When I lay in bed at night, one of the heart-based exercises I do is to mentally go through the alphabet and list things that my best self enjoys extending and receiving:
Acceptance (celebrate our differences) Benefit of the doubt Compassion Divinity in action Encouragement Forgiveness Gratitude Hospitality Inclusion Joie de vivre (joy of life) Kindness Listening between the lines (attentiveness) Mindfulness (present-moment focus)
Namaste’ (honoring the divine spark in self and others) Optimism Peace Quiet strength Respect Simplicity (the gift of ease) Truth Understanding Vision (cultivating and nurturing original ideas to fruition) Wisdom Xellence (the daily practice of being my best self—living my best life) Yoga mindset (valuing connection with the world and its inhabitants) Zen attitude (daily letting go of what I can’t control)
During recent travels, a walk on the beach had me looking at seaweed as a visual metaphor for the brain…
THIS IS YOUR BRAIN
Much like a pinball machine, the mind bounces from one thought to the next: positive, negative, past, present, future.
Psychiatrist Edward Hallowell, MD, director of the Hallowell Center for Cognitive and Emotional Health tells us that:
“People shift their attention from one task to the next in rapid succession [commonly referred to as multi-tasking]. This reduces the quality of the work on any one task because you’re ignoring it for milliseconds at a time.”
THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON MINDFULNESS
Separating out a single thought strand, mindfulness is present moment awareness.
An article in Psychology Today defines mindfulness as:
“A state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”
One of the many things I talk with my clients about is how we fuel our body — the physical package we reside in. A Buddha Bowl is one of the daily staples in our home. So in the spirit of a healthy new year, here’s how it’s done:
Find a unique, large-sized bowl that for you symbolizes nourishment and gratitude. And perhaps a pair of chopsticks to enhance slow eating and mindfulness. Preparing this meal should be enjoyable, relaxing, and creative. As you fill your Buddha Bowl, remember that you’re creating food art.
Farm-to-table means little to no processing involved. The closer to the earth we eat, the healthier the food is for us. I’m all about nutritionally dense fuel — foods with a high nutrition-to-calorie ratio. And it goes without saying, buy organic whenever possible and avoid anything that’s genetically modified (GMO).
50% of the Bowl — Greens Raw organic greens: kale, arugula, watercress, spinach, Swiss chard, turnip greens, collards, romaine lettuce, cabbage (red and green), and a bit of cilantro and/or parsley. Greens are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Note: the darker the color, the more nutritionally dense it is.
25% of the Bowl — Vegetables & Fruit Raw, steamed, or roasted vegetables; mix textures and tastes — crunchy, sweet, bitter, juicy, bland — sprouts (my favorite are alfalfa), asparagus tips, onion, garlic, peppers, mushrooms, broccoli and/or cauliflower florets, Brussels sprouts, carrots, tomatoes, avocado, peas (snow, sugar snap, or English), papaya arils, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, diced fruit; the choices are endless.
25% of the Bowl — Protein Protein: beans (garbanzo, black, kidney, pinto, lima), cooked lentils and/or quinoa, diced hardboiled eggs, tofu, and/or maybe a bit of brown rice. Did you know that 1 cup of cooked brown rice has 5 grams of protein? Another great source of protein are raw seeds and nuts: walnuts, pumpkin seeds, almonds, hemp seeds, cashews, sunflower seeds, sesame, ground flax seed, pecans, pine nuts, chia seeds.
Dressing the Meal Like the rest of the bowl, the final touch will vary from meal-to-meal, depending on what you have available:
Drizzle your favorite oil—olive, avocado, coconut Splash on balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice Spice it up with a dash of sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, or maybe some cayenne
A recent walk took us past dozens of picnic tables leaning against each other — upright on their sides — to wait out winter.
When I lean physically, I have the sense of being off balance. Mentally it’s much the same:
When I lean back mentally (dwell on the past), I’m not fully present.
When I lean forward mentally (dwell on the future), I’m not fully present.
When I lean into center — now — I’m in the present moment.
In Chinese calligraphy the word mindfulness is expressed by two characters: The top character (a shelter) represents the word now; below that is the character for heart. The literal translation means bringing the heart into the present.
During a recent visit with my dad in Encinitas, California (Dec 31 – Jan 1) I spent time at the Self-Realization Fellowship and Meditation Garden. This location—founded in 1920 by Paramahansa Yogananda—is always included when I visit.
It’s a wonderful place to recharge one’s personal battery; to just sit and drink in the beauty with all of the senses; to meditate, relax, and renew. It was a welcome part of my journey. I hope you enjoyed the virtual tour.
There are times during a session when I ask a client to tell me who they are. I preface this by saying, “I don’t want to know whose mother, wife, or daughter you are, what you do for a living, what group(s) you identify with, where you live, what you collect, or what you drive. When you take away all of those trimmings, who are you?”
This question usually causes a long, thought-filled, inward examination. It’s a question that’s important for each of us to be able to answer for ourselves.
I remember Olivia (not her real name) who thought quietly about this question for the longest time. Eventually, tears slowly began to roll down her cheeks, but she was smiling. When she finally answered she said, “I am enough.” That was the most powerful, profound answer I’d ever received. This is the place that we all need to be—Iam enough!
An equally important question is why are you here? Not your geographic location, but your life purpose. Knowing why we’re here provides us with the most concrete and basic thing we can know about ourselves—that there’s an individual reason for each of us being here.
Many people believe that we “find” our purpose. Not me. I believe that we determine our purpose. There’s a big, whompin’ difference.
Who am I? you ask me.
I’m an extension of Source Energy; an expression of Divine Love.
