Self care – meditation

“Time stands still best in moments that look suspiciously like ordinary life”

Brian Andreas

Lets rest here for a while and watch the sun rise across the land.

Lets just be here for a while, a little rest, a little bit of self-care.

Feel your feet on the ground

Breathe.

It is okay, you are alive, vital, present.

Open the senses, what can you see, smell and hear.

Lets linger for a while, no rush, no battles, no pushing or pulling.

We can let it all be for now.

Sometimes we just need to come back home, back to our true nature.

The tension in the belly, the closing of the heart, all little signs telling us to return back home, back to the breath, back to just this moment.

Watch the sun rise across the land, the mist rolling across the fields, the day dawning and unfolding.

Listen to the sounds, the birds singing, the distant traffic, the sound of your heart beating. So easy to miss in the busyness of life.

So often it feels like we are being pushed along out of control.

Feel your feet rooted into the earth, grounding you, supporting you.

Feel your breath, the rise, the fall, in and out.

There is a quiet stillness here, we can just observe it all with a gentle curiosity.

A space where we can just pause and rest.

A space between the stimulus and response.

A space where we can dwell deeply in the present moment and feel truly alive.

It is right here, amidst the chaos, it always was and always will be.

Rest in this self-care, soothe your soul and replenish your energy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Underneath the knowledge

To discover anything new, we have to start on a journey.  So often that journey starts with searching for facts, knowledge, belief, anything that tells us this is the right thing to be doing and that we are heading in the right direction.

I remember when I first started out on this journey of meditation and mindfulness, I was eager for knowledge, eager to know more and more, to fill my mind with facts.  It was like this for the first few years of practice.

There was nothing wrong with this, it got me started on a new path but I did start to notice something.  As I started to fill my mind with more and more facts and knowledge, I started to close off from anything new. The accumulated knowledge started to form my experience and started to act as an impediment to anything new forming.

Sometimes, in order to create we have to destroy.  To take down brick by brick the walls we build, seems counter productive. To seek the truth, to see the true reality this is what we have to do sometimes.  What is left is something underneath the accumulated facts and knowledge, something  that depends on non of this stuff, beautiful simplicity.

Maybe this is it, just a continuous building and destroying, a constant cycle. I know less now than when I started and that to me is just beautiful, for underneath all of that stuff is a natural stillness, a peace and happiness that is nothing to do with the accumulation of knowledge.  Ordinary, honest and genuine. A true reality that is underneath the story the mind tells us and the self projection that knowledge can create.

I leave you with this Haiku from Basho, which sums it up. Beautiful simplicity, life in all its vitality, incredible in its ordinariness. I wish you a wonderful week ahead.

“In the dark forest a berry drops, the sound of water.  On a withered branch a crow is perched, in the autumn evening”

Basho

 

 

 

 

Let the battle end

This moment

I look out of the window, across the rooftops.

The sun slowly sinks, setting the sky on fire with its orange hue.

As the week draws to a close, part of me wants to reflect on what has been and what is to come, part of me wants to be right here in this moment.

The past and the future all flicker through my awareness, vying for attention.

I look at my feet. Oh good, they are still there firmly rooted to the spot, I am here.  I look out of the window again, the sun sinking further.

It is okay, it is okay.

I remember we can hold it all lightly.  Just thoughts passing through.

There was a time, I could spend days and days lost in the past. Re-living hours and weeks. Meanwhile the sun sank as it is doing now, without me seeing it.

There was a time, I could spend days and days in the future, worrying, planning, making up scenarios, playing them all out in my mind.  Meanwhile the sun sank as it is doing now without me seeing it.

Something has changed

Backwards and forwards my mind goes.

Like I was talking gently to an old friend I have known for a long time, I address my mind.

“its okay my friend you can look back, you can look forward but let’s try it here for a while, here in this moment.  Rest here in this moment for a while, watch the sun set, look at the colours, take it all in, breathe gently my friend”.  

No matter how mindful we are, our mind will go back and forwards, it will wander, why battle to stop this.

Ending the battle

There was a time, I thought I must not be doing this right. My mind is still wandering.

Haha, who was I to think I could stop the mind from wandering.

I know (I thought), I will put the mind on a tight leash and try to spend every moment in the present.

Did that work, umm no way.   Layer, upon layer of thought would be built, this isn’t working, I am not doing this right, turned into I am useless, turned into lets dwell in the past and so on and so on.

So lets cut the mind some slack, give it a long leash.

