Ease and Joy through Mindfulness

Ease and Joy through Mindfulness

In this moment, I am contemplating the task of writing about living at the edge of my comfort zone which is the Mind Body Align topic for August. As my mind is revving up; touching on words, topics, and memories, I begin to feel overwhelmed. Where do I begin? Which of these words, phrases, and memories feel essential to my own experience; what is my message?

Practicing Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of being present in this moment with a deep awareness of sights, sounds, tastes, smells, felt sensations, thoughts, intuitions, with acceptance and no resistance. In this moment…

Tuning-in and noticing sights, sounds, smells, and the felt sensations in the body

I am contemplating the task of writing about living at the edge of my comfort zone… My eyes are focused out my window and I notice a group of turkey vultures riding the air currents above the field and woods in front of me. The vultures are not flapping their wings, they are simply dipping and turning, circling in and out of each other, seemingly riding the air as they gently ascend and descend, turn and circle creating a rhythmic dance that is hypnotic.

Noticing thoughts and being curious

Then I remember, I had a dream last night that I was flying. I recall the feeling of my body being cradled by the wind and the air; the sensation of my outstretched arms and the whole width of my body tipping slightly left and then right as my body glides above the landscape. The memory that remains is the felt sensation of flying. The ease. The weightlessness. The joy!

I ask myself, “how does this action playing out before me, the gentle gliding dance of the birds and the felt sensation of flying, relate to living at the edge of my comfort zone? How does ease, weightlessness and joy relate to the topic?”

My mind immediately visits my current challenge. This fall I am scheduled to do a 5 week, 500 plus mile hike through France and Spain. It’s a commitment to walk 15 miles a day for 35 days on many different types of terrain.

Noticing how thoughts give rise to emotions

I notice a sense of apprehension and fear. I hear my mind talk about my “bad” feet, blisters, and permanent foot problems, concerns about Mind Body Align and The Butterfly House, questions about the reasoning behind booking this adventure, self-criticisms that I don’t have the strength and stamina to complete this walk, and ultimately the sense that I will fail.

AND, I notice a sense of spaciousness, excitement, and curiosity. I hear my mind talk about my love of meeting new people and visiting new places, curiosity about my potential to walk the distances every day, desire to “let go” at The Butterfly House giving others in the community the opportunity to challenge themselves, and allowing for the company of Mind Body Align to grow and develop organically with the community.

Noticing judgments, beliefs and habits

I remember a conversation I had a few days ago with my sister-in-law as we were hiking a challenging uphill trail in the mountains of North Carolina. My words, “I want to be mentally and physically prepared for the worst that can happen.” Susan’s words, (paraphrased, and based on memory) “There is nothing wrong with knowing where your anxieties lie and moving to calm them.”

Living at the Edge of my comfort Zone

And finally, my mind shifts to the question, “How does ease and joy relate to the topic?”

Mindfulness is the practice of being present in this moment, with a deep awareness of physical sensations, emotional reactions, thoughts, intuitions, and with acceptance or no resistance. What I attempted to illustrate above is how mindfulness works as a practice.

This practice gives me the ability to notice the full scope of my experience in any given moment; an experience of fear- helplessness- doubt, AND, curiosity- excitement- joy. My noticing is that both the challenging and the joyous emotions and thoughts coexist.

Discovering new truths

The mindfulness practice is about embracing the whole self. It is about noticing and accepting the experience as it is. It is the practice to accept, without resistance, challenging emotions. And if you notice resistance, you accept that as well. When I use the word “challenging” in this context, I am pointing to emotions that we typically push away or wish to avoid. It is not intended to be good vs. bad or positive vs. negative. Challenging emotions have a lot to tell us and much to teach us. For me, it is reminding me to purchase good quality gear and make sure my body and shoes are trail tested with lots of hours hiking on varied terrain.

“How does ease and joy relate to the topic?” If I pause long enough to notice their presence, ease and joy become part of the experience. When I think about living at the edge of my comfort zone, it is inevitably an internal conversation about fear and self-doubt. I’m realizing that my habit is to go through fear and self-doubt first. Is that your habit?

Cultivating a balanced perspective

So, which will it be; Ease and joy, or fear and self-doubt? There is an old native American saying, “It’s the one you feed.” Here is a great animated video that tells the native American story of the wolf that you feed. It’s only 2 minutes long, and I hope you will consider watching it.

