The Gifts of Mindfulness
I moved to the Western Slope (in Colorado; the two landscape photos posted in this newsletter are from my neighborhood) in August, eager to hike its many beautiful hills and canyons and to develop a new practice of commuter bicycling. In early September, I was hiking with my boyfriend, our dogs, and friends when I lost my footing, resulting in a twisted ankle.
One gift of mindfulness is that it can support you through the unexpected. Just after I slipped, I saw where my mind had drifted from what I was doing, creating the opportunity for the experience. And, as you might expect, I saw my mind quickly moving into the near future, wondering if I could make it down the mile or two to get to the parking lot.While I was in pain, we were able to see that my ankle seemed to be able to do everything it needed to do, so we continued walking down the trail (now, with a walking stick). As we traveled, mindfulness practice was tremendously helpful for me, redirecting my mind again and again from worrying about a thousand steps to simply doing one step, and then one step, and then one step until I was pleasantly surprised to see the trail open to the parking lot.
Another gift in practicing mindfulness is that it gives you the mental space for flexibility. On the one hand, you can develop the mental flexibility to notice where you are off-track… the space to notice where your mind has drifted from the present without judging yourself harshly. On the other hand, mindfulness is very helpful in investigating and softening your expectations, opening your mind to new possibilities.
Welcoming the Unanticipated
When plans go awry, we can choose to be annoyed that life isn’t fitting into our schedules. Or, we can approach with an open mind, looking for the opportunities that arise with unexpected change.
For me, when I am injured, I’ve found that the direct experience of working through injuries is helpful for my work as an occupational therapist and yoga guide. I am able to experience firsthand some of the challenges and opportunities inherent in the experiences my clients face.
As well, this particular injury provided a clear message to slow down… to notice that I had too many plans… too many ideas of things to do and get done. It provided a wonderful invitation for a lot less “doing,” and more conscious “being.” It was quite liberating to experience the season’s changes at a slower pace… truly noticing the shifts in the sky, the shadows’ changes as the days shortened, and the gradually dropping temperatures from a place of greater stillness.
Attending to Details
Years ago, my meditation teacher emphasized the importance of creating sacred space… of making your home a place of beauty and peace. He felt such attention was essential, and could be met on whatever budget was available. While it sounded like a great idea, I never found the time to be diligent about that task. In the past, my home felt like more of a pit-stop than a welcoming destination.
In this move to Glenwood Springs, I decided to shift that approach. And, the experience of having to slow down gave me plenty of time to consciously prepare my new home in a way that felt truly aligned with how it would serve my spirit. Now, the colors in my home reflect the canyons that surrounds me. A few original paintings bring vibrancy to the walls. Attention to organization has helped tremendously in reducing clutter, creating space to highlight pieces of art and photos that bring joy. I enjoy cleaning the natural stone surfaces daily and vacuuming every few days, restoring brightness. I can truly say that I am living in the most welcoming, gentle, nurturing home I have ever called my own.
It’s been a little while, and I am getting around well; I am back on the elliptical and in yoga class, and the dogs and I are sharing a few walks a day. Pretty soon, I’ll be hiking with the family on uneven ground. I am so grateful for the beautiful (though, yes, small) home I share with my dogs, and I am so grateful for my body’s wonderful healing abilities… given attentive patience. And, I am grateful for the invitation to learn moredeeply about living mindfully, and for the skillful direction I’ve received along the way.
Opening to Your Wisdom
Of course, there is no need to wait for injury to make time for stillness and presence. It is beautiful to live from that place of joy: taking time daily for meditation, or gazing into a creek, or watching clouds move. I invite you to reflect on your life circumstances, noticing if there are shifts you may want to make to feel more deeply present in your life, and in your relationships (with others, with nature, with your spirit, with the Divine – with whatever feels like it could benefit from attention and refinement).The longer nights of fall and winter have been associated in many cultures with an invitation for storytelling, for sharing, and for making time for inward journeys. I invite you to see what arises for you when you reflect on what feels ready to fall away, shift, or ripen.
I hope you are having a wonderful transition season, with much love, joy, and transformation.Blessings,