A possible scenario:
It’s Sunday morning and a free day lies in front of me. Our cat is sleeping by my side, rolled up into a warm furry ball. Outside the early morning sun starts warming the wintry garden. Possible projects for the day are circling in my head and thoughts about the past week are moving by in the background. Breakfast is ready and some birds outside are singing about spring.
What a precious moment! But though I’ve had some of those in my life, after some time, peace and stillness always slid away into the background. Some kind of busyness took over faster than I could notice. At the moment I’m still enjoying the openness and freshness of the day, but soon my mind will grab an interest in anything and carry me away in chains of thought and seeming necessities.
The flow of our consciousness
Especially the early morning is a great time to allow oneself the luxury of “just being” at least for some short moments.
I love to just sit where I am, enjoy the stillness and spaciousness in the room and just notice what’s happening: Thoughts are happening and are suddenly gone. Inner sensations and reactions move along with outer scenarios, and hopes and worries are there as well. All of this moves along like a stream of consciousness. I am still a bit tired or somewhere in the field between sleep and awake. My mind is still relatively relaxed from the night and possibly a bit slower than during the day.
Simply being is not necessarily easy
In modern culture it’s our habit to constantly use our consciousness. We are used to its operation in the background of our mind. This is the place where thoughts and other mental events are usually residing and moving. A moment of openness and freshness can allow us to just stop and notice what’s happening around us. We can notice the objects around us, people moving, air touching our skin, scents, sounds, reactions and thoughts.
During these moments of openness we might even notice little gaps in which we “just are.” These surprising little gaps are gone as fast as they came, just as we are noticing them. The mental play and its short breaks are part of the natural functioning of our mind.
To just notice and observe the play can in itself be very calming for our whole being. This really is a wonderful practice!
In case you’d prefer more guidance, here are some suggestions for little experiments in being:
(1) First, pause exactly as you are right now. You are maybe sitting somewhere in some kind of posture and are reading these words. Simply notice.
What is going on right now? There will be different answers to this and they are popping into your awareness. Just notice.
Which one is the most predominant? Maybe it is a pain somewhere in your body, some worry or a pleasant memory. Maybe you are noticing that your posture is not so comfortable, that there is music somewhere or the scent of freshly brewed coffee. Possibly your awareness is jumping or moving between different impressions and judging some of them. You can notice this in a very light and easy way, like watching a play in a theater.
(2) Second, you can eat or drink something and notice everything that goes along with this experience.
First, you’re preparing it: There is what you see, maybe a scent and a kind of anticipating joy. Following that you start slowly to eat or drink. Moment by moment there are sensations and very slowly you move, taste, and notice. Many things are now happening at one time: movement, sensation, touch, taste, smell, pleasure, pausing, memories, thoughts, sensations and your reflections about all of this. Maybe even judgments and comparisons; it’s a continuous river.
(3) Finally, you can sit for some moments in a relaxed, pleasant, and upright position and notice your breathing process.
You are sensing your body, noticing movement, feeling the air passing through your nostrils and extending your lungs and belly. There is a rhythm to your breathing and a particular depth. These might change a bit while you observe. While you are trying to simply notice this process your thoughts might wander off and you might join them. This is just one aspect of the natural functioning of your mind. You can notice it and come back to the original focus on the breath. Again and again you can simply come back to the sensations of your breathing. Some minutes into this exercise you might notice even more details and feel somewhat more calm and relaxed.
Starting our days with a little observation as presented here can help us to find our way home to little relaxing breaks throughout the day.
We can allow ourselves to rest for some minutes after finishing a meal, right there at the table. Or maybe while enjoying a tea or coffee. We can just notice what is going on around us, or observe sensations and movements within our own body and mind.
In the same way, we can take little observing breaks when the light turns red, while sitting on a bus, while waiting for a friend to arrive or the cashier to do her work. We are checking in with our sensations and our state of mind.
The key in all of this is to just notice “what is” and “how your mind moves.”
We are so used to just having our mind work for us that the bare observation of its movements can be a real challenge.
With the simple support of an object to focus on like our own breath or a simple object in front of us, it is much easier to notice what is actually happening.
Also it helps us to notice when we have automatically followed the movements of our thoughts again.
Then we can simply come back to our chosen object and curiously observe what is happening next. 🙂