Whoosh, of it went, back and forwards, ruminating, thinking.

The middle way

So maybe there is something in the middle, a middle length leash.

We can observe the mind wander, and gently bring it back, wander again and gently bring it back, wander again and gently bring it back, over and over. Just enough slack but not too much.

No battle, just a gentle but firm awareness of what is going on. There is some peace here.

This is the practice, the middle way, gentle but firm.

Forever changing

So here we are. The end of another week, we can look back, we can look forward, it really is okay.

We don’t have to stay in the past or stay in the future.

There is somewhere else, right here, right now.

Gentle but firm, come back.

Plant your feet firmly into the floor, look out take it all in.

Know that there is some peace right here in this moment. Let it be what it is. Know that this moment is forever changing, evolving, moving, like the sun setting on the horizon.

Let the battle end.

 

 

A beautiful place

 

There is a beautiful place, underneath all the judgements and the resistance.  A place of quiet stillness, where we can just observe with a gentle curiosity this thing we call life.

A place where we can hold life as if it was a little bird in the palm of our hand. Lightly held and observed with curiosity.

A place where we can just hold it all in awareness and let it be just what it is, not manufactured but authentic and real.

A place where we can see that everything changes moment by moment.  The simple, the profound, it all changes.  From this place we can end the pushing and pulling and just let it change and evolve as it does and as it always will.

A place where we can greet ourselves like an old friend, with open arms, an open heart and a big smile and drop the judgements, end the fight and say lets rest for a while.

A place where we can hear our inner wisdom, our intuition.  In the stillness it speaks to us, telling us what we need to hear.  A place where we can learn to trust this voice.

A place we can breathe, I mean really breathe, to feel the air going in and out of the lungs and to know we are fully alive in this very moment.

A place we can meet the resistance and just experience what we are feeling, beyond good or bad, not grasping or rejecting, just simple experience.

A place we can just watch our thoughts come and go, like clouds in the sky or ripples in the stream.

A place that is with us all the time even in the chaos, in the busyness, know it is there just quietly waiting, whenever you need it.

Nothing we need to become, nowhere we need to go.

A beautiful place, right here, simply in what is.

 

 

Gently, Gently

 

Go gently into this life. 

Hold it gently in awareness.  Everything is going to be ok.

Observe with gentle curiosity this thing we call life.  Let it evolve and change as it always will, moment to moment, day by day, year by year.

Underneath the pushing and pulling, the resistance, the judgements is a beautiful place, a little piece of solid ground.  A place of stillness and peace where we can see it all unfold.

A little piece of solid ground in an ever-changing world, it is right within us.  In the breath, in our eyes, in our nose, in our hands, in our feet, in our hearts. It is right there whenever we need it.

A gentle strength, a gentle courage.  I never thought those words would go together, but they do.  Gentleness is strength and courage.

Gently we can lean into our discomforts without battling with them. We may see them for what they are, unmasked.  Like a cloud floating by in the sky, like the ripples in a stream, it comes and it goes.

With this gentleness we see the space between stimulus and response and wow how lovely that space is. The space that affords us a birds-eye view without being caught up in the moment.

From this place we can feel sad when we are sad, angry when we are angry, happy when we are happy.  We don’t have to sugar coat our natural emotions. Our true emotions need to be felt, not pushed away, not resisted.  Gently we can acknowledge the truth of how we are feeling, to gently be with it, without knee jerk reaction, authentic and real.

Somehow the spirit of gentleness tells us what we need.

Go gently into this life, hold it lightly in awareness. It’s all going to be ok.

 

 

 

 

 

Back to basics – Meditation and life

In walking, just walk, in sitting, just sit. Above all don’t wobble

Yun-Men

Balance

The simple beauty of those words, just walk, just sit.  Just saying them can bring a sense of peace, a relief almost. Several times a year I attend a sesshin, a day of intensive meditation and most importantly, a day of silence, no talking. I used to find the silence a bit awkward, now the relief of silence is priceless.  I adore those days of just walking, just sitting, just nothing, just being. It’s just lovely.

If you wobble, don’t worry, don’t fret, take a deep breath, remember you’ve balanced before you can do it again

It is a fine line we walk in this practice of living (mindfully).  To strive to be our very best yet at the same time grounding ourselves into this very moment, to reach out but not hold on, to be curious about life but not over think it. It can sometimes feel at odds with the world around us.

Although I try my best to walk this line with care and attention, I still sometimes feel myself being thrown off-balance at times. This is normal, it really is okay. It is simply life and a reminder that it is time to go back to basics again.

