It seems counter intuitive to have to "practice" being present, but this seems to be the nature of the human experience. If we let the mind go where it will, it goes everywhere but here!
We can become familiar with what kind of mind we have for the purpose of staying more present. In the present moment we are more steady and open to what is arriving, or what needs to be dealt with in a skillful manner. Not to mention, connect to the deeper meaning, beauty or invitation of the moment—this sacred moment.
Is your mind one that holds a plethora of discursive thoughts about the past? Or about the future? My mind tends towards the future most often, having struggled with anxiety for many years. My mind may want to catastrophize about what's wrong or could go wrong. The phone simply needs to ring unexpectedly and my first reaction is to think, "Oh, no, what's happened?" especially when it comes to my children or mother. I tend toward anticipatory anxiety when it comes to travel, deadlines, or big life events too. The practice of staying present has saved my sanity over and over again, and minimized unhealthy responses to what isn't true and may never be true.
That said, many people have minds that dwell on the past. They may swim in a sea of regret, anger or sadness minimizing the gift of the moment or its many possibilities.
It doesn't matter which kind of mind you have (and there certainly are other varieties, I'm simplifying here), only that you recognize it kindly, with warm-hearted curiosity, so you can know how to be with it in the most generous and skillful way. Ram Dass once said,"My thinking mind is a perfect servant and a lousy master." I tend to agree.
How do we invite the mind to serve us? I believe we invite it back to a place of neutrality—calm, equanimity— again and again. This is the practice. And it has been my primary practice for over 25 years now. My breath has saved me from my wild mind again and again.
Here is a practice for doing so yourself. I call it "Breathing for Well-Being." And here's an affirmation to go along with it. I hope it helps you stay connected to your wise self and sacredness of the present moment.
"Whenever I feel off balance, I bring my awareness to the earth, feel my feet upon its sacred soil, and allow its solidity to hold me in Presence."
(Excerpt below from Portable Peace: A Weekly Guidebook)
As someone who has dealt with personal anxiety over the years, I feel compelled to share two strategies for its prevention that have worked very well for me. Rooted in the practices of mindfulness and self-compassion, they can help you make an internal shift, enough to heal and enhance the quality of your life.
Anxiety is one of the most common mind states that we experience today. In fact, it’s been said that parenthood alone breeds anxiety because of the “what if” factor—responsibilities and worries about our children. Statistics tell us that over 20 million women suffer from it.
Since anxiety (precipitated by worry) is so common, it is wise for us to head it off at the pass before it becomes a serious problem in our lives. These two practices can help. Each one prevents build-up, as well as having the power to diffuse anxiety when it begins to rise. By incorporating each into your daily routine, you can create a safe and stable “interior home” for yourself. Schedule one or both of these practices in because if you simply hope to remember to stop to do them, likely you won’t. Like an Energizer Bunny, you’ll just keep going and going—and that’s anxiety producing, too!
1. Use Mindfulness Bells
In temples and monasteries throughout the world, there is often a call to meditation or prayer, sometimes several times throughout the day. These are actually “bells of mindfulness” or chimes that ring at certain times to invite us to stop, breathe, and take stock of how we are being in the world. This is literally a “sacred pause,” a time to stop everything we’re doing and connect with our innate peace.
You can use your watch or the timer on your smart phone to do the same thing. Choose specific times of the day for this: mid-morning or lunchtime, mid-afternoon or early evening. Anytime is a good time to stop and answer the call of a bell of mindfulness. When the bell sounds, simply stop what you’re doing, and take 3 deep breaths. Check-in with yourself throughout the day and notice any tension in your body. Repeat the process.
2. A Breath Prescription
Anxiety can build throughout our days as circumstances arise and things don’t go as planned. Worries build up too. Often doctors prescribe something to take our minds off our troubles. Breath practice can serve us in the same way—naturally!
Designate 2 20-minute periods each day for taking your “breath prescription.” Place your hand upon your lower abdomen so you can see your breath moving into your body. As you inhale, your belly will rise. As you exhale, it will lower, your hand right along with it. Continue this practice for 20 minutes until you feel more calm and centered. (If you can’t dedicate 20 minutes to this practice, start with 5 minutes and build up from there.)
Breathing in this way acts as preventative medicine. It keeps us AWAP (As Well As Possible). And a practice such as this begins to build a strong foundation of inner calm because breathing properly, with intention, stabilizes us. With a strong foundation, the storms of life do not knock us off center so easily. We feel more stable, more able! It can also serve as a trustworthy “prescription” to take when we need a hefty dose of Ahhh ...
A few years ago, when I was serving as a magazine editor and feature writer, I had the privilege of interviewing Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD. I'd admired her work for years.
