Unplug from your devices and develop the capacity to simply ‘be in the moment’. With Mindfulness Takeaway we offer you a 5-minute exercise to take away and practice for yourself. Five minutes a day! All you need is you and your imagination!
The Self-directed Will
‘I AM I, MY WILL IS MY WILL’ are words of affirmation. They speak of an awareness for the responsibility one has towards self-development and self-knowledge. They are about self-mastery through the ‘I’ or ego’s conscious use of will for its own maturity and transformation. It is a pathway from persona or personality, towards one’s true spiritual individuality.
There are many influences and forces in our contemporary society that manipulate and coerce us into actions that are not authentically our own, vis-á-vis persuasive marketing that create desires in us so strong that we buy something we do not really need, or had not previously thought about, the pressure of social conformity to think and act ‘on-trend’, the politics of fear that can undermine sound judgement and make us more malleable, and so on. And then there are those forces that have their origin within ourselves that are deeply habitual, that hinder us from acting unselfishly and with good-will towards others. We could perhaps say that we are swimming in an ocean of will-driven-influences that can sweep us along on ever changing tides and currents. The more we are unconscious of these influences and how they direct our thoughts and actions, the further we are from realising our true self – our unique individuality.
The will that is referenced in this verse is not a dominating, coercive will. It is a will that arises from a place of love – it is light-filled and cognitive, resolute, inspired by a vision of what we can become in the highest sense, and that this ‘becoming’ serves not only ourselves but also the needs of the world. We move from a personally focussed perspective to a more universal alignment to life. The transformation, mastery and refinement of our feelings, passions and thoughts is an ongoing, continual process of spiritualisation towards our ‘true I’, and towards a state-of-being called ‘Spirit Self.’
This verse is best spoken out loud while standing upright in a quiet and private environment. One can imagine a sun overhead sending its warming rays and light streaming into our heart.
A verse to awaken the will
I AM I
MY WILL IS MY WILL
May it serve the unfolding of my spirit self
May my words sound from my true I
May my deeds be the will of my true I
May my feelings be the fire of mine I
I AM I
Contemplation on living and dying flowers
Nature can teach us so much about ourselves. We simply have to pay her attention – not through possession, exploitation and greed which alienate us from her, but rather through respectful or even devotional curiosity, which lead to an understanding of her mysteries, yet at the same time, given that we are part of nature, also to an understanding ourselves. Through careful observation and contemplation we can enter into what Goethe called nature’s ‘open secrets’ that are there for us to discover if we would take the time and have the interest. Nature’s great seasonal rhythms can teach us about the processes of life emerging and of life withdrawing and of the beauty that is intrinsically bound to these. The following are two contemplations you may wish to try as an ongoing practice.
Part 1: Awakening to the beauty to be found in dying processes
Have you ever consciously left flowers in the vase after they have passed their best and are clearly in their dying phase? If we take careful interest in this dying-away process and observe the changing shape and colour of the petals and leaves, we may be surprised at how beautiful this dying activity can be. It will require us to suspend our conditioned judgement that says dying flowers are no longer attractive to the eye. We may be surprised to find some quite extraordinary shapes appearing in the leaves, as life-forces gradually withdraw. We can observe a process of contraction, collapse and separation as the individual parts separate, and we can also notice a downward gesture in the various parts, as the forces of gravity predominate.
We can also observe, through this dying away, a gradual migration of colours that move from a rich vibrancy, to soft, tawny, yellowish-brown hues.
If we accompany the plant through this process, we not only discover new ideas of beauty, but through contemplating this dying-away phenomena, we can experience and become sensitive to the nature of what is withdrawing from the plant – life itself!
Part 2: Awakening feelings for the formative forces that sustain life
Place some fresh flowers in a vase alongside the vase of dying ones. Closely observe the details of the living plants as you did with the latter ones. Experience the upward-striving, expanding forces that seem to stretch every part of leaf and bud. These are the forces of levity that oppose those of gravity. Notice the intensity of colour in all parts of the plant.
Now, by repeatedly moving your gaze between the living plants and then the dying ones, experiencing the contrasting qualities between the two, a heightened feeling for the life-forces and death processes may be attained. It is important not to rush this. Take time to live into each, before moving to the next. This requires an inner stillness, undisturbed by personal feelings of ‘like-dislike’. After a while, try closing your eyes so that the images of the physical plants are no longer seen, and try to sustain the subtle inner resonances that now remain. These delicate feelings can enable access and knowledge of the hidden life-forces that direct and sustain the growth of all living things.
