Tag Archives: mindfulness

The Constant Round of Arrivals and Departures

One thing that seems to define this stage of life is the constant round of arrivals and departures.

Just over the last couple of days I’ve said au revoir to an offspring setting out from home for the next stage of his yoing adult life. Bid a final farewell,  at the funeral of a friend who seemed securely there on the periphery of my life, yet is suddenly gone. Begun knitting for a baby expected in my extended family.

People come and they go all the time, but somehow I didn’t notice or feel the ebb and flow so acutely before.

I’ve become much more aware of the seasons these days, both in the trees and in life.

Let the Feelings In

How to cope with the flood of emotions that arise at each greeting and each farewell? It’s always a joy when someone close comes back for a while, and a wrench when they leave. But this is life.

There is no escaping. Might as well set up home on Waterloo station.

I think the only thing to do is in embrace it. Show the love when they’re here. Have those deep conversations. Stop being afraid of saying the things that matter.

And do my best to let go of fear, that old existential gremlin who sits on my shoulder muttering :Maybe they won’t come back. Maybe this is the last time you’ll see them (insert evil cackle). 

It’s obvious that living in the present moment as much as possible is the only way to manage this. Watching the seasons up close is a good way in.

I’m going down the garden right now to have a closer look at those berries that are starting to flush red, the big brown spiders that have shown up early this year, the leaves that are just starting to tinge yellow. They are trying to tell me something.

Stand there and breathe. Say hi. Say bye. Love it all, just the way it damn well is. 

Take 10 minutes Just to Be, and Reconnect

The brave yellow rosa rugosa is a golden beacon in the garden

The brave yellow rosa rugosa is a golden beacon in the garden

I was stopped in my rushing tracks this morning by a post about The Disease of Being Busy contributed by Omar Safi to Krista Tippett’s excellent On Being blog.

In his beautifully expressed piece, Safi talks about the plague of busy-ness which prevents us from truly connecting, both with ourselves and each other. When Safi asks a fellow human being ‘How are you?’…

‘…I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.’

This struck such a chord with me, as I know I’ve been cramming too much activity into my life of late, and not spending enough time on the things that are more important, including writing this blog.

So I at once sat down by my garden window and took 10 minutes to do nothing but look, and breathe, and reconnect with my calm self.

What I saw in those 10 minutes was all that I miss by rushing too much. The sky, fading from blue to a watery deep grey; the brilliant yellow slash of the rosa rugosa at the end of the garden; the way the beech husks make a dark bobbled pattern against the weave of branches. Two blackbirds darting in and out of the budleia. A single copper leaf falling from the magnolia.

When the timer went ‘Ting…’ I felt rested, calmed, in touch with myself again. I went to my laptop and began drafting this post.

Later, walking down the street, I passed the post-lady. Instead of tossing a ‘Hi!’ over my shoulder as I strode on to my important business in the corner store, I stopped and touched her shoulder. ‘You’ve changed your hair – and your eyes!’ (She has been a long-time user of raven hair dye and vivid blue contacts.)

She smiled: ‘I must be having a mid-life crisis, but I wanted a change.’ Her hair a soft chestnut, her eyes greenish-hazel, she was transformed. ‘You look beautiful,’ I said. She smiled, we parted. Connection made, hearts opened to each other.

Thank you, Omar Safi. Those 10 minutes spent in just being brought me back to an awareness that is so easily lost.

Please – try it for yourself, and see what happens.

Elizabeth Martyn: Beyond 60

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The Joy of Mindful Deadheading

deadheading marigolds

I am no gardener but I found a new way to tend my plot this morning which has left me feeling calm, and looking forward to doing some more. This is not the norm.

On my ‘essential’ list for the day were ‘meditate’ and ‘sort out pots’ –  the pots being my few containers of marigolds which have been horribly neglected.

There was less than an hour before I had to go out and say goodbye to any possible pot and meditation time. That didn’t feel like long enough to do either of them properly.

A Helpful Gift

Then I remembered a gift I’d been given by K, in my meditation group. She’d presented us all with a copy of Exercise 6: A Deadheading Meditation from a lovely book, The Art of Mindful Gardening by Ark Redwood. I had stuffed my copy into the back of a notebook, thinking quietly, ‘…this isn’t for me’.

And now I was being offered a chance to multi-task in a mindful and productive way. I read the instructions: ‘…stand in front of the plant you wish to work on…bring your awareness to your breath and posture…when you feel centred and calm…mindfully pick up your secateurs…regard the plant…this is a process in which the two of you are involved…’

Okay… This would be quite a change from dashing out, snipping furiously and rushing off to do something less garden-y.

Take Time to Breathe

I stood by my marigold pot, breathed and gradually became aware of the flowers. The richness of gold, orange and garnet petals with their serrated edges, the feathery leaves. How gorgeous, what a cheerful splash of vibrancy.

I snipped a few deadheads and noticed the sharp, sappy smell wafting up. Snipped a few more. Was it my imagination, or was the little cluster starting to look more relaxed, freer?

The cat came to join me, rubbing my hand as I manoeuvred my snippers. Instead of pushing her away, I took a moment to tickle her ears. Satisfied, she plopped down in the shade.

The thought came: ‘This is pure enjoyment.’ The whole process had a truly meditative quality.

First Start, then Follow your Inspiration

Inspired, I moved on to a rambling rose entangled in a mass of honeysuckle and purple clematis hanging over the neighbour’s fence. Generally, I’d look at that morass of greenery, shake my head and leave it.

Today, I wriggled my way in among the branches and pulled down a twisting stem of late roses. Face to face with the tiny flowers, I could see the detail I’d never notice from a distance – the intense apricot in the bud, which is no bigger than a pea, and which turns to creamy off-white when the tiny frilled medallion of a flower opens. Subtle fragrance was all around me.

A grey-green clematis creeper twined its way through the brighter leaves, and I found myself entranced by the head of a climbing hydrangea, a mix of seed heads and tiny open green flowers, trembling slightly as I reached round them to snip away at the roses.

Who would think that a numinous moment awaited in the shrubbery?

All you gardeners know this already. But for someone whose usual feeling about the garden is that I like sitting in it, but nothing grows for me, and keeping it tidy is just another chore, this was an unlooked for delight.

Respect to Marigolds

The final instruction of the Deadheading Meditation is the bit I like best: ‘When you feel satisfied that you have accomplished this practice, gently bow to the flower, and smile.’

How pleasurable to take a brief moment to make that communication with nature.

Half an hour had passed. Pots sorted. Meditation accomplished. And this is how mindfulness enters into daily life.

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