#mymindfulbujo March: Sky Colour Tracker

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I wanted to create a #mymindfulbujo challenge for March that would offer a short pause in each day to be mindful whilst connecting with nature. Being in a natural environment often gives me my greatest sense of mindfulness and grounding with the earth and I’m not alone. Nature has been proven to calm the mind and reduce the physiological symptoms of stress and anxiety (see this excellent article from National Geographic). When I examine myself, I think there are a number of reasons why this is the case.

 

  • Nature provides a sense of perspective that we can lose in everyday life. Often we get so caught up in our thoughts and the everyday rush of life that it becomes all encompassing. Our mind perceives these thoughts and stressors as ‘threats’ and acts accordingly. When we connect with nature however our sense of the world expands and we see how large the earth and the Universe are. We see beyond our immediate problems and gain a new perspective on their impact on our life and those around us.
  • Nature also tends to offer some very tangible and useful ‘anchors’ for our attention. Think of sitting on the sofa watching the rain on the window or listening to the waves break on the beach. Our mind naturally wants to rest on and connect with the natural world around us. We are drawn to the soothing and calming pull of nature.
  • Nature is also out of our control. There’s nothing we can do to stop the rain from coming or make the waves calmer. We can relinquish any agenda or expectations and simply be with whatever the Universe decides to send our way.

 

I’ve chosen the sky for this challenge because it’s nearly always available to us at any time of the day (unless you happen to be stationed on a submarine). One of my favourite things to do each morning is look out of my kitchen window, from which I can mainly see trees and sky and see what the sky is doing. Sometimes it’s brilliant blue, sometimes it’s vivid reds and purples and sometimes it’s grey. It serves as a useful reminder of the impermanence of each state in our life and that every day is a new day with something new to look forward to if we approach it with open curiosity.

 

The beauty of this challenge is that you can approach it in any way you want to, but here is how I will be doing it.

 

  1. I’m going to set a regular time each day to observe the sky so it becomes routine and I don’t forget to do it. For me, this will be around 6.30am when I go downstairs with the girls for breakfast. The morning sky just after dawn tends to have the most beauty and variety in the colours. In your lunch hour or at sunset would also be good times however if this suits the rhythm of your day better.
  2. I’ll probably start by taking a few deep breaths just to settle my mind and let go of any thoughts. All that is left then is to observe the sky with mindful attention and curiosity for a few moments. Let go of any preconceptions you have and notice what is happening in the sky; clouds, movement, birds, colours. It’s unlikely the sky will be one uniform colour, so try to notice the full spectrum of colours in the sky and decide which colour is more predominant or that you connect with most that day to record in your journal.
  3. I’m going to record this in my journal in the style of a mood mandala with a ring for each day to represent the colour of the sky. There’s a picture of my initial set-up below and I’ll update every now and then on Instagram so you can see my progress as it gets filled in. This can be as simple or as fancy as you like however. So, if you just want to create a page of boxes to fill in or have a box next to your daily log each day, that would work brilliantly as well. The key here is to focus some mindful attention on the sky. Recording in the journal is just a fun way to remind you to do it.

 

 

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Update! The completed mandala. 

You can find more #mymindfulbujo challenges on my resources page

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Book Review: Mindfulness For Parents by Amber Hatch

In ‘Mindfulness For Parents‘, Amber Hatch has created an ideal guide for those coming to mindfulness for the first time as parents. Her accessible style and gift for explaining mindfulness concepts simply and effectively make this a very compelling book. There are information and advice from the early weeks of having a baby to raising older children in a gentle and compassionate style as well as more practical advice on introducing mindfulness to children and maintaining your own practice.

 

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This book does an excellant job of demonstrating through examples and suggested exercises how to establish a mindfulness practice in the midst of raising a family. I would have loved to read this book when I was first learning to practice mindfulness as it was sometimes a struggle applying the theory I was learning to our busy family life.

 

  • How do you meditate when you don’t have time to yourself?
  • How do you stay calm and patient when you’re so tired you could fall asleep walking?
  • How do you step outside of the guilt and critical thoughts and create compassion and forgiveness for yourself?
  • How can you simply enjoy your children when they know exactly how to push your buttons?

This book answers all of these questions and more so you can find peace and joy in every day. I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone who has not yet established their own mindfulness practice or is struggling to do so as a parent.