Peel back the layers again – meditation, back to basics

Simple Awareness

When we feel off-balance it is easy to use meditation as an escape, to withdraw from our life.

When we start to feel like this, it may help us to be reminded of this one thing:

Meditation is about being fully present, awake to what is.  Simple awareness.

The practice of meditation is about cultivating the ability to be awake in our life, not separate from it but awake to life as it is.  By doing this we can start to be more curious about what is happening, “ah I feel off-balance, time to go back to basics” is just one example.

Intention

Setting an intention can be good but I find it can also sometimes get in the way with meditation.  Before you even sit for meditation, notice what your intention is, are you looking to get something out of the meditation? Are you looking to change something? are you coming to sit with an “okay let’s get this over with” attitude? whatever it is, notice it and then let it go as if it was a cloud floating by in the sky.

Posture

Going back to basics means also checking your posture in meditation.  I often notice myself slouching a little, especially when I am feeling a little off-balance and out of sorts.  Posture is important, it sends a message to your inner self “hey, I am here, I am aware, I am returning to balance”

Whether it’s on a chair, cushion or stool, visualize the most beautiful and ancient tree, its roots deep in the earth, its trunk upright and straight and its leafy canopy reaching up into the sky.  That’s our posture. Our feet, legs, knees, rooted to the floor, our backs straight and upright.  Just allow your body to be still, sitting with a sense of dignity, a sense of resolve, a sense of being complete.

Attention

It is easy to over think what we are supposed to be doing in meditation.  It helps to pair it back to the basic placement of your attention.

My anchor or placement of attention is the breath. That simple life-giving thing that we take for granted.  Of course, there are other things we can use as an anchor, but the fact that the breath is so normal and so beautifully simple, helps us when we are needing to just come back to basics, back to the real core of the practice.

Our mind will wander.  A bit like when I was teaching my little terrier George to walk at heel.  He would wander off or pull ahead. Gently, I would bring him back to my heel, over and over again. Over time he learnt that it was quite nice to walk next to his dad (plus his dad usually had some treats in his pocket haha!)

The same in our practice, our minds will wander, when you notice, just label it as thinking and gently come back to the placement of attention, the breath (or whatever your anchor is) over and over again. The essence of the practice, over and over. Simple placement of awareness.

Over time, this strengthening of awareness starts to spill out into everyday life. Look out for those times when you see it working.

The beauty and simplicity of the practice – back to basics

Awareness – Being awake

Intention – Notice it and let it go

Posture – Be a tree

Attention – Your anchor, your strength



Hold your life in awareness, encounter it, feel it, honour it, know it for what it is.

Just walk, just sit, just breathe.

Just be you.

 

 

 

 

Getting right to the heart of it

I have felt a definite shift in my mindfulness and meditation practice over the last few weeks.  I have felt the need to be silent, to be still, to step away from the noise and to drop into my heart, to hear what it has to say.

The heart seems to have a mysterious way of knowing just what is required, yet so often we don’t listen to it.  In the busyness of life, the heart gets drowned out by the noise of it all, opinions, judgements, I should do this, I shouldn’t do that. When we drop into the heart and truly listen,  intuition comes to the fore and common sense prevails.

I find it fascinating that science is coming round to the fact that the heart may have a brain of its own. Besides its primary function of keeping us alive, research has shown it appears to contain thousands of neurons and neurotransmitters.  I am not a doctor nor a scientist, I can only tell you, (from my heart) it has been one of the most transformational aspects of my practice so far.

“If mindfulness is the boat, compassion is the water it floats on”

Mindfulness without compassion is a bit like trying to push a boat on dry land. If mindfulness is the boat, compassion is the water it floats on (you know I like my nautical references).For this reason, compassion is the most important aspect of my practice and teaching. Compassion, kindness and awareness can come to us naturally if we truly listen to our hearts.

The heart of the practice

It takes time to connect with the heart again. For years, I didn’t listen, beating myself up, fears, judgements, all the noise took over. But slowly, without over thinking it, for ten minutes I would just sit, putting my attention to the heart area and breathing in deep as if breathing in light to the area, then a release of the breath out, sending the darkness out into the atmosphere, just repeating that for ten minutes, light in, dark out.  As with most of this sort of practice it is experiential, it cannot be intellectualised and in a way it can’t be written, it has to be felt and experienced with no expectation.  I don’t practice this at every meditation but at least once a week, I drop into the heart.

