Thomas Keating wrote these simple but profound words
The deep listening of pure contemplation
Is the path to stillness.
All words disappear into It,
And all creation awakens to the delight of
Finding Peace in the Moment with these simple practises
When you are in the middle of a disagreement or a difficult emotion, here is a few quick resets to create some inner peace. They will also just give you the space to respond in a way that is nurturing.
The brilliant thing is no one will even know you are doing.
Try to practice one or more of these exercises below as you read them. Each takes less than a minute and it will shift you stress response into a calmer place. Then use the one or two that seem to work to bring you a sense of calm.
- Close your eyes: You can usually close your eyes without being noticed, even if for only a half a minute. Try it now. The outside world takes a backseat while you go within. You almost instantly regain a sense of balance and relaxation.
- 30-second body scan: Bring your attention to how your body feels, sitting or standing, right where you are at this moment. With your eyes open or closed, scan your body from the top down, front and back, relaxing as you go. Relax your forehead, your eyes, your mouth, your tongue, your jaw. Lower your shoulders and relax your belly. Bring your attention to your hands, then your feet. In less than a minute, you can feel better from the inside out.
- Feel your breath: You can find inner peace with your eyes open, too. Focus your attention on your breath as you slowly take in a deep breath through your nose, then, let it out slowly through your nose. Pause for two seconds, then repeat. Holding the breath after you exhale helps counteract stress patterns of shallow breathing or holding the breath in. In, out, hold, repeat.
- Count your breaths: Eyes open or closed, it might help to silently count your breaths. In, count one; out, count two. Count your breaths all the way to ten. The mind might wander, but simply keep focusing back to your breath and counting. This calms your nervous system.
- Pay attention to each one of your senses: What are you hearing in this moment? What are you feeling? What are you seeing? What do you taste? What do you smell? By paying attention to your senses, your focus can shift back to the present moment just enough to relieve stress.
- Say a affirmation: Silently repeating an affirmation can immediately shift your focus from a stressful situation to peace. Slowly say a prayer in your mind or repeat an affirmation. All is well, I’m doing the best I can, and Peace can be found here and now, and This too shall pass, are good examples. You can also choose a single word, like One, Relax, Trust, or Calm. Repeat seven times.
- Smile: Give yourself a smile (don’t grimace.) Smiling releases endorphins that reduce stress and help you feel better. Studies have shown that even faking a smile can lead to feeling happier. Even if it feels strange at first, make it a point to smile more often.
- Slow down: Do one thing at a time, move a little slower than usual. Get up from your chair more deliberately or walk a bit more slowly—you’ll find that this helps ease the tension, brings you back to the present moment, and relaxes your mind and body.
- Excuse yourself: If you’re unhappy in the moment, or if you’re around people who are unhappy, the discomfort can be contagious. Whenever you notice signals of stress in your body, simply excuse yourself, “I’ve got to get back to a project,” and walk away. That project is your inner peace. Go outside, back to your desk, or head to the bathroom. Once there, use one of the above techniques.
The five senses and how we can tune into them to bring our awareness into the present moment more often to welcome in more peace and calm.
So if you feel a little distracted or out of sorts ask yourself
“What is my sensory experience right now, in this moment?”
What am I seeing? As I gaze around my room, I welcome the various colours, the shapes of objects, the sizes of forms, the space between things, the up and down, the near and far, the shadow and light, and the movement and stillness.
What sounds are there? Notice the textures of the sounds rather than deciding whether you like the sounds or not. For instance, notice the hum of the heating system, murmured conversations from the hall, distant traffic, the chirps of birds outside your window.
What aromas are there here? The bread toasting, the wafts of flowers, the freshness of the air through the open window, fresh brewed coffee.
What flavours linger in your mouth? Roll your tongue around and tune in.
What sensations are here? The weight of your body supported the the chair, the sensation of your clothing draping your arms, chest, back, your feet on the floor, the movement of your belly, chest, and back in response to breath. Just come and check in to your senses without any evaluation, as you clearly see, hear, smell, sense, taste and touch (give yourself a big hug) what is here and now, without a whole lot of story-telling. This engages your attention in the present moment. It’s the opposite of spacing out and letting a default monologue run in the background.
As the late spiritual teacher Wayne Dyer once said, ” “Seize every second of your life and savour it. Value your present moments. Using them up in any self-defeating ways means you’ve lost them forever.”
The whole world comes alive if you let it. Try this out a few times throughout your day and see what a difference it makes.
Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called. – A.A. Milne, The House on Pooh Corner
When you first encounter someone or something, there is that fleeting instant of pure awareness – just before you identify it – before your mind starts naming, labeling, and knowing, before it thinks…”oh it’s honey…or, oh it’s a dog, or, oh it’s an owl. This moment of pure awareness is “mindfulness.” It’s the moment of in between. In between the direct experience of the object and the mind’s evaluation of it. It’s important to tune in to these moments of not knowing, these moments of the in between
THE clutter of our lives binds us to the precious simplicity that surrounds us and within us. Too often we become possessed and imprisoned by the chains of our own accumulations. We live in fear of their loss; we evolve complex strategies to protect ourselves from failure and deprivation. This burden inhibits our ability to walk with lightness of heart. The noise created through our own busyness deafens us to the wonder of silence.
Modern culture has wrongly learned to equate simplicity with deprivation, silence with absence, and strives to fill our lives and minds with objects, information, and distraction. We have become uncomfortable with quietude. Caught in the web of this complexity, we grow increasingly poor in spirit.
We do not need to retreat to the nearest monastery, renouncing all of our possessions and engagements, in order to discover the wonder of silence and spaciousness. Indeed, confusion and preoccupation can be companion of the ascetic as well as the commuter. We do not need to withdraw from the world in order to discover true simplicity of heart. Dramatic gestures are not called for. “If one is to do good,” says William Blake, “good must be done in minute particulars. General good is the plea of the hypocrite, the flatterer, and the scoundrel.” Simplicity is related to not how much we have but to how much we hold on to. This simplicity is without pretension. It is like the water that simply runs downhill. In Zen, it is called our true nature.
Simplicity and renunciation are acts of compassion; for ourselves, for the world around us. Gandhi once stated, “There is enough in this world for everyone’.s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” Simplicity in our lifestyle expresses a care and compassion for the world. Simplicity in our hearts, letting go of opinions and craving, is an act of compassion for ourselves. When we let go of yearning for the future, preoccupation with the past, and strategies to protect the present, there is nowhere left to go but where we are. To connect with the present moment is to begin to appreciate the beauty of true simplicity.
Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.
As the wind loves to call things to dance,
May your gravity be lightened by grace.
Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth,
May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect.
As water takes whatever shape it is in,
So free may you be about who you become.
As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said,
May your sense of irony bring perspective.
As time remains free of all that it frames,
May your mind stay clear of all it names.
May your prayer of listening deepen enough
to hear in the depths the laughter of god.
Beannacht (New Year Blessing)
By John O’Donohue
On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.
And when your eyes
The grey window
And the ghost of loss
Gets in to you,
May a flock of colours,
Indigo, red, green,
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
In the currach of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.
Darker days are just as much a part of life as are the days graced with sunshine. When we refer to a “beautiful day” we are often describing a day that is sunny, clear, and without a cloud in sight to mar a sky that is a brilliantly perfect blue.
We find ourselves bouncing along, light in spirit, free from worries, and enjoying the moment. That is, until the clouds begin to form. The sky may turn grey, and a fog may roll in. Puffs of white take on whimsical, darker shades, and our beautiful day disappears along with the sunshine… or so it seems.
A clear blue sky often inspires in us good cheer, bringing on a lighter, more carefree day. We may find ourselves spending time outdoors, breathing in the fresh air, and basking in the warmth of the sun. Yet should clouds appear to wash the sky with shadows, we may let this change of weather decrease our energy and enthusiasm, pulling us into our own cloudy funk.
Darker days are just as much a part of life as are the days graced with sunshine. They show us a different perspective of our world, while helping us appreciate the moments of illumination that inevitably follow. A rainy day with clouds helps to clear the air, washing away stagnation. Still, it’s hard not to feel gloomy or think that the day has been ruined when there are clouds hanging over us. Yet if you can remember that these shades of grey won’t last forever, and that hidden behind the clouds is the blue sky, you will find that the beauty of your day is merely playing a game of peek-a-boo with you. Like the mishaps and interruptions that occasionally block the brilliance that is our own lives from shining through, clouds eventually clear away so we can open up to a brighter horizon.
The next time you wake up to a cloudy day, remember that these shades of grey in life are there just for the moment. And that no matter how hard the rain falls or how chilly the fog is, the clouds will go away, the sun will break through, and you will be able to see the sky that has always and forever been a beautiful and brilliant blue.
Walking and enjoy
Where am I going? I'm going
out, out for a walk. I don't
know where except outside.
Outside argument, out beyond
wallpapered walls, outside
wherever it is where nobody
ever imagines. Beyond where
computers circumvent emotion,
where somebody shorted specs
for rivets for airframes on
today's flights. I'm taking off
on my own two feet. I'm going
to clear my head, to watch
mares'-tails instead of TV,
to listen to trees and silence,
to see if I can still breathe.
I'm going to be alone with
myself, to feel how it feels
to embrace what my feet
tell my head, what wind says
in my good ear. I mean to let
myself be embraced, to let go
feeling so centripetally old.
Do I know where I'm going?
I don't. How long or far
I have no idea. No map. I
said I was going to take
a walk. When I'll be back
I'm not going to say.