Walking in Central Park a few days ago, I found myself deeply nourished and uplifted by the return of the green and by the powerful wind that accompanied my walk and workout. Again and again, my eyes were drawn to the green, to the beauty of the trees again filling out their leaves, creating patterns of light and shadow that have been missing over the winter season. And, the wind brought with it a sense of invigoration that was, in its own way, quite delicious.
At some point along the way, I also noticed a trumpet player who competed with a singer who has a weekly gathering of children on Saturday mornings. Fortunately, the sound of the trumpet didn’t overpower the singing and guitar playing of the entertainer and his class of young ones. Then, I also noticed the ever-present helicopters that hover over the park these days as a tourist activity, usually beginning sometime around 9am, taking away the silence that is so precious here in the city.
What struck me most is that these sounds didn’t seem to take away from my deep enjoyment of the return of green and the beauty of the tall trees all around me. This got me to thinking about how important it is to notice where our attention is absorbed, where we focus and what we notice. Even though the sounds were obvious, they weren’t in the foreground of my awareness and I also noticed how my lack of irritation allowed both the trumpet and the helicopters to slip into the background. There have been mornings where these kinds of sounds seem to pierce through my wish to drop into silence or into awareness of the beauty around me and irritation takes the place of pleasure. Today, for whatever reason, it was powerfully clear to me that my focus of attention allowed for the pleasure with no hint of irritation.
For this week’s practice, I invite you to pay even closer attention to what you focus on, where you place your awareness, and what you choose to notice. I could have shifted into dwelling on the helicopters or the trumpet and that would have created a whole different quality of experience. Just as I couldn’t make those situations go away, notice how it is when you are faced with something you can’t change but where you can shift your focus of attention to something else. It might be noise, a smell you don’t like, disruption of some kind—anything that might normally create irritation or some other reaction in you. Then, notice what happens if you shift your awareness to something that inspires, nourishes, or pleases you in some way.Read More “833rd Week: Where We Place Our Attention”
Brain research offers many new insights into the impact of our everyday attitudes and ways of being affect us as we move through our daily lives. Recently, I heard an interview on NPR where a neuroscientist talked about recent research in gratitude and its effects on neurotransmitters. The upshot of the interview was that focusing on gratitude automatically generates increased dopamine and serotonin. Both of these neurotransmitters are part of our “feel good” chemistry.
What was both intriguing and encouraging about the information offered in the interview was that it didn’t take an enormous amount of effort to elicit this neurochemical change in the brain. It got me to thinking about… Read More “674th Week: Cultivating Gratitude for Greater Well-Being”
In a recent On Being broadcast on NPR, I heard a story about Howard Thurman’s grandmother. Howard Thurman was a prominent figure in the civil rights movement and was an influential theologian. He was a mentor of Dr. Martin Luther King and also one of the principle architects of nonviolent protests. His grandmother was a former slave who owned land in an area where there were also white people.
Apparently, Thurman’s grandmother had a neighbor, a white woman who apparently was unkind to all in her neighborhood and not just to Thurman’s grandmother. At one point, the neighbor began to gather chicken droppings from her chicken coop on a regular basis and dump them on the garden of Thurman’s grandmother. Rather than retaliate, his grandmother turned the chicken droppings into the soil each time they arrived. In time, her garden flourished because of all the natural fertilizer in the chicken droppings.
The neighbor woman eventually became quite ill and, because of her way of relating to people, no one was willing to visit her or help her. One day, Thurman’s grandmother went to visit the woman, taking her a large bouquet of flowers. The woman was surprised and delighted to receive the flowers and commented on how beautiful they were. Thurman’s grandmother said in response that the flowers were so beautiful because of all the neighbor’s contributions of fertilizer to her garden.Read More “814th Week: Being Kind Doesn’t Mean You Have to Agree”
A friend of mine has been pretty consistently putting posts on Facebook that ask people to focus on what they are forrather than what they are against. These posts have been very helpful in reminding all of us that what we feed grows and that, when we spend our internal time fighting against something, we actually feed the very thing to which we object. From an energy perspective, it’s as though we’re actually turning up the volume on things we’d rather not hear at all.
One example that comes to mind at this time is the pervasive presence of expressions of lack of empathy for each other. Decisions by some lawmakers, treatment of neighbors by other neighbors, seeming lack of concern for one another’s well-being if we aren’t “part of the tribe” are found on every side these days. Rather than spending time expressing helpless rage at these conditions, I want to invite us to explore some alternatives.
First, there are approaches that convey the message, “What you fight, you feed.” This doesn’t mean not to take action when action is needed to change things or to intervene. Instead, it speaks to the habits of mind and self-talk we carry around with us internally every day, all day. From a Solution-Focused perspective (solution-focused therapy is a more modern branch of psychology), we are invited to look at, and to look for, what’s going right. For our practice here, I would add that we can ask ourselves to pay attention to the qualities we would like to see expressed more generously in ourselves and in the world around us.Read More “787th Week: Orienting to Solution-Focused Awareness and Helpful Archetypes”
As I write this practice, those of us in the US are in the midst of an election process that generally moves along smoothly. Many of us have voted early, many by mail, and because of Covid many by absentee ballots. Because of the mail and absentee ballots, including those that always come from our neighbors in the military, the vote count is taking its natural time to allow for tabulation of each and every vote. People on every side of every issue feel the stress of wondering what the final outcome of a number of races will be.
One of the practices that I have cultivated over the last four years has been to strengthen both my access to, and experience of, the inherent steadiness that lives in the core of my body-mind being. It’s a steadiness that lives in the core of everyone, although often not easily recognized by Western culture, which hasn’t historically emphasized an embodied way of being.
For this week, I invite you to follow the practice below to both access a deeper awareness of the steadiness in you but also to invite yourself to radiate this steadiness into our collective consciousness and into your immediate environment. It’s important to keep in mind that the steadiness to which I refer in this practice is an aspect of your being that cannot be disturbed. It is not affected by the ups and downs of everyday life nor is it rattled or upset by what unfolds in the world around you. It is an aspect of the fundamental core of your being and, if you follow any spiritual practices, represents that aspect of you that arises from your Source, whatever you imagine that to be.Read More “815th Week: Radiating Steadiness”
Walking across Central Park after a light snow, I noticed that the dogs were energetically jumping into the snow, running in it at full tilt, and generally having an enthusiastically delightful time. It got me to thinking about how important it is to remember that Read More “Week 661: Finding Breathing Space”