Make Time for Your Wellness...
As we head towards the darkest time of year, literally and possibly figuratively, this is the most important teaching that springs to mind:
“Make time for your wellness before you are forced to make time for your illness.”
I don’t know who this is originally attributable to, but it is so true. And yet we need constant reminders to do this.
During winter our ancestors would have rested more; true there were still animals to care for and food to prepare, children to nurture, but the hard long days out in the fields would come to a brief stop. There was nothing to do now but wait. The harvest was in, food preserved where possible and animals brought into the safety of the vicinity of the human dwellings. Early seeds had been planted and lay resting in the soil.
This became a time of reflection, separated from neighbouring villages or settlements due to weather and impassable tracks, few travelled. People stayed put and waited. They waited for the darkness to come to an end and the days to begin to welcome the first glimmers of spring as they gradually lengthened.
This year we have the chance to experience something similar. It is not what we chose or what many of us want, but we do still have choices. As I finish writing today, I have just learned the news that here in Wales we are entering another lockdown tonight. All plans cancelled, so much disappointment. However, we can still choose how we approach the situation in which we find ourselves. We can rail against the unfairness of it all, we can feel anger, bitterness and blame, or we could choose to recognise our frustrations and sadness, and gradually come to some acceptance of the way things are. Mindfulness does not mean that we ignore our true feelings or that we no longer feel them, but it helps us avoid additional needless suffering.
Buddhist teaching: in Buddhism the teaching of the two arrows reminds us that we cannot avoid the first arrow, but we don’t need to add to it with a second arrow of wanting things that we can’t change to be different. This simply compounds the initial hurt.
Christian teaching: in Christianity we learn the Serenity prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971): God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. Through this prayer we are reminded that there are things outside of our control, a concept we struggle with in our modern society. After all, our entire capitalist system is based on the idea that if we simply buy enough things, we can control whatever we want to, and we are sold this idea daily in advertisements.
The Gift of Kindness:
Maybe the greatest gift we can give ourselves and others this year is this, kindness. And we can start by asking ourselves two simple questions:
‘How kind am I to myself? How can I be kinder to myself?’
Notice I begin with kindness to the self. Then we can move onto:
Where can I bring kindness to others whilst still caring for myself?
Remember the days of flying? You will have been instructed to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others or you run the risk of needing to be rescued yourself.
Which brings me back to where I started – make time for yourself while you can. Use this time wisely. Use it for self-care and where possible kindness to others, rather than worrying and wishing things were different. And I do not say this lightly, my family, like so many others, has been rocked by this illness directly and indirectly. And we face the first Christmas ever without seeing our children or grandchild. There has been sadness and frustration, resignation, and anxiety. All normal human emotions. I am so thankful for my practice. This has kept me coming back to the moment, this moment, this moment, this moment.
And the breath. This year has been all about the breath. People losing their breath due to Covid, due to oppression, due to poverty. Greet each breath as a gift, a new moment, a new beginning and welcome it as your friend. You can use your breath to calm you, to centre you and connect you with the present.
So here is a breath meditation which combines the themes of light, kindness, and self-care. I hope you find it useful and I wish you all the blessings of Christmas, the Solstice and Mid-winter. Gyda chariad, Natalie.
Simple 5-step candle meditation
Simply light a candle and spend a few moments just observing the flame as you give your mind and body chance to settle. You may notice that you become very calm, or just a little more settled than before. This always depends on the situation we are in. You could be sitting alone and quietly, or in the midst of a family frustrated by feeling locked-in and simply snatching a moment to yourself. However long you have available use the candle for focus and as a symbol of the Christmas associations with love, peace, giving etc.,
1) breathe in love for the self – breathe it out for others
2) breathe in kindness for the self – breathe it out for others
3) breathe in peace for the self – breathe it out for others
4) continue with whatever qualities you would like to receive and give
5) set an intention for kindness for the self. Set an intention for an act of kindness for another.