Firebirdlifecoach's Blog

Pursuing a Passionate Life

Mindful Spontaneity January 28, 2013

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meditation“The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh

Today, I meditated. And it was good.

Many people meditate on a regular basis, and at a times in my life I could have counted myself among them. Many others seek to create the space in their lives to develop and maintain a meditation practice – but experience only sporadic success. And many more – still “want” to meditate regularly – but just never quite get around to doing it enough for it to “count”. This can happen despite how good it feels when they have success. These days, I am sorry to say – I am somewhere in the latter two camps. Though I do “get there” with what can be best described as sporadic inconsistency – my general sense is; it is never quite a enough – it happens too infrequently and I never give myself enough time. (That said – I am a fan and regular practitioner of a number of brief “awareness, breathing and centering” meditations which are relatively quick – 2-4 minutes. And I do find them helpful.)

You see in my mind – I have some idealized notion that the best time for me to meditate (and I am talking about a 15-45 minute practice here) would be the first thing in the morning. My thinking is, at this time of day – a meditation would serve to clear my brain for a peaceful and productive day. (Of course this is also the time of day I also want to squeeze in everything else, too – writing, exercising, etc. They all seem like they would work best first thing in the morning.) On an intuitive level – it makes sense to me – but on a practical level it just isn’t a good time for me. Maybe because I already spend quiet, reflective time most mornings; enjoying the birds in the yard, watching the early morning sky, sipping coffee contemplatively on my porch. Most days – it is a calm and “meditative” start to my day. And as my mind and body shake free of the sleepy cobwebs that cover my morning countenance – I quietly find myself attending to other simple morning rituals – breakfast, shower, putting away dishes and that sort of thing until it is time to begin work for the day. Making a list of projects, priorities and tasks, catching up on emails and then just getting down to the actual business of the day. It works for me – but try as I may – I just haven’t been able to squeeze meditation (or any of the other items) into my routine, on a regular basis.

And so they fall into rotation at other times. After dinner – can work well for walking. Writing works on quiet afternoons or evenings. And meditation? Well – that’s the tricky one. If I am too tired in the evenings – I fear I will just doze off to sleep. In the afternoons – I am usually busily wrapping up my work and shifting into dinner/family mode so – it often gets lost. So what was different about today you may ask? Well this time when I thought about meditating after working for a couple of hours, I simply – did it. I didn’t try to plan a more opportune moment later in the day – I simply stepped away from what I was doing for a half hour and did it. And it was lovely…

Also a departure from my meditation “norm”, today I found a lovely bit of meditation music to accompany the experience. You see, typically, I just sit quietly – but the addition of the music added a lovely, purposeful “sacredness” to the moment. And I discovered a cool website for downloading music for the mind, body and soul: Good stuff. I chose a piece that was just the right length of time, I was clear about the visualization I wanted to use in my mind and I just went for it. And it was particularly sweet.
Ommmmm… Ahhhhh… And afterwards? Afterwards I felt clear, and calm and centered and quite simply – I just felt really good. And the experience has propelled me through the rest of my day.

For me, it feels like I accomplished something – which of course I did AND it is ironic when you think about – because that something – was sitting quietly and “doing nothing”. But the paradoxical nature of meditation and its effects are part of what I like about it. (A quick search on the internet will pull up numerous examples of how meditation benefits its practitioners on a multitude of levels, but I am not going to delve into that here.) Now, I don’t know if this is going to be the “new normal” – but I can certainly see how it might work for me to make it – just that. It’s fitting really when one contemplates the meaning of mindfulness – to allow myself to meditate rather than to attempt to force it into a schedule.

Anyway, I just wanted to share that story with you today. As someone who spends a lot of time, planning and has a strong commitment to thoughtful contemplation and creating structures to support your dreams – I guess I want to also acknowledge that sometimes what is called for is allowing for the organic progression of things. Mindful spontaneity, if you will. A good reminder to me to allow myself to trust my intuition and be in the moment. What about you? What are you going to allow yourself to do? Peace…


Breathe… March 12, 2010

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Have you ever taken a yoga class, been in a massage or been working with an exercise consultant when they say to you, “Don’t forget to breathe”? And you realize that until they mentioned it you were actually holding your breath. It’s funny isn’t it? I mean really, how much more basic to sustaining your life can anything be? (Well, maybe if heart function had a voluntary aspect to it that could be a contender, but most folks I know can’t stop the beating if their heart at will.) It’s pretty straight forward – and mostly unconscious, but because we can have an influence over this basic function, I think that many of us don’t realize the power of it.

