Soul in the World
Resting is not the same as sleeping. Sleeping is an unconscious state while resting is a conscious state. Although the tissues of the body heal and repair themselves when we are asleep, there is something very healing for our whole being when we choose times of rest while we are awake. Sometimes, we need to remind one another of this vital practice of resting. Today, I rested under this tree. We had been hiking and my legs were swollen and uncomfortable. My husband suggested that I rest under the tree and put my legs up the trunk to help reduce the swelling. "Why don't you put your camera up and pretend you are taking a picture of the tree so you don't feel silly," he suggested. So, I lay down and put my legs gently on the trunk of this beautiful old hickory tree. I began feeling it's ancient wisdom as soon as I turned my attention toward it. Rest awhile, it seemed to beckon as my senses were drawn to the earthy smell of it's roots, the rough texture of it's bark, and the glorious colours of it's leaves. I lay back and took the camera, preparing to strike my "pretend" pose just for the fun of it. As I looked through the lense I gasped at the beauty before me. I lay with the tree for quite awhile snapping photo after photo, then finally resting and simply being in it's presence. "If I had not been reminded to take some time to rest," I thought, "I would have missed this moment." Breathing in and breathing out are necessary for our survival. Rest allows us to be fully alive and present to all that life is offering to us.
If you are alive, you are breathing. In a healthy body, the lungs, heart and tissue are involved in an intricate dance, every moment of every day. As we breathe, our bodies are continuous motion. Our arms, ribs, spine, pelvis, abdomen......our entire body moves with each breath. In a healthy body, this is all done involuntarily. We would last only minutes without breath.
Think about eating. We take time to go shopping and choose foods that we like and that nourish our bodies. Most of us set aside time each day to nourish our bodies with meals and snacks. We may look up recipes, try new foods, or create a delicious meal and often share it with others. In a healthy environment, this is all done voluntarily. If we make bad food choices, eat too quickly or eat without being mindful, our bodies will let us know. If we don't have enough food or proper nourishment, we will suffer. We would not last more than a couple of weeks without food.
What if we decided to give as much attention to our breathing as we do to food?
Imagine setting time aside each week to practice breathing, just as if you were going shopping for food. You would come to know your breath quite well - your likes and dislikes. "Hmmmmm, shallow breathing isn't very satisfying, but this deep breathing feels very relaxing and energizing." Once you become familiar with your breathing, you might decide to set aside certain times in the day when you would breathe intentionally. In your daily life, you might notice when your breathing feels nourishing or times when you are not breathing so well. Perhaps you would decide that you would like to share in some breathing with others.
The wonderful added benefit of paying attention to your breathing, is that it brings you back to the present moment.
When you are distracted, busy, or stressed your thoughts are being drawn into the future or the past. Even when you become still, you may find that your thoughts pull you away from where you are. Simply by bringing your attention back to your breath, you are in the present once again. Each time your thoughts draw you away, you come back to your breath. This is one of the first and most important practices that is taught in many traditions around the world - returning to the breath. As is true with most things, your practice of breathing will be enriched when you spend time doing it alone and with others.
Your breath will never fail to keep you in the present moment.
A Simple Breath Practice
Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
(Breathing in) Dwelling in the present moment
(Breathing out) I know this is a wonderful moment.
~ Thich Nhat Hahn
When do we know and when do we know that we do not know.
A deep question I know.
Knowing comes with practice. What kind of practice you ask? The practice of: paying attention, mindfulness, being awake, consciousness - whatever word you may use, they all lead to the same place - knowing.
If you have been on a spiritual journey for awhile, a soul quest, following a longing to know yourself better, wanting a life that is more congruent with that self, or even just questioning if the life you are leading feels like a good path, then you have begun to have a knowing. You've had tastes of it.
Knowing may come gently into the still quiet places or slip sneakily into your thoughts during your most familiar distractions. Many times it arrives at your doorstep, like an uninvited guest, barging in and completely dismantling your perfectly planned evening of relaxation, sumptious food and light conversation.
You need not fear knowing. You only need to acknowledge that you want to know and make an agreement with yourself that you will be open to knowing. The knowing will take care of itself, as you are ready.
THE GUEST HOUSE
This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes. because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.