The heart knows what we truly need, it wants to be listened to.  Don’t take my word for it, drop into your heart every now and again and just listen. Put your hand on your heart and give yourself the love, the kindness and the compassion you need.

Be patient, watch the small shifts happen and allow things to unfold in their own good time, not forced but from the heart.

With Love from The Mind Shed.



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From the Heart

 


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A compassionate reminder

Live life today

For so many years I lived my life in the future.  Constantly projecting a picture of what life could be like, constantly looking for the next big thing to make me feel alive. Whilst I was busy projecting, the day-to-day life, the real life, just past in a blur.

It took the death of a relative to snap me out of that fantasy world of make-believe and come back to life as it is right now.  I vowed from that day on to live life now, not in the future.

“Death is not the greatest loss, the greatest loss is what dies inside us whilst we are still living”.

Those simple moments we lose. That empty cup you stare into, wondering who drank your coffee and then suddenly realising it was you. Those moments you get to the top of the stairs and wonder why you went up there. That destination you arrive at and then suddenly wonder how the hell you got there.  The truth is we have all done it.  Small moments that may seem insignificant but what if we spent a whole life like that, what if you only had a few months left to live and you look back on your whole life like you looked into that empty mug. Is that it? was that my life? it must have been, nobody else has lived it for me.

Ask yourself the question “what simple thing can I do right now, to nourish my life”

I used to think, Oh I will enjoy life when I have this or that, or life will be better when I have completed this task and the next big think comes along. Life will be happier after the next holiday and so on and so on, always one day sometime, but never today. It is so easy to fall into this trap, I catch myself still doing it now and again.

Something amazing started to happen when I said to myself “what simple thing can I do right now in this moment to nourish my life and make a difference”.  It could be as simple as being aware of breathing, or just listening to the birds outside, having a mindful cup of tea or coffee, small moments of awareness that ground me to a life of reality and authenticity.

I started to not need the vacation to feel happy, or the next big thing to come along to make me feel alive.   I dropped the need to be so busy and in turn became more productive.  This different mode of thinking, although sometimes difficult to maintain, has and is having, a profound effect.

Last year, I took the leap to reduce my day job working hours, from five days to four. Something that was always going to happen in the future, started happening there and then, that day. Just a small step made possible by just living now, not in the future.  It has meant less money coming in but there is no contest when I weigh it up against having more time to live life in this moment, to follow my heart and passion, to write this blog and to hopefully inspire others to see it is possible.

Cherish those beautiful small moments, it may be walking barefoot on grass, walking the dog, sipping a cup of tea, listening to a friend or loved one or counting your breaths up to ten. Whatever it is, it is what reminds us we are alive now, right in this moment, not in the future.

Pause, take your time, be bold, be courageous but more importantly, live your life today, not tomorrow, not next month or next year, but today.

Be happy, have a great week.

From Roger

www.themindshed.co.uk

Knocking down the walls of fear

“Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack, in everything, that’s how the light gets in”

Leonard Cohen

For many years I built a metaphorical prison for myself. Brick by brick, wall by wall, until I was completely surrounded.

The walls I built were made of fear and shame.  Although it was all in my mind, it felt very, very real, trapped in a prison of my own making.

But what was I afraid and ashamed of?

The truth is, I was afraid to expose who I really was.  Sensitive, awkward, anxious, quiet and well and truly in the closet.

I was so afraid that somebody might see the real me, I built a prison to hide in and I started to live a lie.  In doing so, I cut myself off from life bit by bit.

If we believe it, fear has the ability to stop us from taking any action.  It will tell us that it is just far to painful to show up as ourselves in the world, much better to stay in the familiar prison.

I want to tell you now, there are cracks in the walls we build, big enough to let the light in and to show us the way out.  True happiness, true contentment and peace will never be found in the prison of fear.

knock down the walls or just open the door

It took me until my late twenties and early thirties to accept who I am and to be comfortable in my own skin.  It is work in progress,  I can find myself back in the prison sometimes but once you have seen the way out, you don’t forget it.

Mindfulness – Coming out of auto pilot mode

One of the things mindfulness is good at, is taking us out of auto pilot mode. In autopilot mode we are unlikely to see the patterns of behaviour that put us in the metaphorical prison.

With a heightened awareness that mindfulness brings, I can see when I am starting to build the walls again, when anxiety and fear start to take over.

