mindfulness

Interview with Author of Everyday Enchantments Maria DeBlassie

January, 2019

Interview with Maria DeBlassie

I loved Maria’s book, Everyday Enchantments. You can find out exactly what I thought of it by reading my review in last month’s PaganPagesOrg. So, imagine my delight when the author agreed to have a chat with me about her writing and the themes within the book, particularly finding the magic in everyday life. Read on to find out more about this fascinating author and her wonderful outlook on life.

Mabh Savage: What inspired the book, Everyday Enchantments?

Maria DeBlassie: This book was inspired by my journey back to a happy, healthy, whole self. I was at a place in my life where I could finally explore what it meant to live, and not just survive. I’d finished school, gotten a job, and was finally setting down roots. Then came discovering what it meant to be a writer and a woman. I committed to a year of daily blogging on simple pleasures, everyday magic, and those quiet mystic moments inherent in our lives…that turned into a lifestyle, an ongoing blog, and this book!

MS: Who would you say it is aimed at?

MD: Everyday Enchantments is a love letter to the simple pleasures and subtle enchantments that make life delicious. I hope readers see my book as an invitation to pause, refresh, and open themselves to the magic inherent in daily life. We all have a little bit of witch in us. My book is for anyone who wants to tap into that magic and conjure their own bliss!

MS: Do you have a favorite chapter?

MD: I love them all as I read them. Sometimes, when I’m needing more introvert time, I’m drawn to the chapters on reading and writing. When I’m ready to go adventuring, I find it’s the chapters on dancing and dreaming that resonate with me more.

MS: What was the biggest challenge about putting the book together?

MD: I wanted to collapse the space between the mystic and the mundane, which had its own challenges. How do you show that synchronicity is an integral part of your everyday? And how do you explain that a good cup of coffee is pure divinity? These are the questions I wrestled with as I wrote the book. I didn’t want the mystic to be something outside ourselves or beyond our daily routines. It’s always there, right within our grasp, if we take the time to look for it. I think, in the end, I was able to illustrate that.

MS: And conversely, what did you enjoy the most about the process?

MD: I love how writing became an act of self-care and spell-crafting, bringing me back to myself when I’d grown too tired of the world. It allowed me to conjure the life I wished to live: one of abundance, grounded mysticism, and happiness!

MS: Some reviewers have commented on the mindfulness contained within the pages of this book. What does mindfulness mean to you?

MD: Mindfulness is a fancy word for staying connected to ourselves and the universe. It’s about slowing down and letting go of the debris that weighs us down, so we have more room for the euphoric.

MS: Should we all be practicing a little more mindfulness? Why is it so important in today’s world?

MD: We live in a world that asks us to move faster and faster, do more, buy more; in short, overextend ourselves in our addiction to busy. When we practice mindfulness, we can unplug from this ugly addiction and connect to what truly matters. It really is the art of slow living or simple living, where we let go of anything that complicates our lives. Once you unplug, you see how addictive- and unnecessary- all that hustle and bustle is.

MS: Can someone in a thoroughly urban setting, with a high-pressure schedule, still find enchantment in their everyday lives?

MD: Absolutely! I live in the heart of Albuquerque and have a very full teaching and writing life. Both are jobs that never quite end, which makes it easy to get lost in the daily grind- even when you love what you do. I’ve just found ways to put limits on them by carving out self-care time and leaving myself open to the little bits of magic that come my way. It’s amazing how much enchantment you find in your daily life when you decide to let go of negative patterns and unhealthy social norms that say we must always be spinning our wheels.

MS: Each chapter holds a meditative, poetic quality that’s very relaxing to read but I imagine would be potent read aloud. Would you consider doing an audio book?

MD: I would love to! I don’t know quite how it all works, but I am addicted to audiobooks myself in all genres. A few minutes listening to a good story or bit of wisdom on my lunch break or while tending house does my soul a world of good.

MS: What’s on the horizon creatively for you? Are you planning any more books?

