Monday, April 4, 2011

Nourishing Ourselves

Another installment on the blessings of a meditative mindset...

Last week I led a retreat on Long Island on the beautiful grounds of Planting Fields Arboretum.  The picture above is just a tiny slice of life from their main greenhouse.  Before we gathered in the room I'd set up for our yokibics movement and meditation program, we opened our day in the greenhouse, quietly moving through the different rooms, observing the blooming orchids, the shedding dahlias, the thorny and majestic cactus...feeling the humidity and breathing in the smells that surrounded us.  We participated with conscious awareness in the knowledge that our retreat had begun in the simplest of ways, and it could be nothing special without our full participation and awareness.

It was grand!

Lately I've been noticing more and more of what isn't so grand - weird expressions of "guilt" about being able to stop and smell the roses, as if we are stealing time from more important endeavors - as if we need to do it in secret.  This seems to be combining with an increased amount of pressure from the outside world to get going lickety split! 

I wonder when the pendulum swung so definitively in this direction that it feels normal to be stressed?

I especially love to watch the folks who play the "green light game" as if their lives depended on it.  You know the ones.  You're in your car stopped at a light and your attention wanders out the window for just a moment as you take a breath and look around.  The light turns green and as you bring your gaze back and begin the action to accelerate ... BEEEEEEEPPPPPP!!

Not quick enough apparently.  

Perhaps we need more coffee.  And 5-hour energy drinks. And don't forget the Pepsid...

For those of us at Planting Fields, each one described a feeling of deep satisfaction through the simple act of receiving fully what was already there. 
Once out in daily life, we continue to have the opportunity to nourish ourselves every day through what we see, hear, touch, taste and smell - for nourishment truly is the issue at hand.
One of my favorite topics for illustrating this is to consider the experience of conscious eating.  

In order to get a feel for conscious eating, try the following exercise as you imagine yourself sitting down to a delicious meal...

Relax your body. Unclench and unwind your legs, arms, belly, jaw, neck, back and face.
Deepen your breath… 

When you slow your breath you slow down time.  The meal in front of you is here for you to savor and enjoy.  

Notice if you feel rushed, “starved”, or ready to get going.  Focus instead on your readiness to nourish your body, mind and spirit.  Only your mind says “hurry now and eat…”

You need not have a lot of time; merely the sensation that you have all the time you need.  Slow your inhale, and enjoy this pause in your day. 

Exhale, and let go of all the thoughts and stresses you brought into this moment. …  If there is some aggravation you need to release, do it now before your meal. 

Focus your attention on the ease, family, and friendship surrounding this meal.  It doesn’t matter if you are alone or with others.  You are the favored guest! 

Center on what pleases you. Treat yourself well.  Allow yourself to generate a feeling of appreciation…relax even more deeply.

Lastly, feel your connection to the food you are going to eat, and acknowledge the nutritive value of your meal.

Take another deep breath, and smile.

Approach the nourishing moments in front of you with this frame of reference and you will be well on your way to a happier, more loving, more self-fulfilled you.

How can you find more roses in your day??

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