 
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Giving the gift of presence

Thich Nhat Hanh said

 

“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”

 

In today’s busy, multi-channel, multi-attention world, it’s rare that we give our full and undivided attention to others. We talk whilst preparing dinner or we watch movies whilst surfing on our phone. Slowly and silently the distance between us can increase until  all of a sudden we can turn to the person next to us and feel adrift or disconnected. We all crave connection with our fellow humans; especially those we love. Gifting our mindful presence can help to reduce that divide and bring us closer as well as allowing our loved ones to bloom in our unconditional love.
If you fancy bestowing your presence rather than presents upon your loved ones this Valentines Day here are 3 suggestions.

 

1. A shared experience in the present moment
Have you ever smelled a scent or listened to a song and been transported to a vivid memory? Strong, sensual (by that I mean activating one of your 5 senses) experiences have the ability to ground us in the present moment. Enjoying these together can really allow us to be present in each other’s company and let go of distractions. The sky is your limit here but examples would be:

  • Watching the stars
  • Trying new foods together
  • Listening to live music
  • Massage with aromatherapy oils
  • A nature walk

 

 

2. Deep listening
Listening deeply to others allows them to feel heard and understood; and ultimately loved. With deep listening we use our self awareness to let go of our own agenda and embrace all that the speaker has to communicate in the present moment. We’re not evaluating or categorising the content of what they say, we’re not thinking about what to say next and we’re not trying to make them feel better. We’re simply listening to and absorbing what is said. Perhaps with some reflective statements to ensure we understand what they’re saying.
You don’t have to sit down and ‘do’ deep listening (unless you want to). Just try to be mindful of the next time your loved one seems to have something to say or work through and remind yourself that this would be a good time to listen deeply to what they have to say.

 

“The listener’s job is simply to be present and by their presence to hold a space for the other person to explore their felt senses and chosen issues. It is not the listener’s job to “be helpful,” to problem-solve or commiserate or evaluate, but simply to be mindfully present, including being mindful of their own felt senses as they arise.” (mindful.org)

 

If you want to learn more about deep listening there is a great article on mindful.org here.

 

3. The heart’s bulletin board
In her book ‘Only Love Today’, Rachel Macy Stafford talks about the heart’s bulletin board.

 

“Every human being, young or old, has a heart’s bulletin board. Every person needs safety, love and affirmation offered in terms he or she can understand.”

 

We are in charge of the messages we leave pinned on our loved one’s bulletin board. We can leave messages of love and affirmation that demonstrate our understanding of their unique qualities or we can leave messages charged with criticism, shame or anger. When we bring our mindful attention and presence to our loved ones, we can decide to offer soul building words that affirm our love for them.

 
I am grateful when you…
I notice that you…
Your eyes sparkle when you…
I enjoy when you…
You make my day better.

 
So there are my 3 suggestions for giving the gift of presence to your loved ones. If you have any more suggestions I’d love to hear about them! Just comment below.

 

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Mindful tips to improve relationships

Book Review: Only Love Today by Rachel Macy Stafford

I’ve been following Rachel’s blog The Hands Free Mama for a few years now and I’ve always adored her writing. It’s like the written equivalent of a hug from a friend. Her work is full of hope and inspiration for turning a bad day around without feeling sanctimonious or judgemental. I haven’t read any of her previous books so I was delighted to be given the chance to get a sneak preview of this one.

 

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I was somewhat surprised (and happy) to find that this isn’t a cover to cover read or a manual for mindful living. In the words of Rachel this is a “flip open, read-in-any-order book of daily encouragement designed to shift perspective and anchor us in love”. Each short passage of c. 2-3 pages tackles a specific theme and includes a short quote (great to write in a journal as a reminder), an encouraging passage based in experience and a suggested exercise for the day to help reinforce this shift in perspective. You could simply work your way through the book taking a passage each day, or you could just use the index to refer to relevant passages as and when needed.

 
On opening the book initially, the first passage I came to was exactly what I needed that day. After a 5am start with two small, tired people, I was feeling pretty grumpy and snappy. I hadn’t exactly been the model Mum thus far and I was feeling bad about it. The “Only Love Today Affirmation” really helped me let go of the regret and resentment and open up to all the possibilities yet to come that day.

 

 

 

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“Today I will choose love. If I mistakenly choose distraction, perfection or negativity over love, I will not wallow in regret. I will choose love next. I will choose love until it becomes my first response… my gut instinct… my natural reaction. I will choose love until it becomes who I am.
Let love start this day.
Let love end this day.
Let love transform the minutes in between.”

 
This book allows us to accept our human, imperfect selves, whilst still allowing us to grow and nurture those around us with increasing love and softness. I’d thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who loves someone. Loving ourselves and those we cherish with gentleness, empathy and compassion is probably something we all hope to do and yet still manage to stray away from some days. This is the perfect companion to help you get back on track.

 

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