At the time we were talking about her new venture, The Dangerous Old Woman, and the conversation often returned to the subject of wisdom.
I finally asked her, "How do you define wisdom?"
Her answer, "Wisdom is what works."
I've thought long and hard about her answer and, truthfully, have pretty much taken the definition on as my own.
I used to think of wisdom as something lofty. Something only a gift few people had. Or something to be acquired as you aged and had clocked plenty of life experience.
Abiding by this definition, I believe that each of one of has a deep reservoir of wisdom. It may not feel like it on most days, but it's there. Sometimes the difficulty of daily life keeps us distanced from it, frantically paddling in a swirling pool of yuck and muck where we lack the mental clarity and emotional strength to climb onto steadier ground.
Wisdom is what helps us stand tall—calm, clear, confident. Cognizant that we have what it takes to roll with the ups and downs of life. To love rather than hate. To heal rather than hurt. To grow rather than hide. As Dr. CPE reminds us, yes, wisdom is what works.
A few years ago I was guided to engage a morning process of accessing my own inner wisdom. I wanted to remember what worked in terms of living a wholehearted life. I'd light a candle, set the intention to tap into my own good stuff (and that which the Divine revealed to me), then write it down. Those jottings became the "Beads of Wisdom" I sent out to my e-mail list beginning in 2012.
Today, I launched a new version of these Beads. I call them "Beads of Wisdom 3.0" because they're new and different, because I'm new and different.
Passionate about growth, I vow to always be faithful to what is unfolding within me and to where it's taking me. I'm always happy to share what I'm discovering along the way.
So with great pleasure I invite you to join me for a new and deeper understanding of wisdom and receive a daily dose of mindfulness, lovingkindness, and compassion. A dollop of what works for any of us to live in the highest way possible—calm, clear and wise, no matter what.
You can read more about Beads of Wisdom 3.0 here and read some samples too.
They're free, from my heart to yours. Enjoy!
I've often referred to the practice of "Metta"—loving-kindness practice—as an "inter-spiritual practice," even though it appears to be Buddhist in origin. There are variations of it in other cultures, specifically within the Celtic Christian tradition and Judaism.
I've also often wondered if we can share this practice with others (or by formal teaching) without mentioning where the practice came from. Does it still honor and serve the practice well if it's roots are not recognized?
Mindfulness teacher and educator, Saki Santorelli, has shed new light on this for me. In his book, Health Thy Self: Lessons on Mindfulness in Medicine, he deftly introduces the practice with absolutely no reference to Buddhism. Nor does he name it as "loving-kindness" practice. For him, Metta is simply a human practice—a way to befriend ourselves, sourced in mindfulness practice.
"Dwelling in the awareness of the breath, allowing thoughts and feelings to come and go, experiment with the the possibility of embracing yourself as you would embrace another person dear to you and needing to be held. If you like, try silently repeating a phrase on your own behalf. You might offer yourself one or more of the following:
That's it. That's all he wrote.
At first, I struggled with this. I asked myself, 'Shouldn't he say more, provide details, including the origin of the practice? Shouldn't he call it something specific?'
And then, with mindful attention (and non-judgmental awareness), I saw how I was becoming trapped in my own way of seeing, and, yes, transmitting/teaching the practice, and how I might resist doing it a different way.
Was my way a better way? No. Was my way the most effective way? Of course not.
In that moment, I befriended myself and my own tendency to think that things should be done a certain way, one that was more comfortable to me. We all struggle with the unfamiliar, don't we? Usually we don't like what's uncharacteristic or different at all. This is one of our human frailties.
Thankfully, I recognized this and, in that moment, was able to let go of my resistance. I allowed myself to receive Dr. Santorelli's method as a listener, purely as a participant, and as I did so, I felt relief. Pure relief.
In the next moment, I felt compassion for myself because I was able to see (yet again), how I can so easily get caught up in a "should" and the tension that comes with that. In this case, how something I deem important should be taught.
How I love this practice! How I love that mindfulness does bring respite from the struggle when I allow it to flood my awareness.
How I love that a simple, self-compassionate phrase like, "May I be gentle with myself when I trip over a should," can keep self-judgment at bay and growth at the door.
Today, may we all be gentle with ourselves—no matter what arises, no matter what we discover about ourselves.
To learn more about Metta Meditation and how to do it, visit this page.
Guided Meditations provided. Enjoy!
I've been goodly busy here just having hosted our largest family gathering yet for Thanksgiving. It was a wonderful time of being with adult children and grandchildren we don't see quite often enough.
