Tuesday, 20 December 2011
Taking a breathing space...
There are 3 steps to this practice which can be done anywhere:
Bring yourself into the present moment by deliberately adopting a dignified posture, before asking yourself: ‘What is going on with me at the moment?’
Notice and acknowledge all of your experience, rather than denying, avoiding or suppressing the bits that you are maybe less enamoured with.
You might start by noticing the sensations in your body, especially where it is in contact with a chair or the floor. Notice also your emotions and thoughts. This is particularly important when there is a lot going on, or you are experiencing strong feelings.
Stay with all of these experiences for a few moments, allowing any negative feelings or experiences to be present.
Now allow what you've noticed to fade into the background, and settle your full attention onto your breathing. It may be helpful to focus your attention on your abdomen. Experience fully each in-breath and each out-breath as they flow in and out, one after the other.
Noticing the breath in this way can bring you into the present, helping you connect with a state of awareness, and possibly an increased sense of stillness.
3. Expanding awareness
Maintaining a sense of the breath, intentionally expand your awareness around the breathing to include the whole body, and the space it takes up, feeling that your whole body is breathing. Have a sense of the space around you, too.
Open up once more to whatever has been happening in your day, allowing space for all of the thoughts and feelings associated with it, but connecting these with the breath and feeling them in the body. You might like to say to yourself, 'Let me feel whatever it is that is present, for it is already here'.
Whilst we experience stress or anxiety, our whole experience is narrow and closed: we tend to focus only on whatever it is that is troubling us, and our efforts to fix it.
Monday, 19 December 2011
I came across this translation from the Tao Te Ching, a collection of writings attributed to Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism and felt it resonated with something I've been considering recently concerning the consequences of the direction in which we incline our mind:
"Watch your thoughts, for they become words
Choose your words, for they become actions
Understand your actions, for they become habits
Study your habits, for they become character
Develop your character, for it becomes your destiny."
By becoming more aware of the inclination of our heart and mind, we stand a better chance of living the life we wish to. According to the excerpt, our words are the 'daggers behind our teeth', and the patterns we are apt to fall into are themselves capable of powerfully shaping our lives.
Therapy can be a space in which to review whether we are in fact headed in the direction we intend to, and gain understanding of the factors which have maybe meant that we have ended up on 'train tracks' leading somewhere else. I believe we all have the ability to concentrate, and achieve a state (even momentarily) in which our neurotic and fearful self can disappear allowing our true selves to emerge, and with it insight and clarity as to what it is that we wish to do with our lives. Have you paused to consider what it is that you most desire in 2012?
Monday, 12 December 2011
I was exactly where I was meant to be this evening. I am so glad I attended the Carol Service at St. Martin-in-the-Fields to remember those who are missing this Christmas. It was an extremely moving service, and I felt simultaneously humbled and privileged to be in the presence of so many families who have been left behind when someone they love disappeared and who continue to live in limbo.
There is something very special about the Church that stands on the edge of Trafalgar Square; it was where the work of Amnesty International was conceived of, and where the charity Shelter was born. It is a haven for people from all over the world, and is a place of peaceful welcome, and tremendous inspiration. The surroundings are both wonderfully impressive, yet somehow 'homely'. The two choirs whose voices supported our own, were magnificent and reminded me of the power of the collective. There was, for the precious hour of the service, a true sense of peace and calm amongst a group whose lives are, I suspect, anything but as they search tirelessly, and are left with the questions one family member so movingly articulated: where is he..? how is he..? is he..?
It is at Christmas that those missing are most missed. Like birthdays, and the anniversary of the disappearance, families want to be with their loved ones, or at least be in contact with them. Not knowing what has happened, for months, years, decades, cuts deep into the heart and soul, challenging even the strongest faith and deepest conviction.
Sunday, 11 December 2011
Swimming affords me the opportunity to take a break in my day. It opens a gap in which it is possible for me to truly abandon the conceptual mode my mind is apt to occupy. Left unattended, my mind is full of language. I spend much of my day speaking, and (hopefully) still more listening. For leisure, I read and I'm rarely without my diary in which I record appointments, and a notebook and pencil - to jot ideas, map a new project, or compose yet another list. I have no need for language of any sort in the pool, where it is therefore possible for me to switch into a perceptual mode - savouring my moment to moment experience of myself, swimming, right here, right now, length by length, breath by breath by breath...
Friday, 9 December 2011
There are some conversations that will stay with us forever. Certain things said to us by certain people are hard to forget, for all the right reasons. They happen at moments that are apt to change our lives; they shape our characters, and finetune our relationships.
It is at these split seconds that we experience true connection: we truly feel heard, or really understood, appreciated or respected. These vital snapshots of dialogue remind us of our humanity. It is, after all, only through communication, that we differentiate ourselves from the rest of the animal kingdom.
"I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realise that what you heard is not what I meant."
Robert McCloskey (1914-2003, Award winning author and illustrator of children's books)
Thursday, 8 December 2011
It isn't all bad however, as I have discovered that procrastination is itself an art and a prompt for boundless creativity. Whilst thinking about thinking and planning to plan, I find myself with endless ideas as to alternative pursuits that merit my attention and energy. All of a sudden those tasks that have slipped off countless to-do lists resurface and are addressed; my correspondence is brought up to date; phone calls and emails are replied to, my admin is swum through and I manage to digest the supplements of the weekend papers.