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helpful awakening


What I discover in my early twenties is to be, at last,
a skill that will sail me on through this tattered mass of thoughts and feelings that
have grown so rigorously across the living that lives as my life.
Sitting down, feeling breath and body,
allowing attention to fall open, noticing and opening every time
a thought or feeling arises, I at last find
what I have for my whole life been searching for:
ecstatic joy and the easing of suffering.

– from the chapter Aubretia, Freedom to Blossom – An Invitation to Shine


The Medicine of Mindfulness
I now look back on my descent into my eating disorder and its ensuing depression as a gift because in that darkness I discovered the medicine in the mystery. I doubt I would have ventured mindfulness practice as rigorously as I did were my body not holding severe patterns of angst and anxiety. Now mindfulness is a touchstone for me. The breath and the body are two things we can always come back to that offer the promise of the present moment. And there is nothing as healing as being present. I invite you to try on this simple practice and really stick with it on a daily basis for a week. See how it feels and let me know!

I would like to introduce you to a simple practice that, celebrated by the recent branch of psychoneuro-immunology in the field of western medicine, has a proven track record of unlocking entrenched patterns of depression and allowing us to access that other 95% of the brain that we've only heard about.  East and west converge in a practice that has enabled us to experience the freedom that is available to all of us: mindfulness practice.

Find a blank wall and sit facing it on a cushion high enough to allow you to hold your bum while both knees are balanced like a pyramid on the floor, spine erect.  Nose over the navel, ears over the shoulders, open your peripheral vision and rest your hands comfortably on your knees.  Uncomfortable? This is not unusual.  At first, the posture may feel strange because our bodies are so accustomed to holding onto and expressing the states that are present for us in any given moment.  This folding in, however, does not have to be.  When we simply sit for half an hour and pay attention to our experiencing, we can open up the patterns that cause us to suffer.  We can stop following the thoughts that send us reeling into states of dissatisfaction and loathing and instead take the opportunity to allow attention to open and to settle evenly over the body as we feel our breath at the belly and open the eye-gaze.    Every moment that we practice, we are wearing out patterns that do not serve us.  Nowhere to go, no one to be, this freedom is what we already are and it is available the moment that we pay attention.

For the first while, it may be challenging.  Seeing how we are, and the patterns that hurt and harm us is not comfortable.  However, by making the choice to open, we are engaging with a radical alternative to acting out patterns.  So the next time we get tied up in a knot from looking in the mirror or feel hurt by someone we thought was a friend, we can instead sit down, face the wall, and open.  The patterns aren't who we are.  They are clouds, and we, sister, are the sky. 

Eventually, as time passes, and our embodiment of this open sky deepens, our patterns lose their grasp, their significance wanes, and the clear thing to do is respond to hunger with eating, and to a full belly with simply experiencing the sensations of that full belly, as it is, before good or bad.

As with flowers, when we have the nurture that we need – ample light and water, creative expression, friendship, gratitude, and in this case, mindfulness practice, we will grow forth robust and naturally turn and face the sun.  Because we can all be free and we can all blossom into the radiance in which we arise.

Next: Soulsister