First, a very Merry Christmas too everyone out there. Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule, and Buddha-mas too!
The darkest night of the year is behind us. Light is ever on the increase. The cold and gray might still be here, but we know these are temporary. And the stillness under snowy skies is a reminder to find our peace within.
No, we don't have to go to Thailand and ordain as a Buddhist monk to "find ourselves." We can do the same right here, wherever we are, in this very moment.
It does take time though, and it is a practice to be developed along with deeper changes in your life (deeper understanding of yourself and others, greater kindness and compassion toward the world as a whole). In Buddhism this is called the 3-fold path: ethics, meditation, wisdom. It doesn't matter exactly where you start (ethics is usually first, simply developing kindness and generosity), but all three work together to help strengthen one another.
That aside, five quick ways to start developing mindfulness (a key to the meditation component of the path):
- Take three conscious breaths. Feel your body as you inhale, the rise of chest and belly, and then the fall on the exhale. Notice that there are sensations occurring at each and every moment.
- Do this again with eyes closed. See if your mind can enter into the sensations of breathing more when the eyes are closed.
- Appreciate the body you have. It's easy to dislike this or that, but for a moment just appreciate the wonders of this human body and the opportunities it gives us.
- Appreciate the mind you have. Buddhists speak of the "precious human rebirth" because it gives us the perfect set of conditions: a fair amount of suffering to let us know we need to work on ourselves and our world, along with great intelligence capable of getting it done. Think about the possibilities before you thanks to your wondrous mind.
- Appreciate the world around you. The cold if it's cold, the warmth of the sun if it is out, the incredible built environment we humans have created, the even-more-incredible sanctuary of nature beyond our activities.
This is where we are.
With a mind of appreciation and openness to the great potentials of life, go forth (or back to your family) and make the world a little better today, this week, and into 2017.