And now we are full blown into the holidays. I've made several vows to myself this year—ways to stay plugged-in to the Holy and unplugged from stress or overwhelm. Here are my top 10:
• I vow to stay present and mindful so I know what I need to feel well and happy.
• I vow to eat mindfully and healthfully.
• I vow to engage in sacred rest when I need it.
• I vow to spend some time each morning with my candle lit and my heart attuned to the One.
• I vow to be gentle and compassionate with myself because this IS potentially a stressful time of year.
• I vow to set healthy limits and boundaries so I do not fall prey to overwhelm, "shoulds," or pressure from others.
• I vow to savor the season with music, lights, laughter and "presence."
• I vow to keep things simple and stay attuned to the true meaning of this "Season of Light."
• I vow to hold a compassionate stance and keep my heart open to everyone—no matter what.
• I vow to give thanks daily for the many blessings I have been given, and offer advance praise for all those yet to come.
Well, these are just a few of my kind promises. I could sit here a bit longer and, likely, come up with a whole lot more but, after all, 'tis the season, and there is much to make jolly. There are surfaces to decorate and cookies to bake.
May I--may we all—do so mindfully, kindly and self-compassionately all throughout this beautiful month of remembering, waiting for, and welcoming in the Light.
What kind promises can you make to yourself to ensure that your love and Light shine during the holidays?
(Photo credits: Top image
My husband purchased this Laughing Buddha for me a few years ago as a Mother’s Day gift. He’s served his purpose well. Every time I look at him I smile.
This portrayal of the Buddha is often known as Hotei. He is a deity of contentment and abundance. “According to legend, if one rubs the Laughing Buddha's great belly, it brings forth wealth, good luck, and prosperity. “(Source) I can’t say that I’ve rubbed his tummy in the hope of receiving treasure. What I have done is place him on my front porch or in my garden or at the edge of our tiny woods. I like seeing him among the elements of nature: covered with snow, a bird perched on his head, or a squirrel nibbling acorns at his feet.
I do this because his presence there reminds me to “be well with what is,” just like he himself appears to be doing. This was one of the most potent teachings of the historic Buddha—to not resist what is here. It is our resistance to things as they are that can cause us much internal suffering. Walking through life, wishing that what we’re experiencing would be different, invites inner struggle, resentment, depression, and more.
So when I grumble about an early snowfall, for example, and I see Hotei grinning through the flakes, I am calmed. I can embrace equanimity too, I think to myself. When I see him enduring a woodland creature peck, peck, pecking at him—a big smile still on his face—I believe I can endure in that way too, no matter who or what is doing the pecking.
Mostly, what he helps me believe is that I can do this. I can do this life, partake in this world just as it is, if I have inner calm, clarity, and confident. I can do this. No matter what.
And if I am mindful, filled with the spirit of metta, I can do it even more gracefully, with a smile on my face and one in my heart. Just like Hotei.
And for this, I bow in gratitude ...
When I take my city strolls, I have favorite streets I like to meander. I sense this is because they feel especially welcoming to me.
As I walk mindfully and pay close attention, I notice there are certain ways that people landscape their yards or decorate the exteriors of their homes that offer a note of invitation.
Which brings me to a place of pondering. How welcoming am I? Do I invite others in or do I fence them out? Everyone wants to feel welcome, don't they?
A well-placed bower shading a sidewalk says, "Come in."
Delicate blooms reach through the slats of fences as if to say, "Hello there."
Some even reach so far as to gently touch your leg as you walk by, offering a flowery hug.
Larger spaces, intentionally planned and well maintained, offer a deeper welcome.
"Sit, rest, stay a while."
Indeed, everything speaks to us, inviting us deeper ... if we have the eyes to perceive and the heart to receive. Today, I'm thinking about hospitality and how I can be more open and welcoming to those who enter my world.
© Photos and text, Janice L. Lundy, 2014
A blog post on corn? Indeed!
For me, it has always been the most ordinary of things that bring one to wakefulness; to gratitude for life as it is. Corn on the cob is no exception.
We were getting ready for company. Two folks I didn't know, the man was a work colleague of my husband. We hadn't entertained "strangers" in a while so I was feeling a bit nervous and pressured. I noticed these feelings when I stepped onto our deck to peel the homegrown corn I'd just purchased at the farmer's market.
In my hurry to get everything completed in time, "just right" for guests, I started to roughly rip the shucks off an ear of corn. I noticed how violent this felt, this ripping away. I got in touch with the tension inside of me. I took a breath, several actually, and brought my full attention to peeling the corn carefully. Mindfully.