What’s the purpose that I’ve determined? you’d like to know.
I determined that my purpose is to be a mindful agent of heart-based change—body, mind, and spirit.
What about you—Who are you? Why are you here?
“All my life, I always wanted to be somebody. Now I see that I should have been more specific.”
— Lily Tomlin, American actress, comedian, writer, and producer
Kronos, or tick-tock time, is chronological, sequential, and linear in nature; it’s governed by watches, clocks, and calendar pages. We schedule our lives by it—making appointments and keeping deadlines. It tends to be more of a taskmaster than a friend. Many people speak of “never having enough” of it as we race against the clock.
Kronos time is symbolized by an infant that ushers in the New Year and ends the annual calendar as an elderly, bent, and bearded man—Father Time—similar to the god Chronos in Greek mythology.
It’s my perspective that there’s much there’s more—much more—to it than that. I believe that the brow chakra (energy center) is the gatekeeper to a time portal; a place where we can step out of quantitative time as we know it—Kronos, and into qualitative time—kairos.
Kairos, or opportune time, is the word the ancient Greeks used to describe the right time, perfect time, supreme moment, or the “now.” Some might even call it divine time. Kairos intersects and brings transcending value to kronos time. It signifies an undetermined period of time (time in-between) in which something special happens. I was 6 years old the first time I remember dancing with Kairos time, but that’s a story for another day.
One doesn’t catch up with Kairos time; rather one participates in it. In one of my favorite books, A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle, she suggests that kairos time can, and does, enter, penetrate, break through or intersect kronos time: the child at play—consumed in the moment; the painter held captive—mesmerized at an easel; the saint lifted up—removed as it were, in prayer…
In her book, Close to the Bone: Life Threatening Illness and the Search for Meaning, Jean Shinoda Bolen wrote, “When we participate in time and therefore lose our sense of time passing we are in kairos; here we are totally absorbed in the present moment, which may actually stretch out over hours.”
It would be an understatement to say that kairos moments alter the trajectory of our lives. To miscalculate kronos time is inconvenient. To miscalculate kairos time is utterly regrettable.
When was the last time you were so caught up in kairos that kronos was transcended and you were at soul-level?
Pay attention to the small stuff - Lichen on a tree, John Muir Woods, WI
Dust motes, ladybugs, lichen…
In her book Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility, Dr. Ellen Langer had this to say about mindfulness as it pertains to health:
“The simple act of noticing new things—is crucial to our health in several ways. First, when we’re mindless, we ignore all the ways we could exercise control over our health. We turn that control over to the medical world alone and accept limits, which closes us off to the power of possibility.”
In my experience, mindfulness is an agent of transformation and healing.
Mindfulness is simple, but it’s not easy. Mindfulness is the open-hearted energy of being aware—now, right now—in the present moment. It’s the daily cultivation—practice—of touching life deeply. To be mindful is to be present with, and sensitive to, the people we’re with and the things we’re doing, whether it’s raking leaves, washing laundry, brushing our teeth, or peeling potatoes.
At a presentation given by Jon Kabat-Zinn he said:
“Mindfulness points to being aware of, and paying attention to, the moment in which we find ourselves. Our past is gone and our future isn’t here yet. What exists between them is the present moment; the link that holds what was and what will be.”
That brief teaching in mindfulness changed my life.
Mindfulness is our capacity to be fully present in our own life, to be fully aware of what we’re doing as we’re doing it. As we develop our awareness, an inner stillness naturally grows. In this case, stillness doesn’t necessarily mean without motion. Rather, it means to be free from inner tumult; to be tranquil. When we function from a place of tranquility we’re better able to embrace the world and better equipped to respond wisely and lovingly.
It’s my perspective that mindfulness is more than paying attention, it’s paying intention.
Paying attention engages the mind.
Paying intention additionally engages the will.
Intention is beautifully illustrated in a story that my friend “B” shared with me. She said:
“I used to be part of a dinner book club where each month the group members would contribute a dish for dinner and after what was always a wonderful meal, we discussed an agreed upon book.
“One month, Debbie’s food offering was a loaf of Challah bread. As we were eating it and praising her efforts, she told us that as she kneaded the bread, she chanted our names; as she braided the bread, she said intentions for the well-being of each person who would later be partaking of the bread. I remember how honored I was when she told us this.”
When you’re mindful, do you pay attention or intention?
What goes around comes around – The Boomerang Effect
You’ve heard the saying, “What goes around comes around,” on a surface level, that’s one way of defining karma. Often referred to as The Law of Return the Sanskrit word means action. I call it The Boomerang Effect.
There are multiple camps of thought on this topic, but my perspective is that we’re spiritual beings on a human journey; we’re here on a temporary layover in the classroom calledlifefor the specific purpose of learning lessons before continuing on. Some people refer to these lessons as karma.
Enzo, the old soul and canine narrator of Garth Stein’s book, The Art of Racing in the Rain said, “I know that karma is a force in this universe and that people will receive karmic justice for their actions. I know that this justice will come when the universe deems it appropriate and it may not be in this lifetime but in the next, or the one after that. Their current consciousness may never feel the brunt of the karma they have incurred, though their souls absolutely will. I understand this concept.”
The philosophical explanation of karma differs somewhat between traditions, but the general idea is basically the same. Through the law of karma—cause and effect—the result of every action creates present and future experiences, making each of us responsible for our own life and the pain and joy it brings to those in our sphere of influence.
I believe the karmic litmus test is to examine the motive that underlies our present actions. Despite how the past may account for many of the inequalities we see in life, the measure of a human being is not the hand dealt. Rather, it’s how the hand is played. Because we’re all interconnected, our decisions affect everyone.