A daily practice of meditation and everyday mindfulness provides the awareness.  So when I find myself back in the so-called prison, I don’t have to knock the walls down, the prison door stays wide open, it never gets locked, all I have to do is make the choice to walk through it.

Kindness and compassion

In my post “From the heart” I wrote how compassion and kindness has helped me over the last few years.

There was a time I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror, now I look and smile as if I am greeting my best friend.

At least once a week, I will carry out this simple compassion meditation and drop these words right into my heart.  I start with myself and then wish the same for a close friend or loved one. I don’t search for a special feeling or emotion but more often than not a feeling of peace and contentment will arise during the meditation.

May I be well, May I be happy, May I be free from suffering and harm.

May you be well, may you be happy, may you be free from suffering and harm.

Being kind and compassionate to ourselves and others can bring great inner strength and inner peace.   It helped me to see, that I can just be me, I can have a soft heart but also a strong back, I can be kind but doesn’t mean I am a walk over. I can be sensitive and caring because that just who I am. I can drop the macho bullshit, it’s just not me.  A big learning curve, but one that allowed me to escape that prison I built once and for all.

Goodbye prison

Mindfulness and meditation have changed my life.

To be clear though, It hasn’t changed me. When I first started with it, I so badly wanted to change, to be somebody else.  It is what brought me to the practise in the first place, but it had other plans.

It is returning me back home, back to my natural state, my true self, just simply me.

I hope this helps anybody out there that feels stuck in a prison of fear, shame, guilt or whatever other things we build our walls with.

Take the time to stop, to notice, notice the cracks in the walls you have built around you. Be curious about the light that shines through them and go after it.

There is plenty of time, know that it is okay. It is okay to just be yourself.

With Best wishes, I hope you have a great week, from Roger.

 

 

A journey to where?

The journey of a thousand miles, begins with one step

Lao Tzu

The first step is often the hardest

When starting any journey or change in life, spiritual or otherwise, it is often the getting started that is the hardest part.

When I remember back to when I first started practising mindfulness and meditation, my mind would do anything to stop me from actual starting to practise.  Procrastination and distraction was there in abundance, doing all it could to stop me from making that first step.

One little simple trick helped me to push through all of that. I was reminded of it this morning when I was out walking George.

Our walk this morning took us into a corn field with a path running right across the middle.  As we traversed the field my focus was on the end of the path, way up ahead.

We do this in life too, we don’t concentrate on each simple step but rather tend to look to the end of the path far away.  This can lead to a sense of hopelessness, bewilderment and a sense that life is just passing us by.

We stop seeing the steps that we have may have already made, or feel that the task is so huge that it would be easier to simply stay stagnant.

All of these things went through my mind when I started to practise, how can I change? How can I calm my mind with all these thoughts? How is it possible to stop this rumination going on? I haven’t got time to meditate and so on and so on.

At this point, it indeed would have been easier to stay as I was, but instead I put all my focus into that very first step, nothing else. I sat for just ten minutes and counted my breath, in – one, out – two.  The thoughts came and went and tried to push me off-balance but I just simply came back to the breath, in – one, out – two.

The simple trick was to focus not on have I got the time?, can I calm my mind? how will I change? but just simply focusing on sitting and breathing.  It could be easy to dismiss this first step as too simple, too basic to be able to change a life. That first simple step was difficult but has truly changed my life for the better.  Dropping the expectation and taking that small step was the key to starting the journey, overcoming procrastination and taking action.

Steadily over the last couple of years, I have gradually increased those ten minutes to a regular daily meditation practice, ten minutes in the morning and twenty in the evening.  When I feel like I am going off track, or that knot of anxiety starts to bubble up, or life throws something up unexpected (life has a habit of doing that), I return to that very first step, the anchor, the breath, in – one, out – two.  A sense of peace and calm, slowly returns without fail.

a journey to where?

Unlike the path I took with George this morning, our lives rarely play out in a linear way.  The journey I talk about with mindfulness, isn’t a journey from point A to point B, it is a journey to now, right here, in this moment, the only moment we have.  It is a journey to this step, the one we are taking right now and being able to see it in all its glorious detail.

As we focus on each little step and not on our expectations and achievements, something magical starts to happen.  Decisions we have to make start to become clearer, we may become more creative and procrastination finds no home.

If you find yourself at a standstill, stagnant or unsure, try dropping the big picture for a while. Concentrate on now, this step, this moment and see what happens.  It sounds simple, but it works.

Think of the places where you plant your feet

Inscription on the door of Zen dojos