. I chose to stand still even in the face of such heavy sadness. And lots of truths broke through for me. Spirit was so close to me. I felt on the edge of both worlds and even though staying in the present moment was excruciatingly painful, it was also almost unbearably filled with light.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Sitting Still Experiment

These days I'm often recovering or "coming back from" a chemo treatment, so it looks like this experiment is transforming itself into one of sitting still instead of standing still. I am not able to take long walks with Suzy every morning. Once in a while I do walk to the end of the driveway, or the path from the parking lot to the Dog Park.

But mostly my days revolve around sitting. On the sofa (right side, cushion vertically up so my head can lean back), on the brown recliner in my Quiet Room, in the car.

I am enjoying all of this sitting still, to tell the truth. Although, if I'm not careful, I see that I can "zone out" just as easily while sitting quietly as I can when I have lots more energy and am rushing about on two feet "getting things done."

It all comes down to what's going on in my mind. I can be sitting in an easy chair in silence but the thoughts can still be going 100 mph in my head. Or I can be rushing around doing 4 errands in the course of an hour but my busy mind can be "sitting still" enough for me to remain centered and calm in the midst of time crunches and to-do lists.

So it all comes down to my thoughts, my mind. Mindfulness. It's not about my body sitting still, but MY MIND sitting still. That is where the true lesson lies for me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Learning Slowly

Well, I don't know if I did the pausing thing SEVEN times after that last entry, but I did come pretty darned close and it felt good.

Yesterday we went to Boston to get a second opinion about Jeff's slow-growing lymphoma, and the trip wiped me out. We took "The Ride" so at least I didn't have to drive. A few times during the ride, I was able to pause and breathe and be with myself. The whole thing wore me out, though and when I got home all I could do was lie down and read/close my eyes/watch TV.

When I feel like that, the Pausing is more difficult.

So this whole process is a slow moving thing, and I am grateful for the amount of time it is taking me to learn it. Maybe I will never learn it well enough to do it all of the time. Is there anyone who does? I doubt it!

I am just being patient with myself. So far this morning I have "remembered" about three times and I've been up for about 5 hours. But this is progress, I remind myself.

The remembering, the pausing, the stopping, the breathing, the noticing... it's all bringing me closer to myself and to Spirit. And that is what I want more than anything else.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

This Is Me And I Am...

I didn't write yesterday because I woke up with many "flu-like symptoms" related to the chemo treatment that I had on Wednesday. A little fever, achy all over and totally washed out. I just couldn't focus on this and I am pretty sure that at no point during the day yesterday did I pause and stand still. I might get there by the end of these treatments, though. And that would be a major miracle, I am thinking!

This morning I woke up feeling MUCH better, maybe a 5 on the Anne Marie Wellness Scale. Yesterday I was at 1.5, so that is major improvement.

Still, I didn't PAUSE until I was already out of the car and at the grocery store, yet just that little slow motion AHA moment was enough to bring me back to the present. I had already taken myself through many activities (drinking water, feeding the cats, showering, brushing my teeth, flossing, making a grocery list, checking my email, that I did NOT stop to acknowledge, but I am not beating myself up over this.

Also, I did not pause before I sat down at this laptop to create these blog entries. But I am stopping now. This is me and I am typing at my keyboard. This is me and I am creating something special.

My commitment today is to at least stop myself 7 times in the course of a new activity and breathe deeply and remind myself that I am in THIS moment only, remind myself that I am in a body and that my body and mind and spirit are working together on something.

I will report in tomorrow. This is me and I am ending this blog entry now.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Progress Being Noted

Well, it's definitely not easy, remembering to pause before beginning a new activity. Mainly, I realize, because there are SO MANY new activities in an hour, much less in a day.

So far my day went like this:

Get up go to the bathroom feed the cats take a shower. PAUSE> This is me, taking a shower. Ahhh..... Put on makeup affix new butterfly pin to hat make 6 new ornaments. PAUSE> This is me sitting at my art table, creating something beautiful. Ahhhh... Go downstairs put on jacket grab purse and coupons get in car put car in gear drive out of driveway and down the street to the stop sign. PAUSE> This is me in my car, going to do errands. Ahhhhh....

You get the picture? I am just posting this here to show that I am not doing this perfectly, or even well, and 99% of the time I am not even pausing BEFORE the activity, but during it (because I am not remembering ahead of time). My mind is still programmed to go, go, go, mindlessly moving from this thing to that thing without even thinking about what I am doing.

My commitment here is to change this patterning, change this speed at which I "do" my life. Every time I stop and become aware of what I am doing, and take a breath, I am shot through with little sparks of joy. Ahhhh.... here I am, back in my body again, paying attention to what my eyes are seeing and my ears are hearing. All in all, a beautiful way to live a life.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pausing Before New Activities

As I am sensing new ways and directions that my life can move in now (see entry below), I am also sensing a need to slow down deliberately.

I have found that if I can remember to stop before beginning a new activity and breathe deeply, at least one time, and NAME what I am about to do, that this slows me down just a bit more, and enough to make a huge difference in my mindfulness and consciousness of what I am doing and how I am feeling and the ways that I am spending my time.

I only just started doing this a few days ago and I will admit that I am only able to do this about 20% of the time, but I feel SO good when I do do it, that it is my intention to continue this practice for always.

I will also admit that I did NOT take this pause before beginning this blog entry! I am just realizing this right now. So this blog will be a good motivator for me to pay more attention to the transitions from one activity to another as each day goes on.