Contemplation exercises such as this take practice, but the rewards are rich, for they open insight into the non-material, non-sensory, spiritual forces that lie behind all physical phenomena.
NOTE: Lilies are a particularly good flower to use for living and dying contemplation exercises. Photography © Alamandria Limited 2016
The body scan exercise is fundamental to most mindfulness practices. It is focussed on becoming aware of your body in the present moment, noticing sensations of warmth, coolness, tightness, pain or discomfort with a gentle curiosity, quietly accepting whatever you notice. The Body scan is not focussed on relaxation as such, however this is often a corollary to the intended outcome.
Simple Body Scan Exercise
Lie face upwards on the floor with cushions for support, or sit comfortably in a chair, and settle your breathing into a gentle rhythm without forcing it in any way. Bring your attention to your body and allow your focus to drift downwards to the toes of your left foot, noticing any sensations, both within and on the surface of your foot. Notice if there is coolness, warmth, irritation, contact with clothing, or any pain. Allow your attention to drift upwards from your foot to your knee and thigh bringing the same curiosity to any sensations you discover. Allow your attention to drift down to the toes of your right foot and allow any sensations to come into focus. Drift upwards in awareness as you did with your left leg, and then bring your attention to your torso noticing any sensations, both within and on its surface. Continue on up to your neck then drift down your arms in the same way. Bring your attention to your head, noticing your face muscles, lips, temples, scalp, ears and eyes. What sensations are you aware of? Finish by noticing the whole of your body by drifting down through it, until you come to your feet.
Try not to rush the process so that you allow yourself time to feel and accept the many sensations in your body, that normally you might try to mask or be distracted from.
For a longer body scan exercise, practice the method outlined in the pdf file below.
Let go of the battle. Breathe quietly and let it be. Let your body relax and your heart soften. Open to whatever you experience without fighting.
Jack Cornfield / A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life
But if one observes, one will see that the body has its own intelligence; it requires a great deal of intelligence to observe the intelligence of the body.
Jidda Krishnamurti / The Flight of the Eagle
Breathing is the foundation of life. The first thing we do when we are born is to take air into our lungs and it is the last thing we surrender when we die. Paying attention to the breath forms a fundamental starting point for most mindfulness practices. Whenever our mind wanders during mindfulness we can bring our attention back to our breath. The very act of noticing the breath can bring us back to the present moment. While sitting comfortably with a straight back so that your diaphragm is not cramped, simply notice the air entering your nostrils and the movement of your diaphragm as you breath in and out. Don’t force your breath – just breath normally. You can close your eyes as you do this or lower your eyelids – whatever is most comfortable for you. If you live a busy life then take five minutes sometime during the day to notice your breathing and feel your body relax – letting go of thoughts about the past, present or future – just being peacefully in the moment.
For a longer mindfulness breathing exercise, practice the method outlined in the pdf file below.
If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.
Amit Ray / Beautify your Breath – Beautify your Life
The importance of breathing need hardly be stressed. It provides the oxygen for the metabolic processes; literally it supports the fires of life. But breath as “pneuma” is also the spirit or soul. We live in an ocean of air like fish in a body of water. By our breathing we are attuned to our atmosphere. If we inhibit our breathing we isolate ourselves from the medium in which we exist.
Alexander Lowen / The Voice of the Body
Often in mindfulness and meditation, guided visualizations are given to help relieve anxiety or fear, help with relaxation, or to enkindle a particular feeling – perhaps peacefulness, gratitude, love for others, or reverence. They can help us move in our mind from habitual thought patterns into helpful imaginations that can alter our psychological and physical disposition. Many visualization scripts will evoke peaceful situations to imagine, such as soothing natural environments; a wooded forest, a sun-filled garden, the beautiful view from a mountaintop. They can also be directed towards inner soul states that enkindle positive empowerment. Visualisations can be self-guided by learning an existing visualization or by creating one that is personal to you. The key requirement is to enter fully into the words, allowing images to arise that help maintain depth of feeling. It is important to note that ‘feeling’ should not be confused in this situation with ‘emotion’ where personal stories intrude. Emotions tend to excite, whereas what is meant here is to live into the image experiences in a way that will allow a mood of objective calmness to develop.
The guided visualization script ‘I too am a Sun’ can be downloaded below.
I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.
There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into sun