I just spent a week teaching at the Cape Cod Institute in Massachusetts and find myself filled with a celebration of green trees and fresh, cool air. As I contemplate returning to New York City on what will be a hot summer’s day in the city, I find myself deeply grateful for the ability we have to carry images and impressions with us wherever we go. I can take the green along with me, and the generous remembered presence of birds, and, at times, deep quiet.
This all gets me to thinking yet again about the importance of where we place our awareness, and with what kinds of memories and impressions we nourish ourselves. Where we focus our awareness matters, and has a direct and noticeable impact on the resilience and health of our body-mind being.
In a world filled with crises and challenges, it becomes even more important to notice and respond to where we place our attention. For most of us, it’s not possible to ignore what’s happening to our human and non-human kin around the world, so there are times we must focus on the difficulties, no matter how upsetting, that our human family is playing out all around the planet. For some of us, this awareness means we have to act to protect our kin, no matter where or who they are. For others of us, this awareness may lead to a sense of overwhelm and collapse, or helpless distress that can’t quite find a positive or resourceful expression.
Remembering to take time to orient to nourishing and inspiring memories, impressions, and experiences is an essential element of moving through difficult times and can help us stay out of the collapse that so often accompanies a sense of helplessness. Having moments of this kind of nourishment can allow us to face challenges and crises with more centered and empowered responses.
This week’s practice focuses on inviting you to be even more aware than you might ordinarily be of the need to take time to touch into inspiration, fun, ease, or whatever nourishes and fills you. Taking time to orient to resources and positive experiences doesn’t mean turning away from what needs to be done to help others. It does mean that you are aware of the need in your own body-mind for balance and mindful self-care. It’s too easy to become hyper-focused on the drama playing out in the world and to forget to “put on your oxygen mask first before helping the person next to you.”
As with all these practices, there’s no right way to do this one. Whatever renews your sense of well-being, wholeness, vitality, and steady presence is where to focus your attention and awareness. The key is to take some time each day to do some small bit of this practice and, then, to take some real time once a week to offer yourself a respite from the challenges of what’s happening in our collective experience.
Remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion, as it can help to be curious about what sensations in our body accompany steady presence and a sense of well-being and what sensations arise when you discover a sense of overwhelm. And, be sure to gently pat on the head any judgments that may arise as you do this practice, allowing judgments simply to move on through or hover off to the side where you don’t have to pay any attention to them.