Too often enlightenment is deemed something for barefoot sages on mountaintops. This isn't true. Enlightenment is possible for YOU. All you need is practice so that the next time you snuggle a puppy, or walk in the falling snow, or watch your dad help your mom into the car, you will be so overwhelmed with noticing that noticing is all you are doing. These moments are enlightenment. And each one you notice is enough to inspire a lifetime of practice.
The pandemic has left some feeling awash in time and wandering a bit aimlessly as a result, not getting as much accomplished as expected. Others are scrambling to keep up with seemingly relentless demands on each waking minute - and some minutes when they really ought to be sleeping. (Working and parenting from home? I’m talking to you.) In short, whether you feel time-abundant or time-poor, time is a precious resource that, invested mindfully, can help us live meaningful, happy lives.
Without some type of contemplative practice, when life bites most of us will bite back. Our knee-jerk reaction is to get defensive. We allow the initial, totally natural, wave of feelings to dictate our response to whatever is upsetting us. This doesn’t make us bad people. It makes us human people. In other words, this is simply the way we are hard-wired. Regular contemplation re-wires us.
Instead of thinking in terms of typical resolutions as we welcome this new year, why not consider maintaining a way of living that you may not even realize 2020 taught you? Living with Beginner’s Mind has the power to make every day (even every experience in every day) as brand-new as January 1. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could discover and celebrate the joy, energy, and freedom of being a beginner at this thing called life all year long?
Rather than hopping on a plane or packing up the car, our main mode of travel these days is our sneakers.But my husband and I have maintained our passion for seeing as much of this world of ours as we can. By deciding to approach our little outings as “travel” or “exploration,” that is what they have become. If you, like us, will be staying closer to home this summer, remember that this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your travels. It’s a great big, beautiful world out there – even in your own backyard. Stay curious and keep your eyes open. See as much of it as you can.
The little things in life that make you smile can slip by unnoticed if you're not paying attention. Practicing mindfulness can help. Mindfulness practices such as yoga teach us that, with practice, we can develop the ability to choose our focus, to choose what our mind is thinking or focusing on in any given moment.
“Things may never go back to normal. You may need to create a new normal. And that’s OK.” These days we’re hearing a lot about a “new normal.” Though the term is having a "moment," the idea isn't new at all. In fact, I suspect you've practiced it before. In essence, embracing a new normal is to understand that it isn’t possible or even desirable to go back (as in “let’s get back to normal”). Growth is never backwards. It is always forward, into the unknown and the new.
My new little sunflower garden has given me a glimpse of a future that feels hopeful and a little exciting. This is looking ahead that I think even our yoga teachers would sanction. It is a forward glance with an open heart and mind. It is looking to the future with curiosity rather than with a desire for a particular outcome. It is anticipation that doesn’t pull us out of the moment, but rather inspires us to savor each moment along the way. It turns out that I’m just as excited to go out and check on my little sunflower seedlings each morning as I am to (maybe ... hopefully) have their bright, happy faces smiling at me as I walk to my yoga studio later this summer.
Lately, after dinner, we’ve been working on a jigsaw puzzle. In addition to fostering easy, comfortable togetherness, the practice of “puzzling” has taught me three valuable life skills. 1) It’s a good idea to begin by building the border or foundation. 2) What you’re looking for doesn’t always look like you expected it to look. 3) Sometimes you must stop focusing on the image you’re trying to create and soften your gaze to look only at the shape of the pieces you have in order to see where they fit.