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Savoring Life

Affirmation:  I eat mindfully
Mindfulness
is the practice of being fully aware of the present moment without
judging.  John Kabat-Zinn brought a
greater awareness to the practice back in 1970’s when he began teaching
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). It is still taught worldwide. I
studies MBSR at Duke Integrative Medicine, NC several years ago. It’s a gift we
give ourselves when we develop the ability to be in the present moment.  It’s also the practice of a lifetime.  Most of here in the West don’t sit in a lotus
position for several hours a day chanting or focusing on a mantra (a single
word or phrase).  Most Americans are more
concerned about the past or the future and are missing whatever is happening in
the present.  In general we are a busy,
pre-occupied population.  But, most of us
are also looking for ways to improve the quality of our lives.  We are searching for that which will enhance
our daily experiences and not leave us feeling so worn out and tired.  Tools, we are looking for the tools we can
use to fix or to shape or to color our lives so that we are able to take deeper
breaths, appreciate the beauty of nature and relish the precious moments of
connection with those we love.
For many,
prayer is a powerful tool.  It’s my first
choice.  Time to communicate with my God,
time to tell Her my concerns, to offer up thanksgiving for all my blessings and
time to simply sit and listen.  It
doesn’t have to be formal prayer.  My day
is lifted up and given over to God, Jesus Christ, before I even rise from the
bed.  Then, if it’s a day of unending
activity which I must confess is not unusual, I still know that I am in prayer
mode throughout all the business. 
In yoga
the practitioner is called upon to focus on his or her breath.  Sometimes a yoga practice may only involve
pranayama, breathing techniques.  There
are many, some more elaborate than others. 
The simplest one involves watching one’s breath.  I encourage my students at the very beginning
of practice to simply notice their breath. 
“Close your eyes and begin to focus on your breath, the in and the
out, the up and the down, the rise and the fall.”  After years of beginning practice this way, I
simply need to think the words and I feel calmer.  When a group of us are all focusing on our
breath at the same time, the entire energy level in the room changes from
charged to serene. 
Another
breathing technique that can be used anywhere anytime is to simply take a deep
breath.  Breathe all the way down into
your belly and then release it.  Want to
make it even more effective, sigh it out. 
Oh, not just a little sigh, make it a full “haaaaa!”  Don’t believe it’ll make a difference?  Try it right now, do it a few times and then
just notice.  Don’t judge, just observe
if you feel any different.  I attach the
name of Jesus to my deep breaths.  It’s a
mini-prayer that I can do anywhere, anytime. 
Journaling
is also an opportunity for me to practice mindfulness.  I like to have a large mug of tea next to me;
my favorite spiral bound journal, an easy flowing ballpoint pen and a pleasant
space.  I usually write in my sun
room.  I have a nice chair and ottoman
and the room faces my garden, the bird feeders and a small waterfall.  It’s a yellow room with much of my favorite
memorabilia on the shelves.  I begin with
a prayer and then write my three pages. 
I am fully there in the time and space. 
It centers me for the day.  It
leaves me feeling grounded and calm. 
Another
way for me to practice mindfulness is when I am eating.  It’s a reciprocal process in that when I
focus on the process of eating, my eating becomes healthier.  I’m always fine tuning my diet.  I’m a moderate person, meaning I don’t usually
go overboard when I’m making changes. 
I’m a sure and steady kind of gal. I share this with you because while I
know a lot about vegan diets and vegetarian diets, I have not fully embraced
any restrictive form of eating.  I avoid
certain foods that I think aren’t my best choices, like things with sugar,
artificial colors or flavorings, foods that are heavily salted or have
preservatives.  I try to eat mostly fresh
vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish and chicken.  I love a glass of wine periodically and
sharing an ice cream with friends or especially with a grandchild, is a real
treat for me.  I know how important it is
to eat a “good” diet.  I’m also
aware of the global impact my choices have on the rest of the world. 
When I
trained at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, breakfast was always
silent.  It was a very educational
experience for me. I am a social eater. 
I love to sit with family and friends and share a meal and conversation.
If there’s no one around, I don’t really care if I eat or not. I’m an
“eat-to-live” person, not a “live-to-eat” person.  In order to make the best food choices for me
I decided to simply pay close attention to the eating experience.  Have you ever tried the “raisin”
experiment?  You place a single raisin in
your mouth and you don’t chew it.  You
allow it to dissolve very very slowly. 
You notice the texture, the sweetness. 
You think about how it came to become a raisin, where it was grown, who
harvested it.  It can take 10 or even 15
minutes to eat that one raisin.  It can
bring you to a whole new appreciation for every bit you take.
What is
your eating environment like?  Do you
take your time and savor each bite or have you just gone through the drive-thru
and are eating as you go?  What’s dinner
like?  Is the TV on or is the computer in
front of you?  What if you simply sat at
the table and focused on the food you are putting into your mouth and your
body?  If you ate mindfully would your
choices be different?  Mine are. We are
what we eat.  What and how we feed our
bodies, our minds and our spirits determines every cell of our being.  Slow down, breathe deeply, say grace before your meal and
savor each bite and especially each moment of your life. 
 

Imaginary Conversations

Affirmation:  I
release myself from imaginary conversations and fully trust in God’s loving
care.