MD: My current project is called Tarot Tuesdays, or #TarotTuesdays if you are on social media. It’s a series of 78-word stories based on the 78 cards in the tarot deck and synchronicity. Each week, I draw a new card, learn about its role in the tarot, and, with the help of meaningful coincidences, write my story. I’ll say this about my journey into tarot so far: the magic doesn’t lie. The cards always tell me exactly what I need to hear! I’m so grateful for this new project because it gives me an opportunity to meditate on the magic of these cards.

MS: What are you most optimistic for about the next year?

MD: I look forward to the unexpected adventures and spontaneous synchronicities while delving deeper into the realm of everyday magic. Every year I get a little bit better at welcoming enchantment into my life so I’m excited to see what that manifests.

MS: Do you have a favorite time of the year, festival or season? If so, what makes it special for you?

MD: This is a tough one. I love every season as it unfolds, blooms, then fades into the next. I’m ruled by the season and enjoy experiencing each one in their turn. Right now, I’m loving the long nights of winter and delicate hush that hits around 4pm as the sky begins to fade to dark. It’s the best time for walks; everything is watermelon-kissed before the sun sets.

MS: And finally, as we move deeper into winter, how do you celebrate the holiday period? ?

MD: This is a time for turning inward for me. So much of the mainstream holiday season is about noise, consumerism, and doing more. I like to get away from all that and simply be. I indulge in afternoons reading over mugs of home-made chai tea. I make simple, heartfelt gifts for loved ones. I up my self-care routine and allow myself to rest. This winter solstice season is the perfect time to pause, reflect, and absorb the many ups and downs of your year before slipping into the next. I like to honor that liminal space. There’s plenty of joy in that; I’m all about the twinkle lights and festive holiday cheer. I just like it at a slower, cozier pace, where I can absorb the delights of this more introverted season and recharge with the magic of the solstice.

Thank you so much for speaking to us here at PaganPagesOrg, Maria! You can find Maria’s book on Amazon and all good book stores. You can also follow her fascinating blog, and find her on Facebook. Don’t forget to check out the #TarotTuesdays hashtag to follow Maria’s exploration of the Tarot.

Everyday Enchantments: Musings on Ordinary Magic & Daily Conjurings on Amazon

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About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestorsand Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.

A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors on Amazon

Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways on Amazon

Book Review: One Year Wiser-An Illustrated Guide to Mindfulness by Mike Medaglia

May, 2018

Book Review

One Year Wiser-An Illustrated Guide to Mindfulness by Mike Medaglia

Mindfulness has been the buzz word for meditation in recent years and getting people on board with slowing down and living fully present in any given moment has been the challenge of many an author and teacher. One Year Wiser by Mike Medaglia has captured the essence of what a mindfulness practice is and morphed it into an illustrated journey that resonates with the graphic novel approach. He invokes the art of visual stimuli to engage readers in well-founded content.

Mike uses his skills as an illustrator to bring the practice of mindfulness into a mindscape filled with color and easily relate-able images that any reader can identify with. Another interesting layer within this book is the outline used of working the practice through the gift of the seasons.

Appropriately, Part One is dedicated to Spring…

Spring is about blossoming and letting yourself change and become.

Taking steps with confidence towards a brighter future

and a more sincere self.”

This opening statement sets the tone in preparing oneself for something transformative that is about to happen. Each section focuses on various aspects of the journey towards becoming more mindful in your daily activities and key words that bring your attention to how that presence interacts with technology, smiling, values, forgiveness, and more.

Mike takes us on a journey through the seasons that resonates at multiple levels of understanding about what those seasons are both in the physical expression, as well as the spiritual. There is humor and there are suggestions for practice, all beautifully illustrated and offered in step-by-step increments. And, as is true with all cycles, the final page states…

But, of course the snows of Winter melt, moistening the

earth in preparation for Spring.”

A simple statement that heralds a new journey to begin, now healthier, happier and more present because of the foundations laid in the previous year.

All in all, this is a great book for anyone who has yearned to begin a mindfulness practice, but has hesitated because of a perception of austerity and overly structured practices. And, if you are looking for more supports, check out Mike’s other books:

One Year Wiser: A Gratitude Journal

Previously reviewed in PaganPagesOrg HERE.

and 

One Year Wiser: The Colouring Book: Unwind With Weekly Illustrated Meditations

For Amazon information Click Image

 

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About the Author:

Robin Fennelly is a Third Degree Initiate and High Priestess of Coven of the Mystic Path within the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel Tradition. Her path is the fusion of Western Hermetics and Eastern Practices, including meditation and energetic protocol. She is a monthly columnist with PaganPages.org and has authored several books and been published locally and Internationally.

