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A Meditation For Winter

A Meditation For Winter

I love winter. This has not always been the case. I lived the first part of my adult life disliking winter. I would start to complain as the last of the leaves were raked up and put into the compost pile. I would complain about how cold my bed was when I got in at night and how cold my room was in the morning. I cussed under my breath while clearing my windshield of snow after a quick run into the supermarket. I told animated stories highlighting my struggle to drive while adorned with my layers of winter gear. Complaining about winter became my favorite pastime. I was miserable and cold from early December through the end of March and I did not hesitate to engage anyone I met in conversation about just how much winter sucked. My family planned winter vacations in warmer locations and I would engage strangers on the beach to express my dislike for northern winters hoping they would agree so we could commiserate. I was very happy in my unhappiness and no one could convince me to change to my thoughts on the struggle of winter. 

 

As I remember it, gratitude was the theme of Christmas 1995 or 1996. I am sure the theme was sparked by something Oprah Winfrey wrote or had on her show.  A close friend gave me the book Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach. It was a pretty pink, hardcover book. The author had thoughtfully laid it out as a yearly planner filled with daily inspirational quotes, journal prompts, and space dedicated to gratitude, naturally. It was designed so you could start anywhere, any day. I endeavored to complete the book, to read it and write in it every day of the coming year. This would be my year of gratitude. I purchased a new pen. I placed the book on my nightstand. I looked at the book every night for six months before finally putting it on the shelf, having never written a word. The book did, however, change my life. I did not write down the many things that brought me joy, but every night, while looking at the book on the shelf, I quietly acknowledged all the beauty and joy present in my life. How beautiful the snowfall was at night when illuminated by the outside lights. How quiet the world was when snow blanketed the ground. How beautiful the birds looked against the stark winter backdrop. That book shifted my perspective, not just on winter, but on every season of my life. 

 

Gratitude and mindfulness are complimentary. When I focus mindfully on gratitude it opens up space for me to have emotions about the weather, or a season, and accept them, not get stuck in them. I still do not like being cold, but I am grateful for the blanket that brings me warmth. I would like to offer you a short mindful meditation on gratitude for winter. I hope that focusing on gratitude and joy will bring you more happiness as it has done for me. 

Listen to a guided version of Mindful Meditation for Joy (approximately 4 minutes) here or scroll on for a written version to practice independently. 

Mindful Meditation for Joy 

by Linda Snyder

 

 

 

 

I invite you to find a comfortable space where you can sit or lie down with as much support as you need. You are welcome to close your eyes or keep them open, whichever feels more comfortable for you in this moment.  

{count to 10}

Begin to bring your awareness to your body. 

Notice where your body is making contact with the supports beneath it.

{count to 10}

Notice any sensations in your body. 

{count to 20}

Notice your breath and the way it moves. 

{count to 20}

As you breath in offer gratitude for the life force entering your body

{count to 5}

As you exhale let go of any tension in your body or mind

{count to 10}

Breathe in gratitude

Exhale tension

{count to 20}

Bring to mind an image or experience from winter that brings you joy or happiness. 

Snow falling

Cuddling up in a soft blanket

A warm drink

An activity you do with friends and family

An activity you do alone

A special winter dinner

Now hold that joyful, happy image or experience in your mind.

{count to 20}

Now notice where you feel the joy, the happiness

{count to 15}

Now, with the intention of cultivating gratitude repeat silently

{count to 5}

May my happiness continue to grow

{repeat silently}

May my joy continue to grow

{repeat silently

May I appreciate the joy in my life

{repeat silently}

May I appreciate the happiness in my life

{repeat silently}

You may stay in this meditation as long as you wish. 

You may choose to bring another image or experience to mind or you may release your image and begin to bring awareness to any sounds in your environment, sensations in your body. 

In your own time, choose when you would like to open your eyes or lift your gaze and look around your space.

May your joy and happiness continue to grow.

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.

Breathing through grief

Breathing through grief

grief

I was sitting on a toilet in California when I found out my father died.

