“Close your eyes and notice your breath. Notice where your hands are gently lying…maybe on your lap. Feel what parts of your feet are touching the floor. Maybe notice the temperature in the room and any sounds you may hear close by or in the distance. No need to change or adjust anything. Simply notice.”
During a recent MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) course, we began each gathering with a guided meditation like this one, often seated in a chair, and sometimes lying on the floor. I signed up for this course in order to gain more tools to maintain wellness following a doctor’s prognosis that I had one year left to live due to metastatic cancer. This news came a little over a year after our 5-year-old daughter’s life ended on earth as she transitioned to the other side following an almost two year battle with a brain tumor diagnosis…so it was essential that I do everything I could for my family to stay here as long as absolutely possible. After my devastatingly big news, and with a husband and two other children at home who have all been through enough, this stress reduction class was perfectly placed. Sign…me…up!
As I easily settled into this meditation during each gathering, I tuned into how the guidance was not instructing specific ways to sit or where to place my hands or even how to breathe. Instead, I was guided to simply notice where my body was and how it felt at every given moment as I tuned into my breath. Although this was similar to other meditations I have listened to, there was something different about this one that put me at ease. I quickly realized that there was a common repetitive phrase…
A statement that allowed me to be okay just as I was. A statement that replaced judgment of doing it right or wrong.
What a relief to truly be at ease with all that I carry. That feeling that we all long for…to be enough just as we are.
This simple phrase in turn made an incredible impact on my life as I began to notice my own thoughts, immediately catching self judgments popping into my mind like conversation clouds expanding in my own personal sky. And if I allowed these thoughts to continue to expand, my personal inner light became clouded from all of these judgments.
Days later I put this into practice as a subtle pain appeared in my abdomen. A thought cloud formed and was that of fear. I thought, “This could be a cancer recurrence…the beginning of the end.” I caught myself in that thought thanks to my new tool, and I was able to shift into ‘just noticing’ the discomfort without going any further. No labels. No fear. No judgment.
Not easy, yet my initially charged emotion eased into a neutral state as though the clouds overtaking my mind began moving through the sky with the wind until they were out of sight. And the sun was shining brightly again. My inner light was now in the forefront, and I felt my body relax.
I exhaled again.
I could hardly believe that something so simple could have such a great impact.
As this practice became consistent, I realized that non-judgment of myself created the ripple effect of non-judgment toward others. An aha moment! Doesn’t mean it’s easy as this is a constant practice throughout my days. But if we think about it, no matter who enters our mind or who we interact with on a day-to-day basis or even from moment-to-moment, thought clouds are forming all the time, whether we’re conscious of it or not. The key is to catch ourselves as often as possible in order to change the pattern. And once we put this into practice consistently, just like anything, it gets quicker and easier to shift out of pain and into ease.
As you catch yourself in your thoughts…
Are these thoughts developing like thick, puffy, widespread clouds with judgment and emotion attached…clouding your inner light? Or are you able to simply ‘notice’ a factual thought as it continues to move on ever so lightly with the gentle breeze? Try it. I’m telling you from experience, it’s a life changer. And as we make positive changes in ourselves, we affect everyone around us in the best way possible.
As much as I do my best to stick with the gentle breeze, I am far from perfect, so this is a constant practice of keeping my personal sky as clear as possible at every given moment.
As the holidays approach and anxiety may rise for some as families and friends gather together, consider doing it differently this year. Consider shifting out of fear…out of judgment…and into ‘noticing.’
Choose to be the light that enters the room…simply noticing…while shining brightly…just like the radiant sun.