The great British Summer, we have to make the most of it. So one glorious warm sunny day, I decided to do my mindfulness practice out in the garden. I set myself up on the lounger (must get comfortable); put a cushion behind my lower back for extra support, then started my usual routine.
First checking in with my INTENTION of the practice, which for me today is, enjoying the outdoor space with the sounds of nature and anything else that comes into my scope of awareness as I just sit for next 20 minutes. It feels a bit of a treat and I aware of my anticipation of enjoying this non-doing time, do I feel a bit guilty as there is weeding to do? This is a time when I can give myself, my monkey mind, time to release its grip on all the important things that I feel I must DO! (like the weeding).
My MOTIVATION is the practice keeps me on the right path, a coming home to myself, where I can tune in and be aware of how I feel, how I can help myself and others suffer less and be happy more!
As I begin to turn my focus inwards, I recognise my UNSETTLED MIND, my habitual thinking, my involvement with that thinking that takes me to other times and places, right now the thoughts floods in……. what shall I cook for dinner tonight?………do I need to take anything out of the freezer?……….do I have enough salad leaves growing ready to pick for salad?………. and other things randomly come in from where? As I observe my mind running down the garden path! Who knows where all these thoughts come from, but it happens when you start to have a mental focus – very surprising at times just what is there – and in fact it’s always there – but we are usually too busy to notice it. But I have no reason to be busy now, I am ready to be mindful………… to open myself to and accept the comings and goings of my mental state. Yes there seems to be a lot going on, but I wait for the dust to settle!
So SETTLING THE MIND is so important, now we have seen our habit, now we work with our involvement with thinking. So back to the body and I CHECK MY POSTURE to be upright, alert, yet relaxed and be open to my experience as it unfolds. Yes this sun-lounger is a good idea, why had I not thought about it before? Maybe it was the lack of warm sunshine that deterred me before, my preference is to be warm…..without wind….without mechanical sounds…….here I recognise I have many preferences in everything I do, it’s the way we have been conditioned and we can be a prisoner to them if we are unconscious of them – but there is always opportunity for being more conscious in mindfulness practices – and that begins in this moment and every moment – so I stay with the process!
So now I start to focus on my breathing, equalizing then deepening; I was more tense than I thought, so I stay and emphasise the outbreath – so my bodymind gets the message that all is well and I can now r e l a x ……… and I keep my mind in my belly so I can feel the belly wall expanding and contracting as I breathe – this helps me to get out of my head and into my body. Before long, my mind starts its usual wanderings again so I must give it something more to focus on – so I start counting my breath slowly, 1, 2, 3, 4 on the inhale, 1, 2, 3, 4 on the exhale, belly expanding and contracting. After a couple of minutes of counting my breath, it has found a smooth equalised rhythm without any effort – I am starting to be more relaxed.
I then remind myself I don’t need to get rid of those thoughts that keep on popping into my mind, I can just decide not to get involved with them, it’s my choice, I like choices! (preferences again!). Also to let go of the idea that I need to DO SOMETHING, or GET IT RIGHT, or SUCEED or FAIL, I am learning to let go of the self-critique.
Now I begin GROUNDING, making a mental BODY SCAN from the top of my head to the tips of my toes, open to all of the physical sensations that present themselves, and a reminder to myself to stay relaxed as I let go of the habitual squeezing between my eyebrows, release the tight jaw and soften the inside of my mouth, next allowing the shoulders to drop away from my ears and feeling my head placed centered on my body, my breast bones lifts a little to open the front of my body, and release the space around my heart………I can feel the support of the cushion rolled into my low back, my seat and legs outstretched on the lounger, I feel well supported, secure and grounded.
After a minute or so I go to RESTING, when I can let go of any sense of focus for a little while, with no real goal or direction, a casual relaxed state being open to whatever comes my way. What comes to me is this is very pleasant, I like pleasant, everything to my liking…..we tend to want things the way we like them and can easily get irritated when they are not – but not lets go there now – just enjoying the resting in a grounded state – ah! – I wish I could stay here in this relaxed state.
But before too long, here is my mind coming back to remind me of the list I have made myself, things to do when off on holiday, actually I have not done anything on the list yet! Is that good or bad! Here our judgements and preferences arise and interfere with the stable mind. OK I need more focus, so I go to my SUPPORT. As I am outdoors, a glorious summer day, I live in a small village, and all I can hear are the sounds of nature, with the occasional tractor rush by the front of the house, and one in the distance bailing hay.
Usually we either use our BREATHING or SOUNDS as our mindfulness support – so it seems an ideal opportunity to use sound. So as I open myself up to all the various sounds around me, without listening to any particular sound or searching out for them, I choose to be receptive to what comes up and when I get distracted by my thoughts, which will and does happen from time to time, I just remind myself to come back to my support of resting with the sounds. So I stay at the supporting stage for at least 10 minutes. I am in heaven, drinking in all the sounds of nature and the sounds of summer. I am close to flowers and herbs and the bees are busily buzzing on the catmint; the 20 or so sparrows who take shelter in my hedge, whiz over and beside me with speed to the bird feeder, take a few nibbles and return back to the hedge, chattering all the while. The collard doves are cooing now they sound so content. Suddenly a change in the bird sounds, there must be a bird of prey nearby because I can hear a commotion with the birds. Can I keep my eyes closed and accept it? I have to have a look, curiosity gets the better of me, and sure enough I see a sparrow hawk circling above. After a while it quietens down and the birds are back to their chirpy selves and the danger must be over. One tractor comes and goes, one thought comes, and I notice I am starting to think, so back to my support of SOUNDS as I let go of grasping at the thought to think about it. I do this many times, and possibly the space between the thoughts do get a bit longer – but a reminder to myself, no judgements here – my intention is to just sit and enjoy and yes I am doing that, but my 20 minutes must be up?
So before I open my eyes again, I make my DEDICATION, that any merits arising from this practice go to the benefit of all beings everywhere without exception or preference, so that we may all be free from suffering and the causes of suffering and that may we all be happy and well.
I almost don’t want to move, I feel very settled, quiet and still, peaceful, feeling very fortunate to live in such a beautiful place with all the benefits I have in this life, then I look beside me and had forgotten that my lovely black lab Leo, has been by my side all along, now he is the real master of mindfulness!