Taking a moment to notice, slow and deepen our breath at times can be an incredibly soothing and rejuvenating. It’s not like we are going to really stop breathing if we don’t focus on it but taking the time to focus on your breath can very healing. Think of the times when you are feeling sad, angry or overwhelmed in your life and you pause to take a couple of deep breaths to cleanse and clear your mind. Ever notice how effective that is?

When I was in high school, I took a number of yoga and exercise classes with one particular gym teacher who talked a lot on deep breathing. The simple technique of breathing in slowly and deeply through your nose and then blowing the air out of your lungs through your mouth was what she told us to do. While you’re breathing, you were encouraged to feel your chest expand with each inhale and to use your belly to push out all the air. Using your powers of visualization – we were encouraged to feel the breath coming into us and going to all the parts of our body – targeting areas of pain and stress. And then with each exhale let the breath take any tension and expel it with it. Simple, focused, deep breathing – after just a few breaths you are in a different space – body and mind relaxing and quieting all the time.

Being mindful of this simplest of life functions and the power it has to renew and refresh us is a great little tool to remember is always at your disposal. A few moments of quiet deep breathing can be like a mini-meditation that you keep in your pocket. So next time your life begins to overwhelm remember to just breathe, not in the unconscious way that you do all the time, but in a purposeful, relaxed way, it only takes about three and you will be amazed by the results.


Morning Sunshine February 15, 2010

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I am not a morning person, well not really. When I was a kid, my mother used to wake us in the morning by cheerfully singing, “It’s time to wake up!” (To the tune of: The Farmer in the Dell) as she came into our rooms, clapping her hands and opening the shades on the windows. When I finally emerged from my covers dragging myself into the shower and down stairs for breakfast I was ever so slightly more alert but definitely not ready for conversation. That didn’t stop my mom from enthusiastic chatter however – which didn’t quite work for me. (Note: though the singing has abated – my mother is still full steam ahead chatterbox when I go to visit her. At this point she is able to at least attempt to give me a few minutes to come to life before launching in – due to my years of continually reminding her that I am not ready to talk yet. But she might as well be singing.)

These days I am the first to arise in the morning after about 30 minutes of hitting the “snooze button”. No one is around to sing or talk to me as I make my tea, check my emails and start my day, and that’s just fine with me. In my half awake stupor I have found that I am incredibly efficient at simple household tasks as long as no one is trying to engage with me. Laundry done, dishwasher emptied, lunches made and so on are performed without consciousness quickly and efficiently. By the time my kids emerge from their slumber, bleary eyed and sleep-walking, I can handle the company. Fortunately, they aren’t big talkers in the morning either, and seem perfectly happy to go about their morning routines in relative quiet.

I know that provided I don’t overdo it with the snooze alarm, I can always throw an extra task or two on my plate several days a week. Paying the bills, answering emails, writing my blog, fit easily and quietly into these early morning hours. But for me, this quiet efficiency seems like more than just a simple morning routine. It is my waking meditation, of sorts. The simple focus on the mundane tasks of daily living and reflective quiet of writing are incredibly calming to me. My mind, body and soul seem to need this time to prepare for the day ahead. It is not the exercise routine or intentional meditation which I often dream of squeezing into my morning but is a healthful necessity all the same. Reframing my wish for a slow and quiet start to my day may not seem like an epiphany to you, but for me recognizing it as a simple form of self-care is helpful for me. Though I shall restrain myself from reframing everything I do under this lens I do think it is important to really think about what works for us in our own lives and to value the process we each bring to our unique situations. You never know what you may find.


Pardon me, squeezing through… February 4, 2010

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There was a time in my life when I used to meditate every day. It was a regular ritual, which I practiced without thought or effort. I just did it. Every morning I would find the time between shower and lunch preparation to sit quietly, clear my head and just be. As time went on, and my life evolved, that morning ritual somehow disappeared from my routine. How does that happen? How does something we want and enjoy – which appears fully integrated into our lives, just drift off of the map and fade into a memory?

Life changes, eh? All the time and what was once our reality becomes a remembrance.  This is true for both things we want in our lives, like meditation is for me, and things we are happy to leave behind. My days are full, very full. It is filled with things I enjoy and others I do not, and recently there have been a significant number of new additions as well, learning to play the guitar and this blog, for instance. And despite how much I incorporate,  there is always an additional list of things I am trying to work into the calendar. But where to fit them? That is the question. Trying to find an actual free block in my calendar isn’t really a realistic option.

I think we just have to “make time” for the new additions. It’s not just sitting there open and waiting to be filled, you have to create it. As the new thing pushes in, the original activities just need to morph and shift, take new shapes to accommodate the addition and then settle back in. So starting today that’s the plan – I have talked about resuming my daily meditation for a long time – my life will create the space for it again. There may be a few growing pains and objections from the other occupants on my calendar but they’ll get used to it eventually and so will I. Om shanti…