Robin maintains a rigorous teaching schedule presenting locally and at festivals throughout the North East. She writes several blogs, The Magickal Pen being her first foray into blogging and is a writer for Sage Woman blogs.

Her primary blog is The Magickal Pen

www.themagickalpen.com

Her blog at Pagan Square, The Womb of Light, can be found at:

http://witchesandpagans.com/sagewoman-blogs/womb-of-light.html

For more information about Robin, her blogs and books, please visit her website:

www.robinfennelly.com

Or, Amazon Author’s Page:

Robin’s Author Page

Review: Headspace, the App

March, 2018

Headspace: Everyday Mindfulness

I decided to continue on my mindfulness mission by having a go with Headspace, an app with the tagline ‘A few minutes could change your whole day.’ This app focuses on the practical benefits of short meditations: reducing stress, improving focus and sleeping better. Just like with my Calm review, I’ve only reviewed what content I could get for free. The financial commitment for Headspace is pretty hefty. UK prices, you’re looking at £9.99 a month, or a one-off cost of £71.88 for the year. Want to unlock all features permanently? That will be £299.99 please. I just think these prices are very off-putting, and will stop people even trying the app for free in some cases, as they know that if they like it, and it works for them, they are going to be shelling out a huge amount of money.

Actually using the app is a doddle. It starts with a ‘meditation basics’ program, which is actually really useful. The speaker is male, British, with a calming and down-to earth tone. He speaks about meditation as if it’s a daily requirement like brushing your teeth, and makes it seem easy and accessible for all. For the first time in guided meditation like this, I am told to start with my eyes open. Each meditation session can be tweaked to reflect how much free time you have in your day. You can meditate for as little as three minutes, and as much as ten in one go. I found the ten-minute sessions were useful at the end of the day for relaxing me before sleep time.

As well as the basics program, there are other freebies, which seem to change from day to day. Today’s was an exploration of stillness and silence. Before the meditation started, the guide spoke of the nature of silence, and whether it is passive or not. He explored the usefulness of stillness, and how it helps us to be present in the moment, not wrapped up solely in our own thoughts. This aids us in listening to others.

Silence is the foundation of calm and clarity that allows us to hear what others have to say.”

There are also some mini meditations, but for free, you only get access to the ‘Breathe’ mini, which as the title suggests, gives you 60 seconds of exploring the sensation and mechanics of your breathing.

One of my favourite things about Headspace is that it can easily be linked to the ‘Health’ app on your iPhone, and I presume there will be a similar option on Android devices and similar. So, when I look at my ‘Health’ stats, if I have meditated with Headspace that day, the phone will describe how many ‘mindful minutes’ I’ve taken. I like the sense of achievement that comes with this, and recognising that I’ve been good to myself and my mind for at least a few minutes each day. The app itself also records some data for you, and shows you how many minutes and on what days you’ve meditated.

There’s also a kids’ section, split into ages 5 and under, ages 6-8, and ages 9-12. These have titles such as ‘Appreciation’ and ‘Kindness’; good at any age! But particularly useful for young, developing minds. Sadly, as far as I could tell, none of the kids’ stuff was available on the free version.

I’m going to keep the app on my phone, as even just having the basics package has been really useful. It’s so easy to use, there’s no set-up, you just download it and start meditating. An absolute beginner could use this, even if they had zero experience of mindfulness or meditation. I really hope the prices reduce at some point though, as at the moment, they are just far too high to consider a full subscription. Perhaps one day, when I’m a bit more flush with cash! But all in all, an excellent user experience; very relaxing and very unique in its informal and easy-going style.

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About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft.

Follow Mabh on TwitterFacebook and her blog.

