Being married to a pilot, we fly a lot. When I take in-flight photos through the window, the propellor looks motionless. Not because it’s still, but because it’s spinning so fast!
Physics tells us that everything—without exception—is in motion. Even the Buddha statues you see in the photo below.
During my sabbatical I visited the GARDEN OF 1000 BUDDHAS in Arlee, Montana
Stillness is dynamic; it’s un-conflicted movement (no friction). We experience it when there’s unrestricted participation in the moment; when we’re unreservedly present with whatever we’re doing.
Stillness is a natural rhythm in the cycle of life. In the space that stillness creates we have the opportunity to quiet the mind and body; to re-group, re-charge, re-connect, and to find a point of reference; something to measure against.
For me, that point of reference is my inner compass. From here, I can move back into the busy world refreshed.
Daily, I carve out time to sit like a bump on a log, or in my case, a meditation bench which I lovingly refer to as a “Buddha butt.” As a high energy, fast-paced, go get ‘em kind of person, sitting still doesn’t come easy for me.
The slight elevation of a meditation bench affords me the opportunity to stay in a seated position—spine upright—for an extended period of time. And because my rear-end isn’t resting right on top of my calves, ankles, or feet, my legs don’t go to sleep from cutoff circulation. I enter this still and quiet space with one objective — no expectations.
In my experience, the busier I am the more important the practice of stillness becomes. And the benefits of sitting quietly are tremendous:
You remember the 1980 musical/romance film, Xanadu, with Olivia Newton-John, Michael Beck, and Gene Kelly.
Xanadu—where time stops and the magic never ends.
Xanadu has come to represent the ideal, Nirvana, or paradise. The photograph in this post is of my dream cottage located in the extreme northern Highlands of Scotland. It represents my idea of utopia; my Xanadu.
Geographically speaking, where is your Xanadu?
By the way, Xanadu—the song by Olivia Newton-John and Electric Light Orchestra—was ELO’s first and only #1 hit. The song has been touted as being the only song in the Billboard Hot 100 to begin with the letter “X”.
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?
Our friend and avid cyclist, Nan, told us about another gorgeous bike trail that she and her husband, Dave, found. The trailhead is in a tiny little town in northern Illinois called Hebron.
On Monday we, too, rode the trail and discovered that it was flanked on one side by breathtakingly beautiful wetlands. And just out of view for a good camera shot without a zoom lens, but well within earshot, there were hundreds of Great Blue Heron and wild turkey. They were singing. We couldn’t tell if it was a combined effort of both types of birds, or if it was one, or the other. Regardless, it was startlingly magnificent to be serenaded in the crisp morning air.
A little further down the trail, we came to the sporadic placement of several manmade nesting boxes. We’re not sure what type of waterfowl they’re for, but we’re fairly confident they’re not meant for the Great Blue Heron or the wild turkey as neither of them could possibly fit into the small circular entrances.
On the return ride, we were gifted to see the same birds, but this time there wasn’t a sound—not a single peep. It was hauntingly quiet. Either they were all asleep, or choir practice was over! Regardless, it was again done in unison.
We hadn’t known until Monday morning that Great Blue Heron hang out with wild turkey. If it’s true that “birds of a feather flock together,” what type of “birds” do you hang out with?
One of my clients brought me a delightful gift of blooming flower tea from a recent trip overseas. It was a pleasure this morning to sit quietly and watch the leaves gently unfurl. For the occasion—truly enjoying a cuppa tea is an occasion—I delved into the pages of one of my favorite tea books: Tea Here Now: Rituals, Remedies, and Meditations by Donna Fellman and Lhasha Tizer.
While I’m enjoying this delicious morning cuppa blooming flower tea, I’d like to share with you a small passage from page 142 in their book:
“Tea has enhanced our own lives in many ways. It has refined our way of moving, teaching us to carry ourselves with grace, dignity, and precision—helping us to develop a newfound sense of our bodies. We tread gently, aware of our personal impact upon the world and respectful of all that we encounter along the way. Learning to make tea becomes an exquisite and personal art.
It’s also a way of being and doing that can inform our entire lifestyle. It allows us to do whatever we do well, take time to pause and reflect, and contemplate our actions deeply. Tea does not tell us what do, or what to reflect on, or what actions to take. It only encourages us to pursue our endeavors mindfully, thoughtfully, with integrity and consideration—all the qualities that we learned through making a cup of tea wellapply to doing anything well. The spirit of tea invokes a sense of caring and attention, a feeling for excellence that can have a positive influence in every part of our lives.”
Most of you know that my favorite things on this planet are trees. I love them! You can imagine, then, how tickled I was when the editor of Evolving Your Spirit magazine told me that she is going to print my article, “Dancing With Trees.”
In that same vein, some time ago I wrote a poem, also titled “Dancing With Trees.” I’ve reprinted it here:
Laying next to a deeply furrowed, massive trunk
The earthy scent of bark beckons my fingers to caress
Marveling at the cloudless sky through a canopy of outstretched branches
I listen to the drowsy leaves whisper ancient secrets
Hidden beneath the fertile soil, her deep roots embrace Gaia
Entrenched in what sustains her
A gentle reminder to stand tall in a raging storm
To sway in unison with the wind while reaching for the endless sky
I inhale deeply from the wealth of her life-sustaining breath
Arms open wide; she eagerly receives what I can no longer use
A primordial exchange
The rhythm of our breathing an exquisite dance
Her gnarled and veined hands reach out
Lending me quiet strength while listening with care
In the still silence of our tender communication, she softly murmurs
Death is part of life; I must prepare
Come autumn, I will don my most brilliant cloak
Dazzling yellows and vivid reds that stir the soul
Like feathers falling, it will drop softly; pooling at my feet
With poise and dignity, I will remain unveiled until spring
With a mother’s loving arms, she beckons in silent invitation
Resting in the crook of a strong limb, her branches enfold me
Sleep comes easy, knowing that through the night
I am dancing with trees
The University of Life — Being Still Course Description
On a recent flight I took a photo of the propeller through the window. It was spinning so fast that it appeared motionless. It looked that way not because it wasn’t moving, but because it was spinning so fast.
Physics tells us that everything—without exception—is in motion. Even the massive rock you see in the photograph I took in Nova Scotia. Stillness is dynamic; it is un-conflicted movement (no friction). It can be experienced whenever there is total, unrestricted participation in the moment we’re in; when we’re unreservedly present with whatever we’re doing.
Stillness is a natural rhythm in the cycle of life. In the space that stillness creates—sacred space—we have the opportunity to quiet the mind and body; to re-group, re-charge, re-connect, and to find a point of reference; something to measure against. To find the wisdom we need to move forward. It’s here we’re embraced by the strength of calm serenity.
When we enter stillness, we drink deeply from the well of Divine Love. From this place, we can move back into the busy world refreshed.
The University of Life — Mindfulness Course Description
Mindfulness is simple, but it’s not easy. Mindfulness is the open-hearted energy of being aware 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, tying our shoes, or preparing a meal.
John Kabat-Zinn said, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” He shared that above his desk sits reminder given to him by one of his friends:
Am I awake
And fully present
And living my life
It is my perspective that mindfulness is more than paying attention; it’s paying intention. Paying attention engages the mind. Paying intention additionally engages the will.
Here’s a link to the actual course syllabus at Brown University for their Mindfulness class.
Here’s a link to an article I wrote for Evolving Your Spirit magazine, “Don’t Miss the Gorillas” after attending a presentation given by Jon Kabat-Zinn (pg 10).