For peace of mind, focus on the small spaces in-between

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The simple things bring lasting pleasure

Notice the small things. The rewards are inversely proportional.
Liz Vassey

Pausing the monkey mind was once a major priority for me. The constant chatter was deafening and debilitating. A wise woman shared with me a strategy; focus on the silence between the Oms in meditation.  It worked.  Those tiny spaces, for a breath, between the rhythmic chanting allowed my mind to rest and I eventually turned down and tuned out the monkey mind.

Today I see a great need to soothe nervous tension and anxiety, whether caused by work related stress or the result of too many responsibilities and expectations.  A great many people are being pulled into the eddy of chronic psychological dis-ease. Without discounting the support of professionals there may be a way we can help ourselves to resurface and recreate a more joyful life, using a similar strategy as described above. Instead, the attention would be on the small moments of joy between the larger grey periods.  Leader in the field of positive-psychology Marty Seligman, found that by consciously focusing our attention on what we want more of in life we increase our chance of getting it.  So turn your attention away from what you don’t want and see the things you do.  This is tough when you feel overwhelmed, on edge, lacking energy or can’t leave the house. So start small.

A posy of home-grown flowers from a friend, watching birds and animals in the wild (substitute garden), the soft ache of used muscles at the end of a long walk. These things bring me joy. As do following the path of a balloon as it rises into the sky until it is no longer visible or spotting a brightly coloured bush flower in a sea of green undergrowth as well as taking a moment to appreciate the magic of a giant tree soaring overhead while feeling the texture of its bark.  Filling the house with warm and soothing aromas on a cold, wet afternoon while baking cookies and brewing chai tea, the sound of a child’s laughter,  a smile from a stranger. These are the pauses in between.

Peace can be ours. We can rebuild joyful lives and it need cost nothing. Harmony can be restored. These things can be ours if we appreciate the many small moments in life. The first step is to notice. Notice where you focus most of your attention and refocus it if necessary.

Four hundred and forty four reasons to smile

imageIt’s my birthday today and I stopped for a moment to reflect on my life, as you do, and I discovered I’m pretty happy with where things are at! I thought, fleetingly, of making a gratitude list of forty-four things to be grateful for, hell, I could even make a list of four hundred and forty four things to be grateful for but you’d probably get a bit bored with that and I have a few other things to do today. So I took a few minutes just to review the last little while.

Life hasn’t been all sunshine and roses, neither has it been all cloudy and thunderstorms either. I don’t always walk around smiling and full of cheer; sometimes I feel like I’ve been swallowed by a black hole and I struggle to get my head above water. I do, on occasion, lament my inadequacies, my misgivings, the gaps I perceive in my life compared to those of others.

At times too, I begrudge the challenges I face. But it is, I reckon, human to sometimes compare and strive to be, have, and want what others do. So I’m not going to beat myself up about that and I’m not going to take the moral high ground and tell you not to do it either. Despite all this, I do though recognise the good in my life and the skills I have and the love and the peace and the joy – the real riches – that fill my life.

I know that light partners with the shadow and I appreciate the rewards that follow the challenges. So, instead of a traditional gratitude list, here is a little insight into the workings of my mad, mad mind. It’s a list that balances the shadow with the light in order to give thanks for forty four wonderful years into which I have squeezed a lot of living.

I don’t have Miranda Kerr’s looks nor am I as fit as Stephanie Rice and yes, I could always do more to support my health and wellbeing, but I’m extremely grateful that I enjoy a level of fitness and good health that allows me to lead an active and full life.

I wasn’t born a millionaire, nor did I marry into money yet I’ve traveled and explored the world.

Paris is not my home. I do, though, live in a great city in an amazing country.

I don’t have Einstein’s intelligence nor am I a brain surgeon. I am grateful for my mind and my intellect and the opportunities they have afforded me.

My family wasn’t exactly the Sullivans but I had a good upbringing.

My mother showed me tough love and made me a strong woman.

My father parented with more mercy and taught me that being kind and gentle wasn’t the same as being weak.

My sisters often played together. I watched from the sidelines and I learnt to enjoy my own company.

Tim Winton’s list of published works inspires me. I’ve started my writing career with this blog page.

I am no Louise Hay yet I’ve learnt and continue to learn so much about the mind, body spirit connection.

My house is not a mansion. It is though a place where I can retreat from the world and feel safe. It is my refuge, my place of joy and of love.

While I don’t paint with Picasso’s flair or Michelangelo’s skill I do enjoy creating little pockets of beauty in my world.

Nigella Lawson and Donna Hay, I am not. I do, however, have a skill and a passion for food that brings smiles to faces and delight to tummies.

A modern lifestyle doesn’t afford me the luxury of sitting atop a mountain to meditate and find myself. The small windows of time I do etch out for personal reflection, prayer and meditation are very precious to me.

While I may never achieve the flexibility and physical control of Yogi Pattabhi Jois, I will continue to enjoy my Ashtanga yoga practice until I’m a hundred years old. Then I might rest.

I have a job, that feels a little familiar and routine just now, that allows me time and money to explore my passions

I grew up in the eighties and saw florescent clothing make its first debut so I know it isn’t a good look and I’ll gladly pass this time around.

I had friends growing up who caused me great angst and confusion. I understand them better now than I did then. I know at times I’m not easy to understand so I am more patient with people today than my younger self ever was.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. My life is full of things to be grateful for, as I mentioned earlier I could spend the day making a list that goes on and on. I do have a few items I’d like to share that would be at the top of my list of four hundred and forty four things to be grateful for and they are:

My grade one teacher who taught me to read

My aunt who taught me the beauty of pottering barefoot on the earth

My garden. It brings me great peace.

My four grandparents whose company, wisdom and love I grew up enjoying.

The wonderful people who share my passions and interests in all things magical, weird and wacky who have taught me so very much about myself and spirit.

My other friends who keep me grounded when I could fly off with the fairies.

Above all else, I give thanks for my son and my husband; the two most important people in the world to me. The two people I could not and do not wish to live without. I am grateful for their continual love and support; God knows I’m not easy to live with or to love at times.

Life is precious. I may from time to time waste a few precious moments thinking about and wishing for things I don’t have but I am also acutely aware of how very rich my life is, how fortunate I am and I give thanks for it all: light and dark, good and bad, the challenges and the rewards.

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