Click Images for Amazon Information

 

Review: Calm, the App

February, 2018

As a witch, I have found that sometimes the safest place to chill out is the recess of my own mind. This means that for me, as for many pagans, indeed people of all paths, being able to meditate is a real key skill; one that I have worked at for many years. By no means am I a meditation master; in fact, even though I need this skill, I’ve often struggled to get to grips with it and sometimes struggle to switch off at all. With that in mind, I’m on a mission to find the best meditation apps on your smart phone or tablet and I’m sacrificing myself to science, or magic, for you all, by downloading and testing some of the supposedly best apps on the market.

The first that I’m going to be looking at is Calm. I’ve downloaded it on my iPhone, but I believe it’s available for android as well. Billed as the number one app for mindfulness and meditation, and Apple’s number one app of 2017, the app is basically a series of guided meditations, with themes from calming anxiety to gratitude to forgiveness and loads more. From the get go it’s a very attractive user interface; as soon as you open it you are greeted with a lovely lake and mountains, and the sound of birdsong; the epitome of what we think of when people say the word ‘tranquillity’. Straight away the app is moving you into a different mindset; removing you from whatever situation you are in right now. Unless, of course, you happen to be at a lake view with birdsong! But you can choose other backgrounds.

Meditation is a way that we take a break from whatever we are doing with our day, whether that’s our job or even a hobby or a passion. Sometimes we even need to take a break from things we enjoy; if you do the same thing for too long it becomes stale, and you might stop enjoying it even if it’s something you have a real love for. If you’re stuck in an office for eight hours a day staring at a computer and bashing on computer keyboard, then meditation is even more important.

I read once that someone said you should meditate for five minutes every day. If you don’t have time to meditate for five minutes every day you should meditate for half an hour every day! Well, that’s not always possible for everyone. If your life has become so full of hassle and stress that you can’t spare five minutes for yourself to give your brain a rest, then some might say you need to seriously look at what is stopping you giving yourself that time. But believe me, I am not one to judge at all. I am exactly one of those people who sometimes tells themselves ‘I really don’t have five minutes’. I have a 12-week-old baby, I have a seven-year-old son, I have a full-time writing and journalism career on top of an office day job which pays some of the rest of the bills; sometimes it feels like I genuinely can’t take five minutes for myself. Then I remember telling other people how important it is and remember that I need to take my own advice! That’s basically why I wanted to have a look at some of these apps; maybe they can help give me that previous time away from the hustle and bustle.

Our phones are easy to keep with us all the time, in fact most of us do just that, so we can keep in contact with loved ones and update our social media accounts. Being able to use the device to take a break from everything seems a big bonus. Interestingly, one of the guided meditations on Calm this week was about the dangers of social media; how being constantly connected to the internet can actually end up with us feeling more disconnected from real life and the people who matter to us, and how to focus on re-establishing those connections.

This was certainly more in-depth thought than I was expecting from a pocket meditation. The quality of the guided talk down was very good too. The woman who speaks has a soothing voice, and leaves good spacing in between speaking, to allow you time to focus on your breathing. I had no problem relaxing into the meditations and fully enjoying the process.

The meditations I indulged in daily were the Daily Calms; daily meditations each on a different theme. As far as I could tell, these are only available if you pay for the premium version; $59.99 or £35.99. There are also subscription options, and a free option, with less features. I wanted to get the fullest experience for the review, so took out the free trial which gave me seven days of full features. I’m not sure seven days is really long enough to give you the full sense of whether a meditation regime is right for you or not. Some other apps, such as Headspace, give you a thirty-day trial which is much more useful. Still, seven days of free premium features is not to be sniffed at!

The ‘Daily Calms’ are a great way to take a break, and with each of them having a different theme, it’s like your mind relaxes and is given something meaningful to ponder upon, then gently brought back to the here and now. As well as the daily calms, there are many different meditation paths to follow: 7 days of focus, 7 days of happiness, 7 days of sleep and so forth. There’s even a separate option to choose to help you sleep, called Sleep Stories. These are soothing spoken word recordings, read by a diverse range of people such as Joanna Lumley and Stephen Fry. How lovely to be a grown up, and feel totally justified in having your own bedtime story.

If I had the money, I think I would happily sign up for the premium version, even if just for the daily calms. Over the past week I have felt less stressed, less overwhelmed with my tasks and have looked forward to the little moments I can put aside for myself. Highly recommended.

