About 18 years ago I was formerly introduced to meditation and the concept of mindfulness. Since then, I have gone through phases of relatively intense practice (daily meditation, attending meditation retreats) and stretches of time during which the best could do was imagine what life would be like if I WAS meditating more regularly.
The concept of mindfulness is so simple - pay attention to things in real time, be present for what is happening now. Yet, if you are like me, constant thinking that loops around in the brain does a fine job of distracting from the present moment. I'll be the first to admit that I like to think, to analyze, to figure things out. But, life does always lend itself to that sort of attention. Meditation has, to a certain extent, freed me from the misperceptions of reality that over thinking things can lead to. Mindfulness has given me some rest.
"Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?"
This is my last portrait in this month-of-March series. The other portraits can be found here, here, here, and here.
Today has been another lazy, unstructured day. I have the sense that the New Year really starts tomorrow. That is when the kids return to school after two weeks on holiday break. That is when David returns to a work week without the welcome interruptions of days off for holidays. Tomorrow is also when I expect to sit down and map out some creative project ideas that I have been brewing over the past weeks and months.
We did formally recognize the New Year when it arrived. We sat in the living room around a warm fire that evening and wrote out our individual "resolutions" for 2009. This was the first year that the kids actively engaged in resolution making. Even Adam wrote out his own list in his sweet Kindergarten scrawl. If I were to sum up the resolutions we all made, I would say that they primarily have to do with being kind, considerate, and loving to each other and those in our lives. David and I also had a few in there that have to do with being a little kinder and considerate to the earth and its resources that support us.
Our collective resolutions remind me of a Buddhist story (retold nicely in this lovely book) in which an important governor travels several days to visit a wise monk who sits and meditates in a deep forest. The governor, seeking wisdom, wants to know the most important thing that the Buddha ever said. The monk replies, "Don't do bad things. Always do good things." The governor is irritated by this answer, feeling that it is far too simple. He tells the monk, "But I knew that when I was three years old!" The monk smiles at the governor and replies, "Yes, the three-year-old knows it, but the eighty-year-old still finds it very difficult to do!"
We had a happy weekend. At home, together. A walk on Saturday was a high point, aside from the fact that I dropped my camera into this frozen brook and (I think) permanently destroyed it. As a final shot, I think this is a nice one. Give children a stick and access to an icy body of water, and they will chop, chop, chop until they are too cold to chop anymore.
Happiness. What is this anyway? The great E.L. Konigsburg (author of, among many other books, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler) says that "happiness is excitement that has found a settling down place. But there is always a little corner that keeps flapping around." I like that image. I've recently subscribed to the magazine yes! It explores building a just and sustainable world. The issue that arrived this week is all about happiness. There is even an article that asks the question: Why is the Dalai Lama always smiling? I love that. And think about it, the Dalai Lama truly is always smiling.
The woods around our house are filled with the evidence of abandoned farming activity. On our Saturday walk we discovered this happy guy someone constructed out of some old fencing. A lovely thing to unexpectedly come upon in the middle of the woods.
I will leave you with this list of ten things that science says will make you happy, lifted directly from one of the yes! magazine articles:
1. Savor everyday moments
2. Avoid comparisons
3. Put money low on the list
4. Have meaningful goals
5. Take initiative at work (basically, be helpful and creative and not a slug)