Ramble on Brambles – this week’s mindfulness reflection

Brambles! Those intertwined dry snappy branches that challenged Prince Charming in his quest to get to Sleeping Beauty. You know the type, not only ever-present but also there to slap you in the face, sometimes with green leaves, sometimes with thorns.

They all need my attention! Breathe!

It all needs my attention! Breathe!

Brambles are also how I’ve decided to represent those ubiquitous happenings  that invade my daily dealings and/or also occupy space in the brain as I replay past events, past feelings or future worries.  Brambles, those ever-present distractions that I must overcome. (I could list a hundred and I know you can, too!)

Of course, they are there, constantly. And so the struggle to deal with them and get back to what I intended to do is also constant. But it’s not hopeless. A path can be created, if my intention is clear and if my will is able to withstand distraction. (Just remember the Prince! He managed to slice his way to his prize.)

How can I manage to clear away the brambling distractions from my path?

The first step in any good path creation is wanting to do something: wanting to begin, follow through and get it done. Then comes recognizing the brambles. Noticing that they exist. Noticing that they pop up. Noticing that they keep popping up.  Noticing when.  Then, noticing that they prevent me from getting to where I want to be.

Take a typical morning. I wake up and set off on a course of a number of deeds and tasks to be done before I can open my front door and be on my way. Every morning I do the same things – sometimes in a different order just to keep me alert to what works best. So, here I go again. A new morning. I wake up early and begin my string of activities when, suddenly, an urgent phone message. My help is needed! I must photocopy a document and immediately send it to my son. He’s overseas and needs it right now! His 7 hour time-zone difference can’t wait for me to complete my 5 a.m. rituals.

No choice. I’ve been called to act.

Fight or flight: There’s no immediate danger to my being. Go ahead! My brain wants to break out of the gate and run full-speed ahead. Quick! Where is this document? It could be in any number of locations.

Emotions join the mix: a conversation.

One small voice:  Hmm, what about my own schedule?

Another voice: How selfish! He needs you!

A third voice: Just get on with it – all this discussion is wasting time!

Overall voice: I love him, I want to help. I will manage this!

  • So, first step: A path.

  • Next: noticing the intrusion.

  • Then: assessing if I can meet the request.

  • Follow-through: I step up to the plate.

  • Bonus: While searching for what he needs, I can mindfully focus and search. I can do the task. I can recognize what needs to be done, be mindful of expending only the amount of energy required – no need for panic or excess drama. No real need for all those inner voices – who are all those people, anyway? Do they always chime in? Another thing to notice!

The whole time, I have my own intention on hold, waiting for the all-clear signal. Once I’ve completed the task, found the document, photocopied it and sent it, I can resume.

One conquered bramble! And in taking self-inventory: no wounds, no slapped face. Only a sense that there’s been a gentle meeting of ‘Task’ and my effort.

Sometimes, the noticing is not so clear-cut. It can be very difficult. As I move through my day, it’s one distraction after another and all occur quite naturally. Someone needs to talk, urgently. Someone needs advice, at that very second. Someone needs help. Someone else needs to hug. Someone on the phone. Someone on the way home. Lots of  ‘someones needing something from me’. This is often called living in a society. Okay, I can deal. I know that people constitute a part of my day and I can learn to differentiate between the sweet green leaves and the thorns.

What about all the events that occur? Spontaneous situations? I need to arrange a room, a class list, an appointment. My filling falls out, my laundry needs folding. There are things in life that happen that require attention.

Often the needs of others or the events that crop up offer a chance for positive sharing and good feelings. This is why it’s all so confusing. If it feels good and positive, then how can I see it as a distraction? Life is flow, is it not?

Sometimes it takes distancing from the scene. When my immediate environment is devoid of others or immediate tasks, only then, can I breathe fully, hear myself breathe, and notice that I haven’t been doing that simple yet essential exercise for most of my day. When someone else wants my attention, how automatic it is to offer it on the spot, without that initial breath or being present in my own body, aware enough to take a meditative moment before I leap.

So, this is the time to notice the ‘brambles’, the surprise pop-ups that unfailingly appear. As pleasant as a hug or as threatening as a projectile headed my way, all oncomings are better met with mindfulness.

Meeting the unknown mindfully, aware of my breath, my feet on the ground or my body on a chair, I can better offer what is required of me, or deflect that which is best avoided.

Formal practice in the form of meditation sessions, whether sitting, walking or lying down, all slowly build up my ability to sustain a more awakened presence. And if there’s only enough time for 3 mindful breaths, those breaths have the power to take me to a more mindful place.

Make no mistake, chronological age does very little to make the work easy – it all requires effort. Practice is the key. And so very worth it.

May I learn how to clear away the brambles from outside and from within and carry on to meet my own intention.

ramble on brambles

Oct 3rd into Fall

Q. How much meditation does it take to turn on a brain?

A. Not much, but also a lot

Each day begins with the usual range of activities including the most important – morning sound meditation. I focus on posture, breathing and sound. I hold onto the image of a purple blue spot of light under my eyelids and I chant.

Result: better voice, better feeling, happiness.

Each school day I begin by conducting a meditation session with a class – each day a different class along with their homeroom teacher. I scan the room and decide which meditation to use – with or without music, with or without a video clip.

Result: better feeling, better connection with others, happier homeroom teacher.

There’s a pattern here. Meditation = better

There is a quantity required, no doubt, before all those amazing statistics roll into play – higher grade point average, better focus, stronger memory, reduced anxiety and stress, reduction in violence. There is such a quantity and it’s been measured.

But for now, i’m working on observation and accumulation of good feelings.

Meditation is better. It’s better when practiced in a group. It’s better when encouraged with positive feelings. It’s better than not having such a tool when such a tool is needed.

How much? I plan to find out.

therapy-all.jpg

learning to love

How many years have I looked into the heart of another and opened my heart?

How many times have I felt the feelings of another and started to weep?

Have  I been deluding myself?

Is this connection or projection? Is it a meeting or a retreat?

Can I observe my own confusion and love it as I’d love it in another?

photo: Deanne Rotta

Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of ‘holding anger like a mother holding the baby’.

Lovingkindness is us, but anger is also us. So one part of us taking good care of another part.

Anger is a kind of energy that comes from ourselves. Lovingkindness is another kind of energy. Every time the energy of anger is there, we should invite the energy of lovingkindness to be there to take care of anger.

Ram Dass asks how that is done and the answer is mindful breathing as a practical way to take care – breathing in, I am angry. Breathing out I am taking care of my anger.

I wish to remind myself that all the parts that I observe – including confusion, are equally deserving of lovingkindness. I wish to remind myself that I cannot begin to take care of my students until I recognize that I and all my parts are equally deserving of my unbiased love.