Sitting in Central Park one weekend morning, a morning that was cloudy and quiet in the park, I felt a deep sense of peace radiating from all the trees around me. The quality of the trees and the environment they evoked reminded me of the Japanese practice of “forest bathing”, where people go amongst trees to soak in the healing that naturally emerges.
Attuning to the peaceful quality of the trees is, for me, similar to tuning in to a particular radio station, television channel, or on-line program…
It reminded me, yet again, of the importance and power of mindful awareness, of being able to choose where I focus my attention. Shifting into a deeper appreciation of the quality of peace radiated by the trees filled my body and mind with a resonating experience of peace.
For this week’s practice in conscious living, I invite you to explore what you experience when you orient to whatever sources of peace you may find in your environment or wherever you place your attention. Pay particular attention to what happens when you shift from some kind of activation or stress into resonating with the qualities of peace. For example, when I noticed the quiet around me as I sat amongst the trees, I took time to sense into what other qualities were there. Peace was the primary experience that emerged, even when people, dogs, and children entered what had been a quiet space. The peace was a steady presence and didn’t shift as the activity in the space around me moved and changed.
It’s really about a “foreground/background” dynamic. There may be disturbance happening that jumps into the foreground of awareness, but there is also the choice to attune to whatever is steady and supportive that has moved into the background, as with the quality of peace the trees exuded no matter what went on around them. Playing with the foreground/background dynamic, something that is always shifting, changing, moving can help build a habit of orienting to the quality you want to have in the foreground of your experience, no matter what else may be going on in a given moment.
This doesn’t mean to ignore things that need attention, or things you need to recognize, acknowledge, or act on, if the situation requires action. Rather, it points to the ability we each have to orient our awareness where we want without leaving anything out. When you notice the foreground/background dynamic, you can orient to inner peace, stillness, quiet, or whatever other quality offers you stability and support and still be aware of sadness, anger, outrage, fear, or whatever else may be moving through your experience.
As with all these practices, there is no right way to do this. Instead, this is an invitation to continue to explore what living consciously means to you, and to offer strategies that may open up moment-to-moment choices that offer you internal support as you move through the ups and downs of daily life. Remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion and to pat gently on the head any judgments that may arise, allowing them to move on through. It’s useful to remember that judging just happens, but it doesn’t have to be something we take seriously.