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About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft.

Follow Mabh on TwitterFacebook and her blog.

For Amazon information, click images below.

What your Pagan Teacher wants you to know … About Meditation

December, 2017

What your Pagan Teacher wants you to know …

 

 

About Meditation

Meditation is a weird thing. It is seen as this perfect thing that a few people can actually do. In reality even after 30 years of meditation there are days I struggle. Not because I’m bad at it but because life happens!

Much like falling asleep (a different kind of brain activity) there are layers and stages to meditation.

I am sure they have proper names and titles somewhere. This is how I experience them, still.

Brain Radio.

Brain radio is the weird ambient noises inside my brain often a mix of 80’s cartoons, toy advert jingles, and random chunks of some song I heard and didn’t like on the radio 20 years ago, along with odd question and ideas.

Brain radio can be a distraction. It can give you colours and shapes for your attention to chase. It is actually useful sometime too. If I am “stuck” for an idea or creative thought just sitting in this stage and watching the random chatter can produce what I’m looking for without looking.

If you get past this phase you can go into the next phase.

The Itchy Fidgets.

Suddenly everything is itchy. Your clothes are made of burlap. Your bra is digging in. Your knee hurts. You struggle to get comfortable. The clock is too loud. What is that smell?

The itchy fidgets is actually you being aware of something you usually ignore, your body. In this sense while irritating breathing through it and ring your attention to it can give you a new understanding of how you are feeling.

The truth is your bra was digging in long before it bothered you. Your knee always hurts. You are just more in your body than usual. It is a stage not the end point. There are days when I get stuck here. I give myself permission to let it go. To breathe through it. To soften. This state is its self a meditation, just like the previous one. It is a place that yoga, tai chi and dance dwells. Movement can help. Sometimes the reverse, stillness. It’s a stage not where you need to end up, but if you do, don’t berate yourself too much.

The Nothing.

This a peaceful and pleasant place for many people and for other terrifying. It is like almost sleep. It is soft and calm and relatively empty. Sometimes images or thoughts come but they have a different quality from other states. This is a balance of dreaming and awareness. This is the place most people think of as “meditation” lives. The thoughts often symbolic, paradoxical and beautiful. There may not be any thoughts at all.

The Nothing is the place people seem to aim for without understand all parts are part of the process. It is also a place that people fear. I have seen students struggle like they are drowning after working so hard to get into the water! I don’t know if it is fear that is usually there and they suddenly discover it. I don’t know if it is feel of voids in general (must fill everything with light and bright). Fear of death (is the nothingness like death?) This place is one of peace for me. I know “I think therefore I am” is not true for me. I am comfortable and happy in thought-less nothingness. In a book I read it was described as heart stone. I like the weight of that idea. A sense of drawing one’s self into a core point.

Lucid Dreaming or Journey Work.

While it is possible to move into this state other ways it is underneath the Nothing. The Observer self or awareness become less tethered. You can journey inside your inner landscape (you are a universe after all) or outside of yourself. You may find yourself in a pleasant or significant landscape. If your journey often enough you may have a starting point you can come to easily and return to easily. Yet the quality of the journey, and how tactile and “there” you are will be down to your own psychic muscles and ability. Practice as always makes better. Still there is no guarantee you will find your Narnia a peaceful beautiful safe place. There may well be terrifying and conflicting part in this space too. That doesn’t of course make it less worthy or valuable. What we fear, what we loathe dwells within us too. True spiritual and even magickal progress comes from working inside our own darkness as well as our own light. Sometimes it can be difficult but that makes it no less worthy. Being present and breathing through what you experience and allowing it to teach you is important. Beyond this is another place.

The Everything.

If you have never experienced this state you can not understand it in words, mine or other peoples. Connection. Infinite. Tapping into the cosmic brain. Light. Love. Everything.

Meditation is a journey. One to try and take every day. Much as it would be amazing to walk around touching the infinite everyday it doesn’t get your food shop done. Different stages on the path are just as valid and important as each other. Yes it is bliss to touch deep within and without the self. Yes it is amazing but you must also be a messy human too! One who likes dirty jokes and food and dancing.

