November 6, 2014

5 Questions to Cultivate Mindfulness.

helping others

One way to look at mindfulness is that each moment is an opportunity to start again.

In the last moment did you feel distracted, cranky or unaware?

Who cares?

Because while you were worrying about the last moment a new moment arrived providing an opportunity to try again.

Voila! Another chance.

That is what mindfulness is all about.

The last moment that was perceived to be less then pleasurable is already in the past and now in the present there is a brand new fresh moment to be aware of, to experience.

And if this moment passes by without us being present, well guess what?

There is already another one here.

This attitude of taking every moment as a new opportunity to wake up and experience our lives can be a very refreshing way to live.

And just like each moment, each day is a chance to start again. Before I fall asleep at night my mind can be full of gloomy thoughts about my life and my future. But in the morning, I usually see that it was just exhaustion taking hold of me and what is in ahead of me doesn’t seem so bad at all.

Sometimes it evens seems good, exciting.

But still throughout the day there are many choices to make. Not just about where we’re going to go or what we’re going to eat but about our attitudes towards ourselves, others and the world in general.

I find that a small change in my attitude can have an amazing way of turning around entire situations.

So, during our day here are five questions we can ask ourselves that will give us a lot of information about what has our attention and what attitude we are bringing to our experiences.

Be aware that these questions have an illuminating power and are known to increase insight, mindfulness and loving-kindness.

1. What is my intention?

“There are no right or wrong choices only right or wrong intentions.” ~ Carolynn Myss

When I hear this quote what it reminds me is relax, I am doing fine.

We can get very caught up in worrying about if we are making the “right” choices or the “wrong” choices.  Much of the time this is because we think if we make a “right” choice we are a good, smart person and if we make a “wrong” choice we are horrible and bad and no one will ever love us.

We have little control over other people perception whether a choice we made is “right” or “wrong.”

What we do have control over though is our own intentions.

Just setting the intention of this action is for the health and happiness of myself and everyone involved makes a huge contribution to whatever we are doing.

So, check in with yourself.

Are your choices today coming from fear? Anger? Worry?

This is important to know because making a choice based on fear can often cause suffering, so really check in with your motivations.

Some beautiful intentions are to increase love, to increase well-being for yourself, others or the planet as a whole, to add beauty, to increase connection.

What are your intentions today?

2. Are you opening or contracting?

All emotions are welcome.

All emotions are trying to meet a need.

We never want to repress or stuff down emotions.

But in the face of strong emotions we need to check in and see if we are opening or if we are contracting to the emotion.

The opening or contracting movement is an internal, physical sensation but it can be aided by our thoughts and intentions. To check and see if you are contracting or opening to an emotion start by feeling in your body where you are having sensations and then ask yourself, “Am I tensing around this emotion? Am I trying to hide from it or trying to make it go away?”

If the answer is yes to these questions then set the intention to open, expand, relax. You can talk to the emotion or physical sensation and tell it that it is welcome. That it can stay as long as it needs. That you know it is only trying to help and keep you safe in its own way.

You can give yourself a pep talk reminding yourself that you are strong enough and courageous enough to experience these sensations. You might want to lie on the bed or the floor and open your arms wide in an embracing movement letting it all in.

What we hide from or suppress has a way of controlling us and when we welcome our emotions and challenging thoughts and uncomfortable sensations they are able to be set free.

So, check in with yourself. Are you opening or contracting to your experiences today?

3. Are you heating it up or cooling it down?

During the day we have millions of thoughts. Many of them come on their own and can feel beyond our control. But how we react to these thoughts is within our control.

We can heat them up or cool them down.

Which one are you doing today?

Heating up a thought looks like, “This will never work out.” “He’s never going to call me.” “I am so overwhelmed I can’t handle anything right now.”

Versus cooling thoughts down looks like, “I’m sure it will work out.” “He’ll call me later, he’s probably just busy.” “I’ll just take it one step at a time and everything will get done.”

So, check-in with yourself today, are you heating up your thoughts or cooling them down?

If the answer is heating them up then this answer brings you some very important information about what is going on in your mind.

This is the first step is awareness and once we have awareness of our mind it is impossible for it to stay the same.

“The anthropologist Margaret Mead observed that a custom, let’s say always eating fish in Fridays, could persist unchanged for centuries in a culture. However, as soon as someone traveled outside the culture and saw that there was the possibility of doing things differently, the old custom was doomed. It might take centuries, but inevitably it would change. This is true of our individual customs, too. As long as our habit patterns are hidden backstage, they will remain unchanged. As soon as we bring them up onto the stage of our mind and shine the spotlight of awareness on them, they will inevitably change.” ~ Jan Chozen-Bay from: Mindul Eating 

4.  How full is your love-cup?

In my experience, the journey of finding self-love is the least selfish journey there is.

It is full of challenges and transformation and it takes courage and gumption. It means standing up for ourselves and being there for ourselves. Most of us need to teach ourselves how to do this, as no one showed us how to love ourselves.

It can be a lonesome journey.

But the greatest outcome of the self-love journey is increased compassion and kindness for others and humanity as whole.

This is what makes all the hard-work worth it.

One important step of the self-love journey is taking a look at where our own self-love is.

Here is a way to do that.

Ask yourself the question how full is my love-cup?

This is a kind of barometer for how your self-love journey is going. So, what we do is imagine a cup inside us—maybe around our solar plexus—and ask ourselves, if this cup represents how much love I have for myself, how full would it be right now?

And then just notice.

Is the cup only a little full at the bottom?

Is it half-full?

Is it over-flowing and spilling out the sides?

Again, there is no need to judge, this is just our way of gaining important information that can help influence our choices during the day.

Maybe if there is only a little love in the cup we need to increased kindness to ourselves.

Maybe if the cup is overflowing then we would enjoy doing something generous for others to share it around.

So, check-in right now. How full is your love-cup?

5.  How am I contributing?

This planet needs us all.

All of us to pitch in, to give back, to contribute in ways that are of benefit.

So, again this is just a question.

Look at the day ahead of you or the day that is behind you and ask yourself, “How did I contribute to the planet today?”

Look for small ways, look for big ways. Maybe you helped a sick person, played with a child, recycled, voted, wrote a letter, signed a petition or hugged somebody who was sad.

If you find a way you contributed that you feel good about then take a moment to appreciate yourself, a little mental pat on the back.

And if you don’t see a way you contributed then this isn’t a place for criticism it is just a chance to gather information and say to ourselves, “Oh, it looks like I need to offer a little generosity today or tomorrow,” and then pick something small and manageable and find some time to do it, then afterwards don’t forget to thank yourself for giving to yourself by giving to others.

Much of mindfulness practice is actually inquiry.

Where is my attention now?

Is this where I want my attention to be?

How can I shift my attention to be more in the moment, to be noticing where I am and what I’m doing with less judgment and more acceptance and loving-kindness?

The five question offered above are simply tools to help bring you home to yourself, to see what has your attention and to help you bring your attention to a place that will be of benefit to yourself, others and the planet as a whole.


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Author: Ruth Lera

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: flickr


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