The Well

Tag: Presence

Seize The Day

by Andrew Shaw on Jan.18, 2010, under Archives

Carpe diem.  Seize the day.  Live life to the fullest…  Phrases of life advice you’ve no doubt heard before.  The only problem is, we tend to forget these important words and become distracted by all our other plans and problems.  Until, something snaps back our attention.  Turn on the news right now and we’re witness to the devastation in Haiti.  We see the tragic loss of life and people struggling to survive.  There is no more powerful reminder of the preciousness of life than an event such as this.  We see how very fragile we all are.  We see how life can end in an instant.  This may be difficult to think about, but keeping this truth in mind, awakens you, changes your priorities, and motivates you to not waste time or opportunity. 

About a year ago, a plane landed on the Hudson River.  You know the story.  Interviews with passengers from this flight have shared a resounding theme.  All of the survivors have described a dramatic change in the way they live.  They say they’re grateful for every day they have now.  They say they’ve been given a second chance and they’re not going to waste that opportunity.  Some have changed careers, many have done some of the things they always wanted to but put off before, most spend more time loving than in anger, and all have an enormous appreciation for being alive.

The point of this week’s post, and this blog in general, is to provide small reminders for what’s important in life, and of ways of living that bring about greater happiness and well-being.  I love this picture of a sign in Santa Ynez, CA.  We all need signposts in our lives, to point us in the direction of what truly matters, in the direction of love, in the direction of gratitude, in the direction of living fully in the present moment.  I hope you can use this picture, this blog, the people of Haiti, the passengers of flight 1549, as a signpost, a reminder that life is short and precious.  Life is a gift and we know not what may happen tomorrow.  Carpe diem.  Seize the day.

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A Taste of Now

by Andrew Shaw on Nov.08, 2009, under Archives

Last week, I introduced you to the concept of mindfulness- awareness of the present moment.  To give you a better taste of this, we can do a very simple informal mindfulness activity, mindful eating.  If you have raisins, grab a couple now and try this exercise. 

We’ll start by just taking a few breaths in and out.  Just focus your attention on your breathing.  Notice how you’re breathing.  Notice where in your body you feel your breathing (belly, chest, nose).  And just take a few more breaths in and out, to center yourself in the present, in this moment. 

And then we’ll bring our attention to the raisin sitting here in our hand.  As we look at the raisin, maybe we can think about the life of this raisin, where it came from, how it got here.  We can think about how this raisin once was on a vine, how it was touched and nurtured by the sun and the rain.  We can think about all the care and energy that brought the raisin here to us.  If you feel like it, you may wish to express some gratitude, some appreciation for that whole process.  

And then holding the raisin in the palm of our hand, we’ll begin to really notice the raisin using all of our senses.  What does the raisin feel like in the palm of your hand, notice it lightness.  What does the raisin look like, notice its shape, size, color, textures.  Then taking the raisin between your fingers, what does it feel like, sticky, wrinkly.  See if you can pay close attention to the subtle aspects of this little raisin.  Bringing the raisin to your nose, what do you smell?  You may even be able to hear the raisin, bringing it close to your ear, rolling it between your fingers, you may be able to hear a faint crackling sound. 

Then when you’re ready, bring the raisin gently to your lips, noticing the touch of the raisin to your lips.  Then we’ll place the raisin in our mouth, on our tongue, and without taking a bite yet, we’ll just move the raisin around in our mouth.  Again, just noticing how the raisin feels in our mouth, on our tongue, the shape, the textures.  And then, when you’re ready, go ahead and take a slow bite and as you begin to chew, notice the flavor of the raisin, notice too the sensations of your mouth, your jaw moving as it chews.  Notice the changing taste, size, texture and consistency of the raisin as you chew.  And after you’ve taken your time and carefully chewed, swallow the raisin, again noticing the sensations in your mouth and your throat as you do this.  Afterwards, you may now notice the absence of the raisin in your mouth.  You may notice a subtle aftertaste.  

And before moving on to take your next bite, we’ll just bring our attention back to our breathing for a moment, taking a breath in and out, once again expressing thankfulness for this raisin, for this little piece of nourishment, for this very moment, and for being here, alive, to take it all in.

Mindful eating is a very simple yet powerful demonstration of how you can practice mindfulness in the midst of everyday life.   By slowing down and really paying close attention to things, you can have a very different experience, hopefully one that is more satisfying, relaxing, interesting, and enjoyable.  Please share your thoughts about doing this exercise.  Did it feel different than how you normally eat?  What was your experience?  I’ll be writing more on mindfulness, providing meditations and exercises for being more present, throughout the year.

 Be Well

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