This affirmation was created during a visit to our mountain
retreat place.  It’s a small two bedroom
condo in the North Carolina mountains, in a community called Hound Ears.  It’s called that because the two mountains it
lies between look like doggie ears, or so I am told.  The condo looks out over the hills, a few
ponds and a pristine golf course.  I
journal in the morning sitting on the porch. 
Many mornings I watch the mist rising from the hills as the sun begins
its ascent.  One morning there was a
heron flying through the mist.  I put up
a couple of potted plants containing Petunias so that there is food for the
humming bird who visits.  We have one
dear friend who calls it Shangri-La. 
Shangri-La being a fictional place described in the 1933 novel Lost
Horizon
by British author James Hilton. Hilton
describes Shangri-La as a mystical, harmonious valley. Shangri-La has become
synonymous with any earthly paradise but particularly a mythical Himalayan utopia — a permanently happy land,
isolated from the outside world. In the novel Lost Horizon, the people
who live at Shangri-La are almost immortal, living years beyond the normal
lifespan and only very slowly aging in appearance. (www.wikipedia.org)  Hound Ears is our Shangri-La and if you saw
the number of healthy, hearty octogenarians and nonagenarians who reside here,
you might think so too.

When I am in Hound Ears, I never want to leave but unlike many of
the residents who are retired and can come for six months, we are lucky if we
get to stay for a few weeks.  Most years
we have a lot of family and friends come visit and we enjoy many moments of
sharing time and making memories.  Then,
towards the end of our vacation we have some quiet time.  It’s a nice balance and gives me time to
reflect, write and pray. As the time to leave gets closer and closer, I have to
use all my tools to help me to not go home “early.”  I have to do all in my power to stay in the
moment and to relish the present so that I don’t leave this healing place
before the actual time.  Truly, it is a
mediation, a moment to moment meditation. 
As soon as I let go, my thoughts jump to home.  Home, some years, can mean I am returning to
what are for me, some challenging situations. 

I’ve been guilty of having many imaginary conversations with many
people.  Why do I say guilty?  Well, I am usually thinking about what I can
say, or what I would say or what I should have said or how about, what I could
have said!  What words would have been
more effective.  Will I have the right
words?  Are there any words?  Do I have the power to help someone else “see
the light” or the power to make someone else go from being sad and anxious to
happy and calm?  Can I say anything to
improve and lighten another person’s load? 
Have you ever been here?  Have you
ever had a continuous, one way conversation over and over?  The essence of suffering is wanting things to
be different than they are and that’s what I’m doing.  I am creating my own suffering  because I want to change the way another is
perceiving something.  Certainly, there are
communication tools that can sometimes achieve this desired result but it can’t
happen if I only have the conversation in my mind.  Writing, journaling helps me but this kind of
self-talk usually leads me to a very unsettled feeling.  How can it not?  There is no resolution.  It never really ends. It’s like a recording
on repeat.  But, it serves no purpose,
does it?  It takes one away from the
moment.  It takes me into my imagination
and unless I choose to paint it, sculpt it or as now, write about it, it has no
closure. 

According to the Myers-Briggs personality test all of us fall
either into the “introvert” or “extrovert” category.  There is a range in each section so one’s
score can be high or low on the scale. 
What the authors of this test are referring to when they use the words
introvert and extrovert are not how you relate to people but more, how you get
your energy.  An extreme introvert might
need to be alone most of the time while an extreme extrovert might need to be
out with people all the time.  The
category also refers to how one may communicate.  One type of personality says exactly what
they’re thinking when they’re thinking it. 
The other personality type ruminates on what they want to say, sometimes
over and over depending on the degree of introversion before they say
anything.  Just ask yourself if you have
to “practice” what you want to say before you make a phone call, especially a
call involving something that requires a resolution.  Your answer will give you some indication of
whether you’re an “E” or an “I.”  I am a weak
“I.”  I practice and depending on the
situation, I can find myself practicing way too much.

Mind you, I’m not practicing for the best.  I am usually practicing for what I think will
be an uncomfortable conversation.  One of
my other affirmations is “The best is yet to come.” but when I’m facing some
potential confrontation, it’s really hard for me to call that one into
existence. 

When I began creating the affirmation about “imaginary
conversations”, I found myself using the phrase “obsessive thoughts.”  I release myself from “obsessive
thoughts.”  But, the longer I worked on
it, the more I realized it was more than that, it was the whole motion picture
I was developing or perhaps even a mini-series. 
Wow, I was really good at writing this story.  I found that what I really wanted to
accomplish was to stop writing fiction, at least with regard to the issues I
was facing when I would return home.  I
began writing, “I release myself from imaginary conversations and fully trust
in God’s loving care.”  I know I am much
better off letting God write the story. 

After several days of writing the affirmation in my morning
pages, I began to feel my body relax. 
All the tension would seep away. 
What else did my new thought call to me? 
Mornings of journaling as I watch the mist rise from the hills, joy from
the presence of the hummingbird as it flit around my planters and an invitation
to share my yoga practice with a friend who’s looking for some calming
tools.  As I prepared for the session, I
renewed several of my own peace giving practices; daily breathing rituals,
guided mediations, gratitude and release sun salutations and regular deep
breaths. 

My new affirmation brought peace, contentment and a sated
feeling.  This is a perfect moment.  I am blessed and resting in God’s loving
care.  As the pastor at St. Bernadette’s
in Linville, NC said in his homily, “People, we have it all.  We want for nothing.”  That’s it. 
I want for nothing, that is my meditation, at least for this moment and
truly, isn’t that all we have?