In mindfulness, the practice is to embrace and allow all that is happening. For some, this video may be viewed as suggesting that you suppress what you don’t want, and encourage what you want. This is not my point. For me, it’s about noticing the variety of emotions that are present so that I have a choice to feed both; to encourage a balanced perspective and to gather the knowledge I need from all the emotions in order that I may live authentically and fully alive.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a poem, The Summer Day, by Mary Oliver.

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
I’m sending you love and a huge hug!!!

Discover Fun Ways to Nourish Your World

Discover Fun Ways to Nourish Your World

Nourish: provide with the food or other substances necessary for growth, health, and good condition.

July is the month of Nourishing at Mind Body Align. Nourish is one of my favorite words. You can nourish your body, your mind, your spirit, a child, a friend, a friend’s child, an animal, your environment, and even the community. And, I am going to challenge you to come up with some fun ways to do just that this month.

First, grab a writing implement and piece of paper, I’ll wait.

Next, find a comfortable place to sit, lightly close your eyes and take five slow, deep, cleansing breaths.  I am going to wait right here until you finish. You can even roll your shoulders or your eyes a few times before you answer the following questions:

1.  How will you nourish yourself?

2.  How will you nourish family and friends?

3.  How will you nourish the environment?

4.  How will you nourish community?

I want you to be creative, detailed and have some fun!

How can you support growth, health and good condition in each of those areas this month? I will share my answers with you so you can hold me accountable and I would love it if you shared some of yours!

Here goes.

I, Linda Snyder…

1. Will nourish myself by eating a healthy breakfast at least 5 days a week, listening to music when I cook, and creating 30 minutes daily for outside meditation. NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS!

2.  I will nourish family and friends by actively listening, not only in person, but when on the telephone by turning off any distractions that may be present while on the call.

3.  I will nourish the environment by refraining from purchasing anything made of plastic during the month of July (this includes polyester and acrylic clothing) and reducing my shower time to 5 minutes, even when I travel for work. I will sing my naked woman song while showering. (This song was created many years ago while my daughter and I were tent camping in Maine. It cost .25 cents to shower so we showered together, quickly.)

4.  I will nourish my community by attending public events, exploring places I can volunteer, and purchasing goods from local establishments.

See? That’s do-able isn’t it?

Now it’s YOUR turn – please share your answers below.

What does “Nourish” really mean?

What does “Nourish” really mean?

When the MBA team gave me the topic of “Nourish” it seemed like a logical fit for someone in the restaurant business. But the longer I thought about the topic, the less I felt qualified to write about it!

What does “Nourish” really mean?  Synonyms include: feed, provide for, sustain, maintain, enhance, cherish, nurture, foster, harbor, etc.

So, OK, I feed people; I provide food for people; I give the opportunity to people to enhance their diets with healthy food options. Those are the obvious reasons for me to write on this topic. But to me, Nourish has a more spiritual meaning.

Humans nourish themselves not only by feeding their bodies, but also through doing the things that they are passionate about and that make them happy. Which is precisely why I wasn’t sure that I was qualified to write about this topic. Being a business owner is hard work, and while I am happy doing it I find that I have ignored myself in the process. The things that I used to be passionate about have been pushed aside.

I was not nourishing myself. Or, so I thought.

While pondering these revelations, I kept being reminded of a profound experience that happened to me at the restaurant one day.

It was a very busy day and we had a full dining room plus many delivery orders to fill. I was feeling pretty stressed when all of a sudden I stopped and listened to the sounds of happy people talking and laughing in the dining room, and I had an overwhelming feeling that my Italian Grandma would be so proud if she could see what I have accomplished (and yes, tears are streaming down my face while I write this.)

My Grandma would invite all the nuns and the priest and anyone else who didn’t have somewhere to go for holiday meals… she loved to feed a crowd. Feeding people in a warm, loving environment nourished her soul. That profound experience nourished my soul.

With loving nourishment

Maybe one day I can get back to those things that I used to be passionate about. For now, I will nourish my soul by helping others find nourishment… not only through offering the healthy food options, but also by providing a place where they will always be greeted with a welcome, a smile, and a warm, loving place to meet friends.

I hope that you have/take time to nourish whatever you are passionate about. Feed your soul! And if, like me, you feel that you’ve had to push aside the things you are passionate about, I hope you can find nourishment being exactly where you are. Your soul will thank you.