Meditation is like mentally and spiritually going to the gym. If you didn’t get as far as you wanted try doing more later. Don’t give up or berate yourself if one of the stages is sticker than usual. It shows you where you might need to do more work. That’s all. If your thoughts are distracting, look at them. What are they trying to tell you? Are you itchy? Does your knee always hurt? Maybe see someone about it! Is the Nothing your only goal, or terrifying? Examine that.

When I teach I work a lot on person growth, and meditation. I have caught a lot of flak over the years. “Oh it’s just meditation, teach me something exciting/magickal/proper/” and all I do these days is shrug. Scrying, divination, astral and journey work all come this place of altered consciousness. Meditation is one of the 8 paths to ritual magick. There other ways to attain different consciousness, but in terms of reliability, legality and safety it is by and far the best. Meditation is an amazing tool, with a diverse and complicated array of effects. After thirty years I can still see only a fragment. The practice is not for any one kind of person or group. It doesn’t make you perfect. However it does give the space and tools to heal ourselves in deep, changing and profound ways. Imperfect practice and bad days are going to happen. That doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong or that you haven’t meditated. Show up. Give yourself the attention you need. Forgive your bad days.

Keep breathing and work through it.

A Simple Path: Journey of a Hedgewitch

October, 2011

*The Hedgewitch lives in the space between the Village and the Forest. Between the mundane and the magical. S/He lives with a foot in both worlds.

This column is dedicated to the Hedgewitches of the planet earth.
Mindfulness, Meditation and the Thinning Veil
This is the time of year, as the Wheel turns round once more, the Veil between Worlds is at its thinnest. Visions, dreams and premonitions abound. Communications between the sides comes easily, and clarity is so pronounced.
I very often use this time to use the abundant energy to enhance my divinatory abilities, and find my dreams to be more vivid, my perceptions more accurate and my visions more precise.
As part of my personal development, I have spent a lot of time learning some Buddhist concepts, and applying them to my Path. This year has seen my practice of Mindfulness becoming more serious and practical; and as I practice it becomes more natural to be present in my body.
As an unexpected “side-effect” of this practice, I also find my clarity in divinatory matters to be greatly increased.
While in the present moment, reflecting clearly what is, I find my inner-eye, my ability to perceive the subtle shifts in energy around me, to be significantly enhanced.
It began so simply, breathing in and thinking, “I am breathing in”. Breathing out, and thinking, “I am breathing out”.
These are the most basic meditations, but they are so powerful for bringing the focus back to the breath and to the present moment.
I practiced a simple set of meditations which led, one to another, and ultimately led me to mastery of my own strong emotions. Mastery, in the sense of being able to attend to these powerful emotions, while maintaining my equanimity.
Each meditation is three in breaths, and three out breaths. (feel free to repeat more than 3 times, if desired)
*Breathing in I am a flower, breathing out, I feel fresh and new
*Breathing in I am the mountain, breathing out, I am solid and strong
*Breathing in I am calm, still water, breathing out I reflect clearly
*Breathing in I have space, breathing out, I am free
These simple mantras, while mindfully breathing have given me an arsenal of defensive weapons to use against my tendency to want to be very reactive.
As I find myself more calm, reflecting clearly, I also find I reflect clearly Unseen things, as well.
My dreams have been vivid and meaningful. My sleep is deep and restorative. My readings have been more accurate and profound. My visions more clear.
Connecting with a Universal spirit is an organic and very natural experience, when we can gain control of our emotions and physical sensations. We are more than just our emotions. We have the power to control ourselves and our response to things. Being mindful gives us an opportunity to “take a break” from the battles that rage around us, emotionally, physically, materially, and allow us to go within ourselves.
When we do, we are bathed in the radiant energy that animates and binds us all.
As I walk my Path, this Season of Samhain, and remember my Honored Dead, I will do so mindfully. I will be open to the abundant messages of the Spirit which desire to make Itself known to me.
I invite you to take a moment, take three breaths, and find a place of mindfulness. In the stillness, I know you will find the hidden resources of your Spirit, and see and reflect clearly what is, for you.
Blessed Samhain to all!

