Category Archives: mindfulness
What I know is that living close to friends and family, owning a beautiful home, having children or pets, earning an academic degree, being busy with a well-paying career, wearing top-notch clothing, owning the best gear, sporting a fit body or claiming someone as your life partner… does not equal health, well-being, fulfillment, a passion for life or true purpose. It does not equal happiness. I’m very much a believer that life is best lived from the inside out. Meaning; your greatest investment of time, money and energy is best spent on that which can never be taken away.
For everyone it’s a little different, so I can only speak for myself. The happiest times of my life were always the simplest. They were the times when I was most simple, totally present, gracefully aware, tenderly compassionate, extremely dedicated, playfully curious, vulnerably humble, completely open or bravely honest. These moments could have been with me alone or with anyone. What makes them/it special is the connection and the aliveness of the moment.
Here are a few examples that apply to happy/fulfilling experiences I had over the last week or so…
Over the winter I tried to preserve some of my summer garden. To my pleasant surprise, much of it survived! But what made me most happy, wasn’t that things were still green or still growing after a bitterly cold season — it was the feeling of my hands in the soil, digging and being part of the ongoing process. I loved feeling intimate with my garden plot, bending over, digging things up from winter, planting new seeds for spring and seeing the aliveness and magic in nature. It wasn’t having the garden that made me happy, but the feeling of being present to life — to the aliveness of myself and the aliveness of the soil, and actually connecting with it, fully.
My dog Pen-Pen is the sunshine of every morning. When I wake up, it’s like she hands me my smile. It’s as if she is the reason I am happy. But I know in my heart that she is my reminder to be happy, and grateful, and loving, and generous. It’s her aliveness that reminds me of my aliveness. But I wouldn’t be able to see this or appreciate it fully, if I was in a rush or lost in my thoughts (or daily to-do list.) The reason I experience this so much from/with her, is because I slow my/our moments down. I take the time to be fully present with her (which is also being fully present with myself.) I take time to simply be with her, which is taking time to simply be.
The same can go for my body. Whether it’s fit as a fiddle or in need of work, it’s so easy to take it for granted (like any other relationship.) But when I am good to it, and I see how amazing and alive it is — that’s when I experience health and happiness in my body. I feel my eyes magically open in the morning, or I feel the strength of my legs carry me for miles, or I see the deft capabilities of my fingers — it’s all a big wow! And what could be more amazing than my heart beating without me asking it to? Or my lungs breathing me, fulfilling my needs and taking care of me? How loving and marvelous is that? Why would I ever want to take that for granted or not be good to my body/self? Yet, it’s so easy to do.
So as you can see with those three examples, it’s not the body, the companion or the garden that makes me happy — it’s the presence, openness and attention I have when experiencing those things. The same can go for your home, friends, careers, finances — whatever you like! Those things are best lived from the inside out.
As many of you know, I’ve studied/taught/practiced meditation for a long time. I think meditation is very helpful for learning mindfulness, or what presence looks like as a structured practice. A designated time or place to meditate is great. But the real practice comes when you don’t bring a meditation practice into your life, but your life into a meditation practice. Instead of having an hour that you are fully committed to presence — I think a bigger, more fulfilling practice would be having a life where ongoing presence is the priority and goal.
I can definitely say that I want a fitter body, a better home, a bigger income, an exciting career, and even another dog! I do! Why wouldn’t I? All of those things sound fabulous! But more than that, I want full presence and deep appreciation for what I already have (whatever it may be.) I want to feel fully alive and full of glee, from the inside out. It’s the way I want to spend my time with all that I have and all that I love. To me, that’s a good life. It’s also a good daily practice. It’s something that can never be taken away and can forever grow within me.
My phone broke last month. Somehow, it got fried or shorted-out. The screen went completely white, and I have no idea why. Instead of taking it in to my usual service provider, I decided to get a new provider, and a new phone number. This was approximately a month ago, and believe it or not, the new phone has been sitting on my dresser. Untouched. I have not turned it on, I have not made a single call. I barely know the phone is there. I also haven’t taken the time to give everyone my new number. This isn’t because I don’t want them to have the new number, or looking forward to hearing from them in the future. It’s only because I don’t like having a phone, or being conscious of my phone, or talking on my phone. At some point I will turn it on, and begin to use it. I’m just in no rush to do it, and I don’t even feel inclined to.
I’ve never been able to explain to people why I love silence so much, or why I’m never lonely when alone. Whenever I do, I seem to come across in way that makes me feel like I’ve failed them, and failed myself (for lack of the vocabulary to share my deepest feelings or preferences with them). It’s very difficult for me to describe something that feels beyond words. The only description I’ve ever heard, that comes eerily close to how I feel, and how I like to live, was an answer that Junot Diaz gave during a lecture about himself and his work. Someone asked about his writing process. This was his answer:
“I wake up early. I write early. I write before I speak. Which is to say, as soon as I have a conversation, if I have to answer the phone, if anyone asks me anything that makes me have to make a decision — I’m immediately out of whatever I need to be in. I guess part of what I need to write [work] — and most people don’t need this — I need to sink deeply into this human space, outside of all these other considerations. As soon as I come up into the social space — the social space where you have to answer questions, were you have to sort of think about things — I’m out. I’ve broken the connection to whatever I need to connect with.”
For me, I’m not a writer, and my ‘thing’ is not necessarily to write. My passion, my life’s work, is to be. My life is best when I feel effortless and aware. When I feel the wind beckon, gently grazing my skin, or when I feel cool microscopic droplets of moisture in the air as I breathe, unseen, yet felt by my sensitive nostrils, or when I’m counting beads, pinching and plucking them out of the cupped palm of my hand, and I feel the cushy softness of my own skin. This is what I live for — for the subtle, quiet, free, and often missed moments in life. What it means to be a human…. being. I might be a human doing, but I am present to being as I am doing. This is why I say effortless and aware. Because it takes a certain amount of stepping back, of letting go, and getting present. This allows for a perspective or experience of the whole. A witnessing of sorts. A witnessing of how all the parts come together, and of how mystical and magical life is.
Now can you imagine? As you are sensing and receiving the gifts that come only from being in the moment — the phone rings. It startles you. You stop what you are doing and leap up to answer it (mostly to stop it from ringing). Quickly you discover the caller has the wrong number, and you take a few seconds to let them know. After being startled by the phone and the caller, it’s hard to go back to the train of thought that you were previously in. It rings again, after only an hour, and this time, it’s someone you know. They are rambling — stuck in the past, projecting a fearful future, reciting a long list of personal complaints that revolve mostly around gripes about other people. After being on the phone with them, listening and consoling for well over an hour, you begin to settle back into where you previously were in your day. You now decide it’s a good time to take a break to eat something. You prepare your meal, and finally, with eyes wide and hands ready, you happily dive into your lunch. Mmmm… it tastes wonderful, and it’s joyously messy. Ding, ding, ding, ding! The phone rings again. You put your food down and wipe off your hands. This time, the phone rang only to let you know there is a new voicemail message waiting for you.
For some people, these interruptions, or phone interactions, would be a welcomed break from their day. For me it’s the opposite. I don’t want a break from my day. I want to be fully in it, as it is in front of me (in my presence): naturally bare, simple and mundane, yet at the same time, naturally embellished, complex and spiritual. This is what I live for, but it’s hard to justify that type of ‘living’ in this world. It feels like a lost art. I often feel singled out or alone in my appreciation for it. Regardless of it being unpopular or unwanted by most people, I will continue to make time and space in my life to fully appreciate it. I will make time for being on the phone and not being on the phone — but my preference will always be more time off than on.