My entire family loves the Lord of the Rings movies. We watch them at least once a year, and most years even more than that. Well, last night was one of those nights – complete with popcorn and s’mores (with gourmet chocolate, of course)!
In The Twin Towers (movie number two), three of the characters, Aragorn (a man), Legolas (an elf) and Gimli (a dwarf) are running across the country-side in an effort to save two of their Hobbit friends (Merry and Pippin) from certain death. As you might imagine, Gimli, being a dwarf, is having some challenges keeping up with the much taller and leaner Legolas and Aragorn. As he seems to be about to give up, he says, “Keep breathing. That’s the key.”
Arguably, one of the oldest meditation and mindfulness practices around is breathing. Yup. Breathing. This seems too good to be true! We don’t have to read a manual or hire a coach or ANYTHING – this is something WE CAN DO!
Simply paying attention to our breath brings us into the present moment instantly, slows our heart rate, and takes our stress level down a notch!
Not sure if you believe me? Let’s give it a try…I’ll practice while I’m typing it, you practice while you’re reading it. Inhale. Feel the air coming in. Notice the movement in your body (tummy expanding, chest rising). Exhale. Feel the air moving out. Notice the contraction of your ribs and abdomen. Now, check in with your stress level – notice any change? I do, and I thought I was relaxed already!
Now imagine what might happen if you tried this little trick anytime you feel stress coming on, or as you drive in rush-hour traffic, or even stand in the grocery line. If you strung about 10 minutes’ worth of these purposeful-breath-things together everyday, I dare say, your life might even change for the better. It’s certainly not going to hurt anything! Give it a try and see what happens.
“Keep breathing. That’s the key.”
It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon. The sky is a gorgeous blue with the prettiest puffy clouds. I slept in this morning, had some breakfast, and am home with the fam for the afternoon. Everyone is doing their own thing. We are all healthy. We have everything we need.
I was thinking about writing something and all I could think was, “Do dragonflies ever have bad days?”
If I sit and ponder why I DO feel lifeless and blue, it’s because nothing exciting is going on. I don’t have anything on the schedule today and if I’m completely honest, I am fairly addicted to having something to DO. All. The. Time. I want to have an appointment to go to, or a yoga class to teach, or a coffee date with a friend. Or something. Anyone else ever do this? Can I get a witness?
So, I can’t really ask a dragonfly if they have bad days, but here’s why I don’t think they do:
Like this moment. Even if there’s nothing to do. Even if there’s lots to do. Even if they are with all the other dragonflies. Even if they are all by themselves. Every single moment is full of life for them.
One of my favorite yoga songs has this line – “Even loneliness is full of life.” And it is. So, I think I will take a lesson from the dragonflies and the yoga song and experience the fullness of the moment – even if it’s a little blue, or lonely, or downright boring. Because, really, the amazing moments are only amazing because of the ho-hum moments on a random, beautiful, Sunday afternoon.
One of the best ways I know to get in touch with the now is to do a presence meditation. The best ones for me, especially when I am so obviously dealing with a busy-ness addiction is to sit outside for 15-30 minutes and simply notice all the beauty around me. Whenever I get distracted with a thought (often), I just remind myself that I am practicing presence and come back to the observation. Sometimes this just doesn’t work and when that’s the case, I like to use a mindfulness app that gives me a little guidance.
And with that said – I am headed outside! I actually do feel better all ready. Amazing!
The other day, my daughter and I were at the grocery store picking up a few things for dinner. We were talking about school and telling stories from the day.
I had no idea she was about to dump a profound nugget in my lap.
She asked if I would buy her some chocolate. (That’s my girl!)
“Why do you want chocolate?” (A question that needs no answer, really.)
“Because nothing is really happening today, and I want chocolate so I have something to look forward to. My friend Andi says that she leaves chocolate on her nightstand everyday so that even if the day turns out bad, she still has something to look forward to.”
Here’s what I love about that (even more than the girl’s connection with the food of the gods) – Andi has created for herself a yummy nightly meditation. Something that she knows will end the day on a positive note. Every. Single. Day.
Now, I am completely down with any meditation of a chocolate variety. But it’s totally cool if something else speaks to you. It could be a guided meditation, a nature sounds app on your phone, a warm bath or a nightly cup of chamomile tea that makes the perfect ending to your day.
What I know is this: when I take the time and effort to put a mindfulness or yummy meditation practice in my morning and evening routines, my outlook is better, my disposition is better, and I think my friends and family enjoy my company a little more, too.
What is it that creates that soothing ending to your day?
Like all of us, I came into this world knowing how to simply “be.” Then somewhere along the way, I forgot what that was like and it took some number of years for me to re-learn what “being” felt like. Here’s how that happened:
I am the only child in my family. And an adopted only child at that. I used to have a lot of issues around that, but I am on the other side now and couldn’t be more grateful for how I came to be my parents’ daughter. But that is a story for another day. . .
ANYWAY (it might be good to note here that I am easily distracted) –
We lived on 5 acres on the outskirts of Oklahoma City. We were pretty removed from city conveniences (which had its inconveniences), but what was GREAT about it was that it was so peaceful. Wide open spaces. Little ponds. A few wild animals here and there. It was a grand place to grow up!
One evening when I was around 10 years old, my dad and I walked to the back of the property to pick blackberries and tend to the garden where we grew potatoes, strawberries, okra (it was Oklahoma, people, we had to have fried okra), pumpkins and more yellow squash than the entire county could consume in a summer. By the time we were done, the sun was setting and the evening cooling off a little. Dad and I walked on the path that went in between two tiny little creeks where I would fish for crawdads in the afternoons. We were talking about the constellations and I wanted to know how to find them. So, we laid down in the cool green grass on our backs and he showed me how to find the Little Dipper, Orion, and a bunch of other ones I have since forgotten.
We could have been there for 5 minutes or an hour. I don’t know. Or care. It has lived in my memory all these years and reminds me that the simplest things can also be the most profound. My heart rate and breathing automatically slow down and stress melts away when I remember that time and it was 30+ years ago!
I know we all come into this world knowing ONLY how to “be.” Then we forget. With any grace at all, we remember somewhere along the journey. I am so grateful for my experience. It has been a cornerstone for me.
I would be honored to hear your story of the first time you remembered how to “be” still and free. If you’d like to share it, please leave a comment below.