Meditation Moment

July, 2011

Mindfulness in Motion


Now that summer is in full swing, I’d like to suggest a very different approach to meditation: physical activity. This is a great time of year for people to get outside, even for a few minutes, and combining meditation with moving around can be fun and easy. Please be cautious and adapt any of these ideas to your personal health and circumstances.

The kind of activity that I have in mind doesn’t have to be a big sweaty ordeal; in fact, it doesn’t have to feel like a lot of exertion at all. If you have to constantly push yourself, and as a result you’re feeling uncomfortable and unhappy all the time, you can’t possibly experience it as a form of meditation. It’s true that experienced athletes can work through heavy-duty exercise, but that kind of single-mindedness is not something that most of us are prepared for, and it can be a very inward focus that is pretty isolating.

On the other hand, some people prefer to totally “zone out” during exercise, listening to music and losing their concentration entirely, so that even a half-hour workout seems to go by in just a couple of songs. Although it can be very calming, that lack of awareness isn’t what I have in mind either. Instead, I want to suggest that you try being present in your body and aware of its surroundings while you are in motion. To achieve this, choose something that you can enjoy and that you can do comfortably for ten or fifteen minutes without getting too tired or distracted, like a walk, a gentle swim, or an easy bike ride.

Since you want to pay attention to your environment, choose a place where you can enjoy pleasant surroundings. A loud, smelly highway is not something you want to direct your attention towards, and it may be equally distracting or worrying to be on a densely wooded path where you’re constantly worrying about being eaten alive by mosquitos and running into a rut in the path that will pitch you off your bike to land head-first into a patch of poison ivy.

What you want to try to do is to stay aware of your body – your whole body – and to keep your body and mind relaxed and open to the sensations of your experience. Try checking in with different parts of your body randomly. What are you feeling in your hands? Your knees? Your shoulders? Where are you storing tension? As you get into the rhythm of activity, does that tension change, stiffen, or move to another part of your body?

Focus on the contrasts, the yin and yang of your environment and yourself. Contrast the motion and stillness around you with your own, and stay aware of how your perspective on your surroundings shifts as you move through your activity. As with any other kind of meditation, when your awareness fixates on one thing, relax and return your attention to your breath, or to a focal point such as the rhythm of your movement or the stillness of your center of gravity. Your mind will wander; when it does, bring it back, without recrimination or increased tension, just returning it to your chosen focus.

Stay open to the sensations of your surroundings, but don’t let those sensations overwhelm you. Just as you do with thoughts and feelings that arise during a session of seated meditation, acknowledge each sensation and let it go, so that you continue to be aware of the whole experience. If you enjoy a more moderate level of exertion, don’t let that escalate to the point of distraction; stay present in your body rather than taking your mind away just so you can go a little bit faster or push a little bit harder. The goal here is mindfulness, not mindlessness.

Some kinds of exercise are often taught with a meditative focus, such as qi gong and yoga. If you engage in one of these, whether you’re experienced or a novice, use the same approach of being open to the sensations in your body and your presence in your surroundings. If you have an established practice already, perhaps you could try doing part of your routine in an outdoors setting where you don’t usually get to go; see how the different context affects your practice and your awareness.

In exercises that consciously incorporate the breath, make sure that you’re not ignoring the rest of your body. As you breathe in and stretch a little bit further, notice how your breath and movement interact. Are you starting and stopping movements in time with the breath? Is your movement causing you to breathe, or vice versa? Is your breath steady and smooth, or ragged and irregular? How about your movement?

Even an activity like light weightlifting can be an opportunity for mindfulness. Rather than experiencing each repetition as a chore, or a contest, direct your attention away from concerns or pressure you put on yourself and into your awareness of your muscles and movement. Try using your breath to support your movement, much as you do when breathing into a tight part of the body while stretching, rather than holding your breath. How does the sensation in the muscle change with each repetition? When do you know that it’s enough; when your body tells you so, or when you’ve reached a predetermined number?

Meditation can be a way to be in better touch with your body, as well as your mind and heart. The awareness cultivated in meditation ought to be an awareness of ourselves and our surroundings as we interact with them, not just an isolated inner awareness. Finding mindfulness in motion can be a way to cultivate an interactive awareness of both mind and body.