Mindful Health

November 15, 2009

Our life is what our thoughts make it. ~Marcus Aurelius

The attainment of wholeness requires one to stake one’s whole being. Nothing less will do…. ~C. G. Jung

Synchronicity again. I first ran across psychologist Ellen Langer when I was preparing for the talk on mindful management last month. Langer did early experiments in mindfulness and its effect on aging, so I hunted down her 1989 book, Mindfulness, and read it recently. Today I see that she has a new book, Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility, and that a movie with Jennifer Aniston, based on the book, will soon be coming out. No doubt, mindfulness is becoming more mainstream.

Langer says we have learned to influence health “by exchanging unhealthy mindsets for healthy ones and increasing a generally mindful state. The latter is more lasting and results in more personal control.” Jon Kabat-Zinn lists seven attitudinal factors that underlie mindfulness: (1) non-judging; (2) patience; (3) beginner’s mind; (4) trust; (5) non-striving; (6) acceptance; and (7) letting go. Cultivating these attitudes, Kabat-Zinn stresses, requires energy, motivation and commitment. May I establish daily practice in mindfulness for health.

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Happiness and Belonging

August 10, 2009

Yahoola Valley 2
Look deep, deep, deep into nature, and then you will understand everything. ~Albert Einstein

Nature is not a place to visit. It is home. ~Gary Snyder

It is becoming clearer to me that happiness is a subtractive, rather than an additive, process. What I mean by that is that it is our natural state, but it is layered over with oh-so-much stuff that interferes. Letting go and discarding those things that don’t serve us is our task–not striving to find something we don’t already have. We are an integral part of the universe, of nature; we belong here (because we are here, after all), yet we persist in struggling to feel belonging. At least that’s my theology at the moment.

I am so fortunate to live in a gorgeous place. But when I am unhappy, focused on all that “stuff,” it goes unnoticed. May I recognize that I vibrate with all of nature, and feel that connection in my bones.

Sophia once said to me, “You should feel adored.” We should all feel adored as we bask in our natural homes. We are part of something much greater, but it would be different without us.

I am a thread in the fabric of existence.
No one would miss one tiny thread,
except that it holds the whole thing together.
Who knows the extent of unraveling
once it begins?


Surrender

May 3, 2009

The goal of life is living in agreement with nature. ~Zeno

Here is one take on the idea of “surrender.” As the opposite of giving up one’s true nature or conforming, we can surrender to the truth of who we are and find our right place in the universe. I believe that is what we all long for. It is a theme I return to again and again: Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of Finding Flow; what David Whyte talks about in The Heart Aroused (The Soul at Work); and what Parker Palmer refers to as the integration of soul and role (An Undivided Life).

Surrender in this sense is not giving in, but giving up the illusion of control, letting go of the defenses we have built against our heart’s desires. Those defenses may stem from parental or societal expectations, fear of failure, fear of success, or myriad other things.

If you surrendered to your heart’s desire, what would you be doing? What would your life look like if you were in agreement with your true nature?


Flowing Water

April 6, 2009

There is guidance for each of us and by lowly listening, we shall hear the right word. Certainly there is a right for you that needs no choice on your part. Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which flows into your life. Then, without effort, you are impelled to truth and to perfect contentment. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today I said to Terry that I want to be flowing water. Maybe becoming flowing water is the way to be on one’s true path. (I almost said “the first step on the path”–oh, my ingrained habit of linear thought!)

I see this process of becoming flowing water as acceptance, letting go of resistance, and dwelling–as Thoreau advises–“as near as possible to the channel in which your life flows.”

What does this mean in practical, day-to-day terms? I think it means deep listening, stillness (ironically), and shedding the illusion of control. We have control over very little in this life, and yet we behave as though the world cannot turn without our efforts.

This week, I want to hold an image of flowing water, to be as close as possible to the channel in which my life flows, and to notice how that feels.


What About The Future?

December 21, 2008

The fact is that the future is made of the present. If you take care of the present to the best of your ability, you are doing everything you can to ensure a happy future. When you waste your energy in fear, stress, despair, and worry, you are spoiling both the present and the future. ~Thich Nhat Hanh, from The Art of Power

The right path to our future is the one that evolves naturally and easily from our present. Pushing the rope is counterproductive. This makes perfect sense to me, but it seems to be a lesson I have to be reminded of often, since I have such ingrained habits of fear, stress, despair, and worry!

Taking care of the present is all we can do, though. This moment is the only one we have in which to act. Thay says, “You have the right to plan your future, but you have to let go first and put your anchor down in the present.” OMG, did he say let go?! “We don’t really have to think a whole lot,” he continues. “If we are healthy, light, happy, and fresh, our thinking is creative.”

How are my thoughts about past or future getting in the way of being present? When do I find myself pushing the rope? May I strengthen my mindfulness muscles (and weaken those negative habits) by practicing every day. May I set my anchor in the present moment and trust that if I am taking care of the present, the future will take care of itself.


Already Home

December 14, 2008

Unstiffen your supple body. Unchatter your quiet mind. Unfreeze your fiery heart. ~Celeste West

Sometimes it is hard to remember that we are already home. There is nowhere to go, nothing to do. There is just a letting go of being elsewhere.

[Here I had the lovely poem, “Enough,” by David Whyte.]

Today, I want to remember that I am already home. To open to the life I have refused again and again. To unstiffen my supple body, unchatter my quiet mind, unfreeze my fiery heart.


Not Knowing

December 7, 2008

It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings. ~Wendell Berry

My mind is certainly employed this morning! How do I break through resistance and protective barriers to be in full and intimate relationship with myself, my husband, my friends? I think this may be the real work in which I need to be engaged at the moment. Can I embrace (or at least shake hands with*) the not knowing how to get there?

Sam Keen says, “Hope is rooted in trust in the unknown. Work, wait, and hope. That is enough.” And from Einstein: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

It is so tempting to feel comfort in knowing, though! Rousseau reminds us, “We do not lose our way through what we do not know, but through what we falsely think we know.” May I let go of what I think I know, open to imagination, and at least shake hands with not knowing in order to make space for possibility.

*thanks to Whitney for this notion of compromise!