836th Week: Noticing Where We Put Our Energy

836th Week: Noticing Where We Put Our Energy

I just saw a little dog standing in an open area of lawn, wildly barking at a squirrel who was up a very tall tree nearby. It made quite a funny picture, with the lawn and the size of the tree making the small dog look even smaller. What it brought to mind was a sense of focused intention and energetic commitment. The squirrel was all that mattered and the little fur-face on the ground was giving it all he was worth.

This got me to thinking about where we put our energy. All the barking in the world wasn’t going to get the squirrel within reach of the dog and I found myself wondering about all the energy we may put into things that aren’t really available to engage with us. With all the gadgets that we now have available to us, and with most of us carrying around a computer in our pocket in our smart phones, there are increasing opportunities to spend time in less conscious and less focused ways. At times, I find myself doing a word game that can take up an unexpected amount of time and I’ve made a commitment to myself that I’ll only do that a couple of times a day. Instead of that activity, I now spend the same time reading on my kindle and I find that it’s much more satisfying, ultimately, than endlessly playing the word game.

Also, at my age, I’m keenly aware of a more limited amount of time in front of me and I have made it a practice to ask myself if what I’m doing honors the fact that I don’t want to waste whatever time I have left to be here. I hope that doesn’t sound morbid because, for me, it’s a powerfully positive motivator and invites me to focus my attention more clearly.

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835th Week: Finding Sources of Nourishment

As I sit in the park this morning, surrounded by large trees, I am keenly aware of what is a deep “relief of return”. Each year when the trees again wear their garments of green, my body and psyche go through the same kind of relief—almost a physical “sigh” as I settle into the visual and physical feast of taking in the green. The challenge is to remember to give myself this gift as often as I can.

This gets me to thinking, yet again, about sources of nourishment and how important it is to take time to nourish ourselves, body and psyche. Sources of nourishment are quite individual. For example, some people I’m close to are nourished by engaging in creative activities such as acting, singing, or crafts (severely curtailed during Covid but still happening on-line). Others have created regular zoom gatherings with friends, finding ways to keep up to date with each other and share experiences. Still others find ways to go hiking as often as possible, immersing themselves in the presence of nature as they exercise.

For this week’s practice in conscious living, I invite you to bring to mind your most treasured source of nourishment and then to see how you might offer it to yourself a bit more often. For me, it means getting up early enough to be in the park before it’s crowded with all the people that flock here later in the morning and throughout the day, picnicking, exercising, walking, sitting—enjoying the park in a wide variety of ways. 

834th Week: Engaging Enthusiasm

834th Week: Engaging Enthusiasm

Sitting in Central Park this morning in my usual place, which is quite close to where dogs play together during the off-leash time, I’ve enjoyed seeing the enthusiasm they bring to chasing balls or just running around together. One small poodle came by and was so excited to be able to run that he squeaked as he went in ever widening circles around his human companions as they walked down a hill. 

Something in the way this little dog gave his whole self to the activity touched something in me, bringing me a little more alive this morning. It got me to thinking about how we engage opportunities to express ourselves enthusiastically, celebrating life energy. There are times when the felines who share my home with me get into this same kind of abundant enthusiasm and one particular feline friend has a way of squeaking as she purrs when I rub her head in a certain way.

For this week’s practice in conscious living, I invite you to do two things. First, notice what you experience when you take time to watch people or other earth-kin engaging in play or some other activity with unbridled enthusiasm. Pay attention to what happens in your body, the quality of your emotions, the tone of your thoughts when you do this. Then, notice how you engage pleasurable activities, things you really enjoy doing. They don’t have to be dramatic, just sources of pleasure or engagement. If you’re in a situation where you can’t actually physically engage in an activity, take some time to imagine that you are doing so. Allow yourself to experience the sensations and state of being that arise as you imagine whatever activity gives you real pleasure. Remember, the brain responds to imagined experience in just about the same way it does actual lived experience.

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833rd Week: Where We Place Our Attention

833rd Week: Where We Place Our Attention

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. 

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