“Throughout your day you can pause, take a break from your usual thoughts, and wake up to the magic and vastness of the world around you.” -Pema Chodron who feels this is a mindfulness practice which we can simply use to center ourselves throughout the day.
How do you spend your day is a question many of us ask. There are also many of us who do not ask this or any other questions. We blindly walk through our day and our life. We bump into things, become angry and blame those around us for the injuries we sustain as a result of our own ignorance and laziness. As I am writing this post my email program announced a new email was in my inbox. I read the email. It was from the Mind-the Ducks race coordinator. This is a 12-hour race held every May in Rochester, NY. I had wanted to run this race since the 2011 race. I knew I could not run the entire time but I wanted to at least get in a marathon distance. I had been paying attention to the calendar for several months waiting for the release of the entry forms as there are only 85 available slots. I mention this because my meditation practice has allowed me the ability to place more time between being reactive and proactive in my responses. A few years ago I would have registered for this race and “did what I could have done” while risking injury. Today my meditation practice has allowed me to successfully manage what would have been difficult feelings with an open mind and be “OK” with that decision.
As I approach each day I begin it with a meditation session which includes me asking a question of myself. I ask, “As I go into this day, what is the most important thing? What is the best use of this day?” I end each day in a similar fashion; with a meditation session and with a question. The question I ask of myself is “Did I make the best use of this day? What could I have done to make it a better day?”
I find myself using a techniques which meditation practice has taught when I’m struggling. It’s the ability to pause or otherwise create a small gap in my day. A gap large enough that I can take a few additional moments to respond proactively to a problem or a difficulty I am experiencing. This involves taking three conscious breaths and it is within these three conscious breaths that I have the gap which I need. I had this conversation with a friend of mine who reminded me to “appreciate the gap that already exists in our environment. Awakened mind exists in our surroundings–in the air we breathe, the wind which brushes against our face, the sea which powerfully pounds the shoreline and in the unconditional love of the animals in our lives.” Those three conscious breaths remind me to remain in touch with my awakened mind.
When I practice meditation, especially in the morning, there is a lot of silence and space. Meditation is a way for me to formally create those important gaps. Every time you realize you are thinking and you let go of your thoughts, you are creating a gap. Every time your breath goes out, we create a gap. These gaps which I create help me to experience the blessings of my surroundings. this is especially important to me when I am in nature. When I sit in silence in nature I allow myself to be open to all that nature has to offer.
When I allow myself to connect with the gaps I have created through my meditation practice, I allow the stillness which I have experienced to accompany me throughout the day. As a result my day passes more smoothly and with less tension. I smile more and feel more relaxed. When my mind is relaxed I allow myself to become immersed in the activity in which I am engaging at that moment; mindful of the activity and my need to remain centered. this immersion is positive, it is not an all-encompassing immersion which causes me to lose focus of what is around me but to maintain the focus on the “big picture.” by taking care of myself I have become selfish; not self-centered. It is important for me to maintain a healthy focus on myself so that I can go about my day in a healthy manner. If I deplete my stores of energy, I have nothing to give to others who may be in need. When I take care of myself, I do not feel angry, I do not feel sad or hurt, I do not feel loneliness, guilt, shame, or fear. I feel a tremendous amount of joy. When I focus on the joy which I feel I am capable of imparting this joy to others which creates more joy; both for me and anyone else involved in my life. I do not blame others for the way I feel and do not accept their assessment that “I made them feel angry” nor do I accept the assessment that I allow others to make me feel anyway I do not want to feel. I am responsible for my feelings and the successful management of them. Again, this gap which I willingly create allows me that opportunity to assess what I may need to change or improve. When I find myself becoming angry it is usually a result of my lack of discipline in my practice. I meditate in part to practice the “Middle Way”, to maintain my practice and by maintaining my practice I maintain balance.