As I progressed, I was overtaken by feelings of delight. How attractive each ear was! How unique! Kernels of gold, yellow, and white randomly housed on a sturdy cob. I marveled at the beauty of each ear. I found myself slowly, lovingly, removing each shuck to see more of each ear, like a peeling back to reveal a hidden treasure. I felt appreciation rising in me; grateful that one of our local farmers took the time to grow such nourishing food, one that was non-GMO, at that. (A rarity to find in the world of corn.)
I noticed my mood lifting. A sense of deep relaxation coming over me. With deeper seeing (because I was relaxed), I saw all the tiny silken threads that needed to be removed. Thousands of them! My anxiety-prone mind wanted to make a big deal out of this, but with breath and intention to staying fully present, I avoided derailment. I held each ear up to the sunlight, turning it this way and that, rotating it, so I could clearly see the location of each thread framed against a background of blue sky. I gently lifted the threads from the meaty kernels against which they lay. Even the silk that rested deep within the rows bore a certain fascination for me, and each was removed with care and kindness.
I lost track of time, I was so enjoying the mindfulness of corn ... and shucking. All sense of work was gone. Only wonder remained.
Mindful awareness is magic. And it is equally quite ordinary. All we need do to access both is to be here now. Being present, the future takes care of itself.
And it did. We had a lovely dinner party. The corn was greatly appreciated. Our appetites and hearts were sated with goodness and friendship.
A series of posts on life as a "Mindful Mommy."
Once I became a more mindful mother it was natural to want to share this powerful way of thinking and being with my children.
I often encouraged them to reduce stress and worry by coming back to their breath; focusing on what was "right" in that very moment; stopping, looking and listening to what was going on inside of them so they could make a more self-compassionate choice.
In creating The Mindful Mommy's Back-to-School Survival Guide, I wanted to include SOS (Serenity Over Stress) Strategies for kids too. Here is one of them that I designed, a perfect match to Mindful Mommy SOS Strategy #9 ("Loving Yourself More"). It's called: "I Pledge Allegiance to My Heart."
You can read how to do it here and how to teach it to your child so she or he can be more calm, clear, and wise too!
"I Pledge Allegiance to My Heart."
A series of posts on life as a "Mindful Mommy."
Today, as I put the finishing touches on my new book, The Mindful Mommy's Back-to-School Survival Guide, I've got content to spare!
Per usual for me, I've packed tons of great stuff into the book, too much actually, and I'm way over page count and have got to wrap it up. So here's an outtake from the book for you to enjoy.
It's actually one of my favorite Mindful Mommy strategies, taken from the chapter entitled, "Loving Yourself More." Enjoy!
Your Fairy Godmother
The more years we spend caring for others and putting ourselves on the back burner of self-care, the more difficult it may become to identify what we really need to thrive. Sometimes we've been mothering for so long, and so intensely, that we are completely out of touch with own own needs; clueless how to even begin to care for our self in loving ways. After years of mothering in a particular way, we may have become “hardwired” to be busy—overly busy—and unable to stop or change deeply ingrained ways of operating.
If this sounds like you, perhaps you need to have a talk with your Fairy Godmother. As young girls, many of us fantasized about having someone in our life who could wave a magic wand and grant us our unspoken wishes. In truth, our Fairy Godmother is real and lives within us as our wise self.
Bring yourself to a quiet place in your mind and imagine what your Fairy Godmother looks like. See her standing in front of you, magic wand in hand, eager to grant you three wishes.
Tell her three things that you really really want for yourself on a “soul level." Be honest and truthful. Reveal your wishes without self-judgment; banish the voice of doubt.
Afterwards, reflect. As you expressed your wishes, did you have an emotional reaction? Likely you did if you were speaking from your heart. On the very deepest level, each of us knows what we need to feel well, happy, loved. Our Fairy Godmother is representative of what our good wise heart knows is best for us.
Your Fairy Godmother is you. Today, love yourself more by granting the first of your three wishes—or at least take the first step toward making it a reality. Only you can create the life of contentment that your heart desires.
Ready, set, go!
My new book, The Mindful Mommy's Back-to-School Survival Guide is now available for pre-order. 12 SOS (Serenity Over Stress) Strategies to help you hold onto your sanity at this most challenging time of year, and 12 SOS Strategies for kids that foster fun and mindfulness. Breath by breath, you'll grow in calm, clarity and wisdom together! Pre-order your digital book today and receive a very special FREE Gift. Here's how.
is a touchpoint. a resting place, a "remembering" of who we really are and how we can best live—kindly and compassionately with ourselves and others.
Janice Lynne Lundy, DMin
is an educator, interspiritual director/guide and retreat leader who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for more than twenty years. She is the author of several spiritual growth books, including Your Truest Self, My Deepest Me and Portable Peace., and is the co-founder and co-director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute.