A “powerful way to realize our interconnectedness is to imagine the human family as a stand of aspens growing by a river. Though each tree appears to be growing independently, not attached to the others, beneath the soil, out of view, the roots of all the trees exist as one enormous root.”
This poem was inspired by a conversation I had recently with my friend Blair. A conversation like a dance, following the songs in our hearts, releasing the energy held inside our being. Together we felt the circle of life, as the moment breathed into us. We allowed ourselves to drown in the delicious wetness of light that shined upon us.
By Vicki L. Flaherty
No moment the same as the one before.
Or the same as any that will come.
Each moment its own unique and precious space.
Without effort, it happens.
It moves on.
It circles, contracting and expanding.
Filling up and releasing.
We move unconsciously with it, not even noticing the beauty of it.
We can pay careful attention to the miracle of it.
* I took this photo at San Agustinillo, Oaxaca, Mexico
Today I am grateful for rest from the activity of my mind, which is always so anxious to gather everything – unfiltered ideas, information, irrelevant tidbits and details, and actions that might need doing — and to dump it all in a pile before me, motivated by a desire to be good, get things right, be liked. I am grateful for moments like now when I create space to let it all go, to let it gently dissolve, melting down to those critical things that will make a difference. It’s like I lose my sight and suddenly have a new pair of glasses with which to see. Yes, my quiet, still morning pause and reflection time is essential to finding peace and joy and tapping into the love that helps me soar.
* I took this photo in 2011 in Knidos, Turkey.
Last week I had an amazing experience! As part of our new executive leadership development experience, our Chief Health Officer and Vice President for Integrated Health Services, Kyu Rhee, MD, MPP, joined us to open the event. Included in his remarks were a ‘micropause’, a term introduced by our colleagues in Canada, where all ~120 executives stood up, rolled their shoulders, stretched their necks and arms and just moved around for 30 seconds. What an energizing way for him to open everyone to his messages. He ended with a gratitude pause, inviting everyone to take a few slow, quiet breaths and reflect on something they are grateful for, and then, if inspired to do so, share it with someone near them. I got goosebumps was somewhere in the middle when he spoke about the value of mindfulness and engaged everyone in a moment of focusing on our breath in silence. The energy in the auditorium was inspiring. I had to pinch myself that this was actually happening: Mindfulness for our executives. What a powerful way of inviting transformation into our lives individually and collectively.
My colleague, Melanie Lowenberg, who has worked for both our Integrated Health Services Organization previously, and now our Management and Leadership Development organization, has been a bridge helping us integrate health and wellness into our management and leadership programs and experiences. Together we are partnering to leverage the many, many opportunities we have to co-create across our health and leadership teams. She bought me a delightful little book: The Mindfulness Coloring Book by Emma Farrorons. So today I tried for the first time intentionally practicing mindfulness through coloring. What a wonderful addition to my toolbox of practices. I was surprised what I discovered in the 10 minutes I spent alone:
- I find comfort in patterns.
- I have a desire to fill in between the lines, to leave no space inside unfilled.
- Noticing, I challenged myself to experiment with leaving space unfilled, which I found liberating.
- I worked with what I had: a pencil and black, blue and green pens; I observed how I wanted something more colorful, some purples, reds, oranges, pinks and invited myself to be content with ‘what is’.
- I noticed how I turned the book to fill in the spaces and how my perspective changed as the angle of the book shifted.
- I felt empowered to leave the image unfinished, to let go of my desire for completeness.
Hmmm…I never would have guessed I would find such discovery in those quote moments alone focused on coloring in a flower! The more I open to a variety of ways to experience mindfulness, the more enriched I am. The more I open to where we can experience and share mindfulness, the greater the variety of places where it flows in.
Earlier this month I joined a meditation group for a 9-week practice. This is my first intentional foray into meditation as a mindfulness practice. I’ve been curious about meditation since I was a teenager when my uncle and aunt, who lived with us for awhile, meditated daily. My hope is that with mindfulness I might truly impact my ability to manage stress and reduce my hypertension to the point that I can stop taking medication.
While I’ve not practiced meditation, I have been experimenting with various forms of mindfulness for many years now, without really knowing it or having given it that label.
To me mindfulness is slowing the mind down enough to tune into my inner experience and to connect with my heart energy. This usually means stepping away from activities that require my mental attention, like work.
For example, I’ve been running since I was 13 and many times I’ve entered ‘the zone’ where I am disconnected from the busy-ness of my mind and tuned into a deeper experience of myself and life. This is probably the most significant habit that has enabled me to be in touch with my emotional experience of life from an early age.
I think of mindful practices as things that support me in letting go and getting out of my mind so that I can show up more fully when I need to engage my mind….things that enable me to feel so that I have a richer experience of thinking. I find that to practice mindfulness requires that I be intentional about and committed to creating ‘ME time’, time where I am still and focus on reflecting or focusing on what’s going on or important to me. Mindfulness might take the form of a short #mindfulminute or be a block of dedicated time as long as 15 or 30 minutes or even an hour, or maybe even some sort of day retreat. Some of the ways I ‘practice’ during these times include:
- Reading inspirational books. I started this habit thanks to my friend Celeste when back in November of 2007 she sent me a copy of Meditations from the Mat. Other books that I’ve found awaken my heart include Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather’s Blessings by Rachel Naomi Remen, as well as the Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo.
- Journaling and free-form writing. This helps me define what I am feeling and understand my emotional experience of the world. In this time, I consistently realize the power of a single word to create energetic shifts. For me, words have led to phrases to poems – and they often serve to lift me from a place of darkness to a place of greater light. (I’ve captured the essence of many journaling sessions in my Mostly My Heart Sings and Leading with Intention blogs.)
- Practicing yoga. In the weekly class I attend with Theresa in Iowa City, we end with a 15 minute a guided practice in shavasana that results in a powerful decompression and renewed sense of life.
- Making time to be with friends. My friends who are coaches – like Blair, Maureen, Stacy, Christina, Jennifer P, Therese, Diana – are especially valuable in this way as they are skilled at holding a space for going beyond the transactional to a special place of deep connection that wakes me up and enlivens me.
- Spending ‘down time’ with my husband. This happens mostly when we are walking or sitting together on our deck, where often in silence side-by-side we contemplate life, relish memories we’ve made together, share gratitude for the abundantly delicious life we’ve created for ourselves, or dream about what we want to experience as we move forward into possibility together.
How do you define mindfulness? How do you practice being mindful? What does mindfulness allow in your life?
* I took this photo near Cala Boix, Ibiza, Balearic Islands, Spain.
A beautiful warm September week, and then the clouds rolled in late Thursday. They didn’t bother to head out of town for the weekend. No, they greeted us Friday morning and had plans to stick around through the night. I had resigned myself to Friday night inside, but not Jim. Upon his arrival home from work, he got really industrious and rigged some cover over the pergola that frames our back deck. So there we were sitting outside while the rain came down. Electronics free. Just us and the rain. At one point the rain broke and the sky took on a light and the sounds of early summer nights played like music for us. It was magical.
Thank you, Jim, for imagining the possibility and acting to create it. I love life with YOU.
* Image courtesy of sutterstock.com
It’s amazing how free I feel! I just unsubscribed to both personal and professional emails that I’ve been spending time over the past 9 months mostly deleting from my inbox. There’s simply too much incoming information.
Ah, how liberating and empowering!
Even better news, the feel-good will continue as I open my inboxes each day and find a whole lot fewer emails to sift through.
Wondering now, what else can I do to lighten my daily information overload burden?
As I was running today, I smiled at and said hi to a woman that was walking toward me. I realized how great it feels to smile and acknowledge another person as our paths cross. Maybe there’s a reason our simplest greeting is “Hi” – because it gives you a little high?! :}
As this beautiful plant blossomed and bloomed all summer, I thought it was the dreaded ragweed that is cursing Jim and his allergies. While it may still be a contributing factor, I’m thrilled to know that this lovely flower that grows like a weed all over the part of Iowa where I live is actually Goldenrod. Goes nicely with the state bird, which loves to visit the thistle sock we hang from the pergola over our back deck – the Goldfinch.
The word that was with me when I awoke this morning was rejoice. Something lovely about it – makes me think of ‘renewable joy’…the abundant-ness, the contagion of it. Sent me right to a place of gratitude – for the wonderful man sleeping next to me, the warmth of the home we are blessed to share, my health, my family, my friends, my work…
The first thing I did when I got up was get outside for a morning run – at 8:30am it was already pushing 80. The joy followed me…the flock of birds shimmering in the morning sun flying as one from the ground up into the trees, the colorful display of pots and flowers lining someone’s driveway, the gentle breeze blowing from the south cooling my skin…
It’s going to be a joy-FULL day!
What will you do to bring joy into your day?