We live in changing times. This is a time of major transition. We can no longer live on autopilot, things are changing so quickly, we have to make choices day to day, moment to moment. The old formula simply won’t cut it.
We see it in Nature, the quality of the air, water, and soil. The quality of our clothing, our food, our thoughts and emotions. Even in the quality of our relationships: Something isn’t right. Many of us feel disconnected, lonely, lost. The quality simply isn’t there.
What can be done? How can we feel more alive, connected, loved?
How do we return the quality to our lives?
We need to start where we’re standing. We can’t force others to change, but we can change ourselves. We change from within. If we alter the eyes with which we see the world, we alter what we see. We can apply that to all of our senses. If all of this change is happening anyway, we may as well change for the better. Flow with it, harness it, utilize these changing times as a vehicle to inject the quality we’ve been missing in our lives.
Many of us dislike change. It's uncomfortable. So, how do we make friends with change? First we need to recognize what the "normal" is. As people, we can have a tendency to embellish, ignore, or sugarcoat the truth about how things actually are.
It’s like ignoring the “low fuel” light in a vehicle. We know we need more fuel, but we don’t want to stop yet. Sooner or later we’ll be forced to stop because we’ve run out of fuel. Once we really allow ourselves to be aware of the truth as it is, we can work from there. It’s easier to realize then, yes in fact something needs to change. When we’re honest with ourselves, we know where to start, we know what we need. How can we become aware so we know what we need?
Most of us have heard the words “meditation” or “mindfulness”, but what do they mean? What are they really?
Generally, meditation is setting time aside to practice being aware. Aware of what is going on within us. With a childlike mind, observing with non-judgement, simply what is. The truth about how we feel, think, see, hear, what we are experiencing, and noticing within us. There are many different kinds of meditation, they all have one thing in common: Awareness.
Meditation is about conscious awareness.
How about Yoga? More simply, yoga is a system or philosophy on best practices to live life. There are many different avenues of yoga, this is outlined in the Yoga Sutras. What we call “yoga” in the West is usually referring to the physical movement practice aspect of yoga called “asana”.
Sitting in meditation or days and weeks on end isn’t great for the body. Yoga (asana) gets the body moving, blood pumping, energy flowing, while keeping a meditative mind, having more awareness about the body, and maintaining physical health.
Both meditation and yoga (asana) are practices done in a controlled environment. Often quiet spaces, with dimmed lighting and soft music, it's mind and body training. Practice for becoming aware of the mind, body, and spirit. Working through thoughts and emotions in a safe and controlled space, we cultivate awareness.
Mindfulness is the application of awareness. This is where we can take what we've learned and cultivated in our practice of yoga and meditation, and we apply it to everyday life. While we're doing our day to day activities, we apply awareness. We practice being present. It can be more difficult because there are now outside distractions, unlike when we are in our controlled environments of yoga and meditation. Now we have life happening around us as well. That’s why it can be helpful to practice separately (meditation and yoga), then apply that practice daily (mindfulness). The same way a mechanic first learns about an engine, how it works and what it needs in the garage, then takes it for a test drive on the road where anything can happen. The mechanic knows the engine, what it needs, and how to get the best out of it. Mindfulness is the application of awareness, to life and living. It's the test driving. We focus on all the senses in the moment. What are we experiencing? We become aware of sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, thoughts, emotions and breath.
We can practice with small tasks to start:
Over time, we find it spreads into every aspect of life. We find we’ve trained ourselves to live this way. Present. Focused.
We can fully enjoy each moment. Being present with loved ones, or our favorite activities. We can experience a hug like never before, savor the moment, feel the love. Rather than thinking about the future or the past, what we need to get done on the list or what we should have done instead, we are present. We so often live with our heads in the clouds. Dreaming. Asleep on our feet. When we are present, we are here. We are aware and awake. We can truly appreciate the beautiful moments in our lives. It also means we are focused on the task at hand, we become more productive.
When times are difficult, we also find we respond differently. We come to know ourselves very well. We know what triggers us, and rather than reacting or exploding, we recognize what’s happening. It seems like time slows. We no longer react, instead we respond. We choose our response to any given situation, rather than a snap reaction which can make matters worse.
It means we notice when we feel sad, angry, upset, and rather than these emotions taking us over, they become allies. We understand they are communicating something to us. They don’t overwhelm us, they tell us we need a break, or a breath, or something else. We cultivate a healthy relationship with all our emotions, and understand what they are communicating to us.
We discover the more we notice our emotions, the less they must scream at us to get our attention. Most of us have been taught to ignore our emotions, push them away. So what do our emotions do? They come back louder and louder until we can’t ignore them anymore, and we explode (or implode). As we train ourselves to observe our emotions in practice, the volume and intensity of those emotions gets turned down. Anger and sadness no longer need to scream at us to get our attention. They can whisper, and we will hear.
Living with our thoughts and emotions at a manageable volume level, creates calm.
Knowing we can manage any triggers that come our way, gives us peace.
So take a deep breath, that’s where it starts.
It’s time for something different.
🙏 Lisa Sabatini