My cell phone rang at 5 a.m. “Oh, Damn, I forgot to call Dad to tell him we arrived safely in California.” I wiped the sleep from my eyes, headed off to the bathroom and dialed my voicemail. It was my mother, something was wrong.

The physical sensation of the emotion came immediately; heaviness in my throat, shortness of breath. I closed my eyes, took 5 deep breaths with my hands over my throat, and allowed the tears to well up and spill over my face. I recalled that true physical emotion lasts 90 seconds, everything after that is a result of our mental construct; our reacting to the thoughts surrounding the emotion or situation. After about 90 seconds I started to think that theory was just crap – I was still in pain, physical and emotional pain.

I continued on by breathing deeply and noticing what I was feeling in my body (the essence of the mindfulness practice), and after a few moments I was able to bring my attention to my daughter. I told her what happened, we held each other, and I got to the business of getting us back to Massachusetts as quickly as possible.

I stood at the airport counter for two hours organizing our flights.

On the inside I was noticing my breath, counting my breath, breathing deeply, and reminding myself “I am standing on two feet, I am breathing in, I am breathing out”, and what I wanted was a big sign to hang around my neck that said, “My father just died, please excuse any outward displays of emotion”. This sign would have been helpful as we sat at the gate in Philadelphia, the day before father’s day, as I noticed a sign “purchase a gift for dad” and completely lost my sense of the present moment, as I retreated into the comfort of a cup of coffee, released into an ugly cry, and felt gratitude for my daughter and our (possibly hysterical) laughter at my lack of presence and need for a sign.

The last time I saw my father was the weekend before we left for California The previous visit, had been seven months ago, the longest span since moving to my present home in Ohio in 2012.  This weekend, my daughter and I drove from Ohio to Massachusetts to attend our cousin’s high school graduation and birthday party. The first day was spent catching up, just the four of us, me, my daughter, my mom and my dad; we had a lovely lunch and frozen yogurt, walked around town, watched a movie on an old sofa bed, and most importantly, we laughed and laughed. The second day, Sunday morning, my dad and I, both lovers of the early morning, took a walk, just the two of us; walking and talking with the sun shining and the birds singing. It was a lovely mid-June day!

We said goodbye to my parents in my cousin’s foyer ending our weekend together, after the morning walk with my father, at the family party; my cousin’s graduation and birthday party. As I look back on the events of the weekend, I am reminded of the many times (I have been in the daily practice of yoga and mindfulness for the last five years) as I stood in a long line at the grocery store embracing the opportunity to breathe deeply or practice a Lovingkindness meditation, I wondered, how is this practice changing me? Is twisting my body around on a yoga mat creating a more meaningful life experience? Now I know that my mindfulness practice supported a weekend with my father, a weekend which turned out to be my last; a weekend when I was fully present.

Being fully present looks like listening deeply.

My father and I walked and talked. I enjoyed the simple pleasure of hearing him and being with him. I listened to his family stories – and we laughed, and laughed.

We talked town gossip, wandered to the oldest covered bridge, (And laughed, again, at how it wasn’t really the oldest covered bridge. It was rebuilt after a fire a number of years ago), stopped by the river to inspect the new boat launch, and paused to watch the waterfalls and discuss where the Blue Heron had been hanging out to fish lately; all simple and pure moments of joy.

And presence also includes a keen awareness; a deep awareness of the physical, emotional and intuitive sensations of your body. I expressed my joy at being with my parents, and frequently gave them big kisses and told them how much I missed them. When the time came to say goodbye, it was with my entire self, fully present and centered in love.

I remember, the moment my mother told me my father had died, alongside the shock, there was something else, an acceptance. I accepted and released any desire for things to be other then they were in that moment. I embraced the pain in all the ways it showed up, and continues to show up, and I do so without struggling against it.  This is the gift of the mindfulness practice; a resilience to settle in this moment to feel both the joy and the sorrow, and to even to accept that sometimes, the best thing to do is drink coffee.