Archive for Mindfulness

If I’m Going to Move Forward, I Have to Let Go

letting go

They’re sitting on the floor, their eager young faces turned towards this morning’s Unitarian Universalist storyteller. She’s holding up a drawing of a red lobster. “This is what they look like once they’re cooked,” she tells them, “but in their natural state they’re a greenish colour.” One little voice pipes up, “I’ve seen them in a tank at the supermarket.” There’s a murmur of small voices before the storyteller continues.

“The lobster is an exoskeleton. Its bones are on the outside. Where are yours?”

The children rub their tummies or stretch their backs saying “inside me.”

“Yes, our bones are inside our bodies. The lobster has a really interesting way of growing bigger. I’ll bet all of you have had shoes that just got too small for you.” There are nods of assent. “And your parents bought you new shoes.” More agreement from the children.

“When the lobster grows too big for his ‘bones’ he pushes his shell out and out until it breaks right off. You can imagine how scary this is for the lobster. In this in-between stage he could very easily be eaten by a big fish. He has no protection. For a while, he has to hide under a rock so he won’t be seen. And then, a new bigger shell starts to form. This takes a while. Then finally he’s ready to resume his normal life in the water.”

We adults sing the children out to their Sunday School and our Reverend Carol Strecker continues with the adult version of the message.

Her talk could have been written just for me. The message for us adults was about the necessity of letting go our old comfort zones if we want to move forward to new growth. I listened closely. That’s what I want to do: move forward into a new way of being. I want to shed my inner protective fog. I want to be fully present in everyday life. I hope to change the way my inner space is cluttered with grumblings, critical voices, constant planning about what I need to do next and worrying about something stupid I said the other day. I want to be totally present in the here-and-now.

The morning’s events cause me to wonder if I’m in the process of shedding my old protective shell. Am I that lobster hiding out under a rock? Living alone allows for this. I wake each morning free to decide how I’ll shape the day. No human disturbs my attempts at living mindfully.

That brings me to wonder: once I shed this old shell, how will my new, bigger self look and feel?

Mindfulness in San Miguel de Allende

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I warned you that I don’t really know where my story is going. I’m writing it as it happens. For example, I had no idea I’d be holidaying in Mexico during the worst of our Canadian winter and that three weeks in the ancient mountain town of San Miguel de Allende would result in an unexpected course in mindfulness. Here’s how I describe it in my memoir:

Every year, older women break hips, legs, ankles or some other part of their aging anatomy because of the town’s infrastructure. Raised curbs, uneven steps and unexpected holes in the pavement threaten the woman who isn’t fully present. Step off a high curb or fail to notice the holes underfoot and you risk becoming one of those women whose active lives end with a fall. Yes, a fall is the most common reason aging females go downhill. Break a hip or a bone and you end up in a cast or bedridden, all of which means long periods of inactivity: and inactivity results in less oxygen to the brain and heart, all of which is very bad news if you want to stay active and mentally alert.

The mindfulness course begins with paying attention to your feet. If you want to look at a colourful building or gawk at the local scene, the wise woman steps aside, backs up against a wall or stands in a doorway. Those who aren’t mindful can pay a terrible price,

This is just the beginning of mindfulness training, of being here and now in San Miguel. Besides finishing your vacation with your limbs in tact, you’ll spend hours mesmerized by colourful sidewalks formed from locally mined stones. Each one is a unique design, an abstract creation of yellows, reds, browns and greens, all swirling in sculpted 8 inch by 12 inch works of art. Sculpted goudges may have been ancient leaf forms or bits of embedded animal bones. I thrill to the realization that feet like mine have worn the stones to a glossy finish. There’s two-way traffic on these narrow, bumpy sidewalks, another reason for staying present. The whole environment supports your practice.

Being mindful taught me something else. Those first days in this paradise I couldn’t get rid of the grumbling and complaining in my head. Yes, as I looked at some wonderful crafts in the bazaar, this crazy voice in my head was spoiling my experience. It was telling me whatever item I looked at was too expensive, that I didn’t need it and that to buy it was probably supporting some exploitative Mafia organization that forced the poor women in the booth to hand over their profits at the end of the day. It was ruining my holiday. What was it? It was my husband’s voice. Somehow his critical voice had got into my head.

The very reason I don’t like to travel with him is that everywhere we go, he finds fault. He can never just enjoy and relax. And since I’m unduly influenced by his opinions, my pleasure is taken away. This was to be MY trip. I was going to be free of his constant complaints and disapproval. The irony was, I’d brought this part of him with me. He’d gotten into my thoughts!

This was crazy. It had to stop. ‘He’ was ruining my vacation again.

I had to find a way to get him out of my head. I decided on a technique from Behavioural Therapy. Each time ‘he’ took over my brain, I shouted (silently) STOP. Then I concentrated on saying to myself: ‘Peace, love and joy. Peace, love and joy.’

To my relief and surprise, within a few days the voice went away and I was left with a blissful state of inner space. I walked about without a battle going on in my head. A whole new way of being was opening up to me. Thank you, San Miguel, for reminding me it’s possible to have my inner space all to myself.