My current state of mind is all over the place. One minute devastated, the next minute hopeful.
The news is heartbreaking.
But I am reminded of a Mr. Rogers quote that always lifts my spirit, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”
There are many earth angels among us, and there is a lot of goodness in this world.
But I still want to cry. And I want to make things better. It feels infuriating and overwhelming when humans repeat the same mistakes over and over again. But worry does nothing other than take you out of the precious moment you are in.
This is when I try to breathe. To just pause and breathe.
The other day while on a walk with my family, we stopped for a “mindfulness moment.” This has become a bit of a habit that we practice whenever on a long walk. It is a way of checking in with ourselves and one another.
My son – having heard me talk numerous times about how I love to be outside among the trees, water, and animals – asked me if there was anything else that gave me this same feeling as being in nature.
I identified what it is that I most love about being outdoors. I love the freedom, the openness and vastness, the lack of walls, boundaries and rules; the natural light and color.
And what I most adore about being in nature is that sense of steady peacefulness. It feels like a break, an escape. There is nothing to figure out, no problem to solve. It offers a glimpse into the understanding that we are all connected and all navigating this messy beautiful world together. In this place we take turns being the helper and the helped and we are never alone. Everything somehow feels alright.
Nature teaches me compassion, empathy, resilience, and humility over and over again. It creates feelings of awe, magic, and hope. It adjusts my perspective reminding me that I am just one spark in a sea of stars.
I realize that there is a place I go to when I yearn for this similar sense of calm, balance and ease.
And all it requires is a little stillness.
Years ago, before having my son, my doula (which is an emotional support person,) asked me how I handled pain. I realized that sometimes distraction was helpful like watching a funny movie or going out with friends. At other times venturing inward felt necessary.
These are the times when we just need to step away from the battery of external and internal noise and focus on a peaceful place within.
The great Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron, talks about the many benefits of creating a gap. She writes, “We can stop and take three conscious breaths, and the world has a chance to open up to us in that gap. We can allow space into our state of mind.”
Sometimes it is easier to connect to this space than others. But it is always there and always available to us when we are feeling lonely, scared, and anxious. Or joyful, grateful, and relieved.
She also writes, “You get so caught up in the content of your life, the minutiae that make up a day, so self-absorbed in the big project you have to do, that the blessings, the magic, the stillness, and the vastness escapes you.”
For me this restoration of soul happens when I simply pause for a few minutes during the day and consciously tell my thoughts and list of things to do that I will get back to them. Then I focus on nice big belly breaths…inhaling through my nose while pushing my belly out and expanding my chest to the count of 3 – 5. Then exhaling out of my nose, belly back towards my spine for a longer count.
That space, that stillness born after the exhale and before the next inhale, can feel like both nothingness and everything-ness. It can feel like a flash or an eternity (mostly just a flash for me at this point.) It is the sweet moment right before the next thought arrives and it’s a blissful little window for my soul to peek through and make its presence known.
Right now as I practice accepting that my days, my hair, my kids hair, and all of our emotions may be all over the map, I am working on letting go of expectations and the need to try and understand why things happen the way they do. I have no control over these things.
But I have control over how I choose to look at the situation before me. If I can find my breath, I am better equipped at staying focused, present, and even joyful.
I am just trying to breathe and find nature inside.
And it helps to remember, when feeling a bit un-tethered, that there are always angels in our midst. Like the 92 year-old angel dressed in purple that I met the other night at the retirement home while my son and daughter, along with their classmates, sang Christmas carols.
This earth angel with the sparkly blue eyes told me she still felt like she was 10 and that every morning when she wakes up, she prays to be a blessing to someone else.
I believe if we take moments periodically during the day to pause, breathe and count the blessings all around us that we, too, can be blessings to others.
We become more of who we are and peacefully present to the nature within and all around us.
And our presence may just be the best present we can give.
Wishing you and those you love peace, freedom, health and happiness!
from the Parents Tao Te Ching by William Martin
Your children naturally love life
Their love of life is so spontaneous
It delights in every nuance of light
It wonders at every shape
It dances in their bodies
without self – consciousness.
They are not taught this love.
It cannot be taught,
If you live this love for your children
you will guide them,
but never demand a certain response.
You will welcome them,
but never smother them.
You will give birth to them,
but never possess them.
You will nurture their dreams
and guard their self-respect.
They will honor you naturally,
not because of who you are,
but because of who they are.
Don’t worry about how your children treat you.
Concentrate on how you treat yourself.
If your children see in you
a sincere celebration of who you are,
they will return eventually
to their natural joy,
in themselves and in you.