Applying Mindfulness and being in the moment has helped me to avoid increasing stress. By observing my experiences in the present moment, I am able to take in little things that may often go unnoticed. This Christmas, I traveled from South Florida to Upstate New York to spend Christmas with my family. In the airport. there was some stress due to delays and overwhelmed travelers. Using many mindful breaths and positive thinking helped me arrive comfortably. In New York, the 20 degree weather was bone chilling at first. Although it was a bit unpleasant, I felt some joy in the refreshing crispness in the air.
On Christmas Eve, my parents and I drove to my Aunt’s home to begin the festivities. I sat in the car and watched the beautiful decorations people had displayed on their lawns. A Christmas song came on the radio. “Once the holidays get here, my spirit is gone.” My father sighed. He went on to explain how he feels excited in planning, decorating and baking, but once Christmas arrives, it becomes hard to enjoy because it will soon be over. I am sure many people share in his anticipatory excitement and dread when the holiday comes to an end.
Mindfulness is the perfect gift someone can give themselves to fully enjoy their holiday. By focusing on each moment, as it unfolds, there is no room to worry about, “what’s next?” or “this is almost over.” When I found myself thinking these common thoughts, I brought myself back to where I was. I was able to enjoy the surroundings of my family members, good discussions and great food. Being more mindful makes me appreciate my family and the many things we are grateful for.
I wish everyone a happy, safe and mindful New Year!!
Four weeks ago today, my mother-in-law passed away mercifully in her sleep. She was in hospice care for 10 months, and she received inpatient care for the last 2 months of her life. She was 88, and was one of the kindest, most selfless women I have ever had the opportunity to meet. I was very lucky to have her for a mother-in-law.
For my husband and I, this is our first major loss. It really hurts. However, we are comforted by friends and family. I also receive comfort from a quote by Albert Einstein, who, as the story is told, was responding to a letter written to him by a Rabbi, asking his assistance in helping his daughter cope with the loss of her sister.
"A human being is a part of the whole, called by us "Universe", a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security."
This quote reminds me of the law of impermanence, but also the peace that can be found in being truly present, where we can experience these feelings of connectedness. At the wake, the funeral, and days that followed, I felt the pain. I tried really hard to stay present, and avoid the things I typically do to avoid pain (eat chocolate, google on my laptop, obsess about work-related issues). During those moments that I could actually be “with” the pain, I tried to apply the concept of “Beginner’s Mind”, by trying to experience the pain as though I’ve never experienced it before. When doing so, I sensed something in those moments that I had never experienced before. I can only describe it as a “sweetness” in the sharing of the painful experience with my family. I felt so much more connected with them, and continue to feel it today. What a wonderful gift for my mother-in-law to give me. I hope I will remember what serenity lies in any future painful experience, when I choose to be present.
On a recent flight, I was seated in front of the dreaded screaming infant. My old ways would have been to cop an attitude, bitch, and throw some looks at the parents. In other words, generally making the situation worse and ensuring that my experience would get no better.
The funny thing about this experience was that I wasn't agitated or aggravated. I really was just going about my business. Don't get me wrong, I noticed the continual kicking to the back of my seat, mixed with the whaling of an unhappy sole.
About two thirds of the way through the 3 hour flight it dawned on me; this poor unhappy boy had been sitting on his father’s lap the entire time. This had to have been such a struggle for the father, as the child was fighting him for the majority of the flight.
Toward the end, I couldn't help but feel loving kindness toward the son and his father. For the son who was so unhappy, frustrated and anxious; with no other way to express himself than to anxiously wrestle about for hours. And for the father, who stood strong and patient, acting with dignity. Through his actions, I imagined him silently saying to his son, “I'm here, I'm not going anywhere, we are in this together.”
Mindfulness teaches me to experience situations like these differently. Through a frustrating situation, I was able to look at it from another point of view, and experience the depth of a touching human experience; of loving kindness.
In the end, as we were waiting to get off the plane, I was rewarded with a simple thank you from the father. Through mindfulness and my practice, I am realizing that there is more to an experience then just my self-absorbed take on a situation. When I experience a situation with mindfulness, there are many priceless rewards to be had.