Have you ever spent time looking for the answer to something and eventually found it right underneath your nose? That is the beautiful simplicity of life – everything we need, everything we need to know is already there, we just need to open our eyes and our heart to the possibility.
This is increasingly clear to me, having found my simplicity through practising the art of meditation.
All too often our lives are filled with complexity, chaos and suffering – and much of it we create through our attitudes, beliefs and actions. That’s not said with any blame or judgement, just an awareness and acceptance that this is the way we create our experiences. As technology becomes more clever, day to day living becomes more materialistic and global affairs more intense as we have seen of late; and it is so easy to get sucked into the Matrix of life. Our bodies become tuned into a subconscious state of alert that prepares us for flight or fight, resulting in cortisol coursing through our bodies, draining our energy.
Now this isn’t to say that there isn’t some joy in our experiences and that life as we know it is all doom and gloom. Although it does serve to remind us how out of balance our lives are becoming. This is why, I believe, so many of us are turning to masters of well-being, ‘alternative’ therapies and Eastern philosophy – to find answers to our lack of contentment and malaise. There is a definite turning tide that acknowledges that this state of being is unhealthy and can not be sustained.
What I continually learn through my meditation and, in fact from life itself, is to appreciate the simplicity that exists in the rising of the sun, in the bird song, in growing your own food. Although more than that, I am beginning to wake up to my natural state, living beyond the anxiety, fears, judgements and stress that too much of life induces. So what is this natural state I talk of?
I have learnt the simplicity of the breath, of being mindful, of living from a place of loving kindness. These are all lovely states to be in and already exist within us – we just need to awaken into that awareness. The Mindfulness of Breath, shows us how this innate function called breathing, can actually nourish our bodies when we focus on its true essence. A breath from the depths of our bellies can fill every part of our body and bring more oxygen to each of our cells. A bodily function that we take for granted and yet has so much more quality to it, if we put our attention to it. And what does this give us? Stillness, peace, a quiet mind and a mindfulness that creates a ‘freeze-frame’ on our life movie.
The simplicity of mindfulness itself is bringing me ever-increasing stillness, that goes beyond just the breath. Noticing my anxiety, emotions, negative thoughts. Being aware of the food on my plate and eating with more consciousness. Stopping to listen to and watch nature’s busy-ness. Seeing all this with new, freshly awakened eyes brings a new quality to my life. We just need to remind ourselves to do it.
Loving kindness – another type of meditation that cultivates a state of compassion within us. Although in many ways this is so much more than a meditation, it’s a way of being, a way of thinking and a way of feeling. Have you ever stopped to notice how people respond to a smile? A smile can change how someone feels in an instant and how they live out their day. Learning to adopt a mind-set of loving kindness where we wish ourselves and all beings to be well, happy and free is a beautiful practice. It builds self-respect, dissolves conflict and creates an energy where all good things are possible.
Simple things create a more peaceful life and whilst the chaos might still rain around us, simplicity becomes like an umbrella that protects us from the madness around us that we have little or no control over. I am not naïve enough to assume that everything in my life will be rosy just because I have found joy in these simple things, although I know that they will go a long way to giving me the inner peace I have been searching for and coping mechanisms that enhance my experience on this mortal coil.
- Practice breathing. Sounds crazy right? We’re breathing all the time – although not consciously. Anxiety, stress or induced excitement creates a breath that is not always helpful to us and is so very different to a conscious breath. Focus in on your breath right now as you read this blog. Take a deep breath in, from the depths of your belly and feel it rising up to your chest and then slowly release that breath out. You can use counting to help this process if you wish; counting on the in-breath for 7 and then breathing out for 5. You only need do this for a couple of times to instantly change how you feel. The breath has the magic to interrupt our state and reset us.
- Practice loving kindness. Starting with you, think about yourself in a kind and compassionate way, focusing on all that is good and beautiful about yourself. Send yourself good wishes. Then think about someone in your family or circle of friends and think about them in a kind and compassionate way. Focus on all that is good and beautiful about them. And then do the same exercise for someone who challenges you, perhaps at work. Think of them kindly and look past what annoys you. See the good in them and send them good wishes. It’s a beautiful way to see yourself and others around you and creates a priceless simplicity.
- Practice mindfulness. Next time you take a sip of coffee or go for a walk with the dog, really begin to tune into what is around you. Notice the heat from your drink and what that coffee tastes like on your tongue. Take note of the noises and sights around you whilst on your walk. Focus on the steps that you are taking, the air on your face and what the ground beneath you feels like. Really begin to experience these tasks in a more simple and yet wholesome way.
These practices don’t solve all the problems of the world or even of our lives. Although it does empower us to create simplicity in our lives and stop the ever-increasing complexity that we continue to engage in, that does not lead to happiness. Happiness is a simple gear-changing exercise that we can own, that has an immediate and high impact affect on our lives. Choose happiness, choose simplicity.
I hope these three practices might help you take one step further on your Pathway to Happiness.
With love and blessings