It sometimes takes something out of the ordinary to occur, to stop us in our tracks. This week’s snow has done that for many of us. We may have found ourselves without the usual distractions of travelling to work, shopping, eating out etc. Suddenly, we have a little time to sit and just be. For many of us the idea of sitting still can bring up challenges; the thoughts that we carefully avoid as we busy ourselves with ‘things’ throughout the day, suddenly invade our minds as we still the body. The silence, created by the snow as it muffles sound, may cause our thoughts to echo in the empty landscape of the mind and, herein lies our dilemma or our opportunity. We can choose to run away from this silence by filling it with TV, music, anything to escape the void. Or we can give thanks for the gift the snow has brought to us; the gift of stillness and silence in which we can learn to be present, to take a break from our mundane, hectic and repetitive schedules.
So, sitting in silence, perhaps contemplating the beauty of the snow-covered garden, road or landscape, we may allow ourselves to stop a while, to become aware of the body at rest and then turn our attention inwards. The natural inner landscape is one of peace and balance. However, just as the snow has covered the earth around us, so, too, have we often covered our innate qualities with judgement, opinions, self-criticism and recrimination. Now is the time to let go of all these unhelpful and unskilful thoughts by accepting, acknowledging and seeing them for what they really are through observing them without emotion.
Now, we can stay in that clear space and open up to the possibilities that are available to us. We can observe that, through breathing regularly, rhythmically and evenly, we send messages to the brain that all is well. The brain, in turn, communicates with the body and ‘feel good’ hormones are released, and the body and mind regain balance. From this place of calm, we can observe thoughts and emotions that arise and simply let them be. We no longer get caught up in judgement etc and what we feared most- sitting by ourselves, with ourselves, seems much less scary and far more comfortable than we had anticipated.
The secret to developing and sustaining this feeling of comfort and wellbeing when we practice mindfulness and meditation is repetition. Like learning any new skill, we have to have clear intention that this is what we want and then clear motivation and perseverance to carry it through. I smile when people tell me they have ‘done mindfulness’ as though it’s an intellectual exercise with a certificate at the end of a few sessions. Mindfulness is not about ‘doing’ but, rather, about ‘being’. Each one of us can retrieve the skill of keeping our awareness focussed on what we are doing while we are doing it, whether it be sitting in meditation, making the beds, writing an e-mail or clearing the snow!
So, the invitation is to enjoy what has been given to us over the last few days- a snow gift!