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Day 5, Yoga Yoga Mindfulness Meditation Series, Exploring our Environment

On day six we began our journey into our environment.  Mindfulness and meditation can deepen our understanding of ourselves, and that understanding can be the foundation for how we receive and relate to the world around us.  One of the overriding ideas in this practice is to be present with things at the moment that they arise.  Often in life, circumstances arise with a strong emotional counterpart.  We are quickly swept away into the situation or the story without fully being aware of it.  The fast thinking system in our brain takes over and our ability to be present and maintain perspective is diminished.   The pace of this cycle is so fast that we can continue in this way with little awareness for days, months, even years.  The practice of both shamatha and vipassana are a direct antidote to this pattern.  Every time something arises, we practice pausing, allowing and returning to our anchor, the breath.  We learn to slowly moderate our reactions by repeatedly infusing space into a situation that feels emotionally charged.  The more you practice, the more it is possible to feel fully present even in situations that feel reactive or stressful.

We will continue to work on cultivating a receptive and open presence toward everything that arises, now widening the circle to our environment.  We will include sounds, touch, smells, sights and tastes.  Everything can become an object for mindfulness.  Instead of feeling that certain things in our environment are a distraction, perhaps they are the very thing that can ground us into this moment.  For example, rather than feeling a sound is unpleasant or undesirable, perhaps I can hear the sounds as if I was hearing them for the first time, with no context for liking or disliking them.  This is called cultivating a “beginner’s mind”.   It is a mind that is unattached to its own story, preference or judgement.  It sounds hard, but it is possible the more we practice.  We will find that we don’t get caught up in our drama and our ego as easily or as quickly.  For some moments, we can choose not to react nor repress.  It is in this place, we begin to feel a sense of freedom and choice.  Opening to our environment will naturally progress to extending mindfulness into our relationships and the world around us.  Nothing is exempt from these practices.  All of life is an opportunity to more fully awaken.

As you practice this week, take time to bring elements of your environment into your practice, both on your mat and through your day.  You can also choose one task that you do routinely and see if you can do it more mindfully.  It could be brushing your teeth, doing the dishes, or folding your clothes.  Often, the more ordinary tasks in life are the one’s vulnerable to our inattention.  Instead breath, feel and know what you are doing and how.  See if this presence changes the experience of what is considered ordinary.  Perhaps, instead it becomes the perfect opportunity to slow down and see something new and interesting in what was considered mundane.  Enjoy your week ahead!

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