A Day of Mindfulness

Leave the first response July 2, 2007 / Posted in Mindfulness

I asked a dear friend, Sandy Levin, to write a short article on her experience of attending the eight week course on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction at Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine here in San Diego. I would like to share it with you along with Sandy’s blog site, Living With Heart Disease and the info on the work being done by Women Heart.

Sandy’s reflections on her Day of Mindfulness:

If mindfulness is paying attention to the here and now, to your breath, to observing one’s thoughts without being critical or judgmental, then what is a day of mindfulness? Pure bliss.

Several months ago I attended an eight week class on Mindfulness as a means to reduce the stress in my life. A portion of the class was a day-long silent retreat. At the time, my foot was recovering from surgery so my mobility was limited. With the permission of the instructor, I was able to repeat the day of mindfulness.

So what happens when you have the entire day to spend in mindfulness? Here is a glimpse through my eyes.

My day of mindfulness begins with a drive up Mt. Soledad in La Jolla, CA to the war memorial and thirty-foot cross that towers over San Diego. It is pre-dawn. The air is still and warm on my face, the scent of Torrey pines fills my nostrils, and the moon reflects the sun that is yet to rise over the distant Cuyamaca Mountains to the east.

As my steps take me past thousands of plaques of men and women who have died for our country, I finger my mala beads and repeat a special mantra given to me by my yoga teacher. The sky lightens to reveal hazy clouds creeping across the sky, one the shape of a fire breathing dragon. My feet stop as I observe the cloud, morphing before my eyes.

I continue my journey, gazing at the shadows of the Coronado bridge to the south, Scripps pier to the west, the Mormon Temple to the north, and the orange-hued sky to the east. My breath is deep and full, keeping pace with sixteen repetitions of my mantra on each exhale. The sparrows chirp, the rabbits hop across the expanse of grass, the crows perch on the cross. A man plays a wooden flute, welcoming the rising sun.

I stand tall as the mountain and watch the golden orb, its rays piercing the clouds, and offer a prayer of gratitude. Thank you for the universe, the Milky Way, the sun, the moon, the earth. Thank you for the plants and trees, the birds, animals, and fish. Thank you for my breath and my heart. Thank you for my family and friends.

I descend the mountain, listening to the angelic voice of Ashana singing “Ave Maria” to the healing tones of quartz crystal bowls. I am welcomed home with a warm plate of scrambled egg whites and veggies, lovingly prepared by my husband, then head out for the rest of the day.

I’m spending it with more than twenty like-minded individuals. Everyone is silent as they take their seats and prepare for the first meditation of the day. I sit cross-legged on a cushion, eyes closed, breath deep and full, listening to a meditation by Pema Chodron. The message: Stay – no matter what you are feeling, no matter what you are thinking. Stay in the moment. Stay with your breath.

There are seven instructions for the day: 1) maintain noble silence; 2) set an intention for a day of mindfulness; 3) be present to every moment; 4) open to your emotions; 5) remember the mantra: It’s okay. Whatever it is, it’s okay; 6) Let go of the idea that there is something to be accomplished today; and 7) The flavor of the moment, pleasant, neutral or unpleasant, has nothing to do with success or failure.

From a seated meditation to gentle yoga postures synchronized to my breath, I stretch my arms to the sky, twist my waist and spine, extend my heart in cobra, fold my body in child’s pose, then rest in silence. I listen to my inhale and exhale, like an ocean wave rolling gently onto the sand.

Time suspends. I walk into the sunshine and follow the labyrinth, a metaphor for my journey of recovery and spiritual discovery. One step takes two or three seconds as my rubber sandals crunch across the graveled path, twisting and turning toward the center and back out. My eyes gaze downward, noticing the tiny green leaves growing between the large rocks that line the path. In the gravel, I am aware of the shoeprints of previous visitors. I focus on the sound of my breath to keep runaway thoughts at bay. The boulders, diverse in color and shape, some with gashes and scars, remind me of all the people in this world. I take a deep breath and offer a prayer for peace.

I return to my cushion in the yoga room for another poetic meditation, this one by one of the great mindfulness masters, Thich Nhat Hanh.

The morning is gone. My stomach craves nourishment. I open my salad and am rewarded with bursts of flavors in my mouth as I smell, savor, and consume one spinach leaf at a time, kissed with sprinkles of sun-dried tomato and basil feta cheese. I rest my fork between bites, noticing the crunch of a walnut and the shot of juice that squirts against my tongue from a tiny grape tomato. I’ve never experienced such exquisite tastes before. I eat until my stomach whispers enough, then meander outdoors. I notice the wasp nests secured high overhead in the corners of the building, hear the palm fronds scrape against each other in the light breeze, smell the varied rose scents on the bushes. I pause and watch a honey bee gather pollen from a yellow rose. I watch golfers in the distance with a backdrop of the Pacific. A hand glider drifts by along the coast.

Another seated meditation, this time focused on loving kindness – for myself, for a loved one, for a neutral person, and a difficult person in my life. Silently, I notice my breath and think of a song by Ashana: “Loving kindness for all beings. From the one beyond the stars. Through the darkness into light. We behold the gift of peace.”

I stretch my legs and step into the sunshine for guided standing yoga. I remove my sandals, sinking my feet into a cool cushion of green grass. Spreading my legs three feet apart, I raise my arms overhead, lunge, and hold in Warrior I. In a forward fold, I open my eyes to an upside-down world. Thoughts of head and hand stands in the grass during my youth float through my mind. Play. As I walk back inside, the heat of the rough asphalt soaks into my tender feet, then quickly get relief from the cool smooth cement tiles.

I am back on my cushion. Legs crossed, spine tall, eyes closed, breath long and smooth, the backs of my hands resting against my thighs. The topic: From compassion flows forgiveness. I listen to the words and remind myself to be kind and to forgive myself for all the past should haves in my life.

A day of mindfulness is near the end. The group breaks silence with mindful speech, sharing thoughts about the day, then we disperse to move about the rest of our day.

Every step, every movement, every bite of food this day has been taken with mindfulness. Such a beautiful gift I’ve given myself. I’ve come to a point in my life where more and more of each day is filled with mindfulness. Spending an entire day in silent mindfulness keeps me aware of who I am. It helps me to see the loving kindness of everyone in my life, to unconditionally accept myself and others, and to notice the beauty of the world around me. After a day in silence, filled with mindful meditation, mindful breathing, mindful thinking, and mindful eating, I leave with a sense of peace, tranquility, bounty, and bliss.

If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness, I urge you to check out one of the books or tapes listed in my blog entry of Recommended Books and CDs from your local library or check out the books and CDs available through the products at Mindfulness.com.

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