By Deb S. Raine
As the sun filters through the great oaks above me and the gentle breeze gives movement and grace to the green leaves on the branches, I sit calmly there beneath them.
Beauty, peace and grace surrounds me like a gossamer cloak and my heart is full of gratitude.
But this wasn’t always so. Earlier my mind was busy with the mundane cares of living in this modern world. How am I going to pay for all these unexpected medical bills? What can I do to help ease all the suffering? What am I going to do about this, or that—the typical issues that arise in all our lives.
Then, in a moment of semi-clarity, I remember to come back to the breath. Slowly I inhale and as I gently release it I relax my shoulders and try to let my mind center and calm itself. I repeat this a few more times and slowly, but surely, I find myself fully back in the present moment.
The birdsong became as beautiful as a symphony.
The rays of sunlight became magical once again as I take in the view around me in a more relaxed and grateful state of mind. Peace once again permeated my heart and mind.
It has taken much practice and patience with myself under many different circumstances, to be able to remain calm and be present. And there are still days when it is much more of effort than I would like.
Seems so simple doesn’t it? Just relax and breathe. But, as with most things in life, it takes effort and it can get somewhat complicated.
And we are the ones who usually make it complicated with our judgments, attachments and constant acts of trying to control the situations that arise along the way. Add to that our human nature to dramatize, and it’s easy to see that simple is not always synonymous with easy.
Sometimes I find myself sitting on my back porch or in the small garden in the backyard, yet my mind will be far away. I get lost in thoughts of current problems, things from the past or thoughts of the future. And the sad truth is, while I’m thinking about those things, I’m missing out on all the beauty that’s right in front of me.
Not being in the present moment robs me of the gracefulness of the cosmos and zinnias as they sway in the breeze, the beauty of the butterflies as they flit from one blossom to the next—their many different colors like multi-colored rainbows with wings. Without awareness in the present moment we are lost to the memories of the past, needless worry over the present, or anxiety for the future even though we may be surrounded by amazing beauty.
Without mindfulness, we are not capable of fully appreciating the world around us. And this world is full of glorious consciousness that can go unnoticed as we entertain ourselves with wants, desires, possible things that can happen, or a thousand other things that distract us from our journey and our awareness of ourselves and all that surrounds us.
Thankfully there are ways to stay aware, centered, and in the moment. Here are just a few that I have found to be very helpful on those days when my mind is wandering.
These small little things help in bringing my awareness and thoughts back to the peace and beauty of the present moment.
Always come back to the breath.
Closing my eyes, I take a deep, deep breath, holding it for a few seconds and then releasing slowly—this extremely simple action has helped me time and time again in centering myself and opening up to the present moment. Minding the breath, or being there with the breath in this single moment, helps bring peace and calmness to our hearts and minds.
Bow deeply into the moment.
Standing with my feet a few inches apart for balance, (or sitting) I open my arms wide as I inhale deeply. Exhaling, I bring my arms up and over my head, palms touching. Inhaling once more, keeping my palms together, I bring my hands forward and to the area of my heart. I then bow my head until my lips meet the tips of my fingers, all the while exhaling.
Sometimes I hold this position as I inhale and exhale several times. At other times I repeat the whole motion from the beginning as many times as I need to feel calmness, gratitude and peace returning.
Experiment. Find what is comfortable and feels right for you. Your body and mind will guide you.
Always—always, be gentle with yourself.
Just as in meditation, when you find your mind wondering off in all different directions, simply return to the breath. Breath is life on so many levels. It is literally life giving, but it also helps our minds and bodies function at optimal levels. Shallow breathing can cause our minds and bodies to be sluggish, tense and reactive, which is just the opposite effect of deep, relaxing breaths.
When you notice that you are not breathing effectively, don’t get anxious or angry with yourself. Instead, gently, without judgement, take a deep breath, exhale, and bring your mind back to the fluidity of the breath itself.
These simple actions, when practiced with patience and gentleness, can help us stay centered and capable of fully appreciating the joy, love and gratitude that is alive in each and every moment of our lives.
There will be times when this is very difficult to practice. Again, please be gentle with yourself and do not get caught up in blame, anger or judgement of either yourself, a situation you may find yourself in, or another person or being.
Let emotions come and go. Just breathe.
Deeply, lovingly, joyfully, peacefully and fully—breathe.
Editor: Dana Gornall