Secrets to Unlocking Mindfulness in { Not So } Secret Urban Gardens.

{ RMSC Gardens. Clockwise from Left: Tulips that smell of juicy-juice. Primrose herb. Lungwort herb. The RMSC Herb Garden is my favorite secret getaway in Rochester. }

BREATHE IN.

The RMSC Herb Garden

BREATHE OUT.

Mindfulness is an-all-in-1 spa, gym, + detox
for your mind, body, + soul. 

Mindfulness requires commitment, don’t get me wrong. Commitment in terms of minutes { you will have to consciously + constantly redirect yourself } as well as days + months. Just like resume writing + interviewing, no one is naturally good at Mindfulness; Mindfulness is a skill, + it requires regular practice. Which is good news! Because — Phew! — pressure’s off. With Mindfulness, you never, ever, ever, ever have to be … perfect. { 4 letter word. }

Here’s how it works!

You can practice Mindfulness all day, erry’day. To get started, pick-up Buddhist Monk + Nobel Peace Prize nominee Tich Nhat Hanh’s collection “Peace Begins Here,”. This was my 1st introduction to + practice with Mindfulness { thanks to a solidly progressive Creative Writing course my senior year at Pitt }. Until then … Here is what you do.

  1. Find a { Not So } Secret Garden. Big cities. Small Cities. Non-cities. They. Are. Everywhere. Promise. When I lived in Manhattan, both Central + Riverside Parks where very not-so-secret, but they also had idyllic secret nooks once you explored. Rochester has a ton! Here are 3 within 2 miles:
    • First Unitarian Church of Rochester. 220 S. Winton Rd., Rochester, NY 14610. They have gardens + meditative walking mazes, + anyone can enjoy them.
    • Rochester Museum & Science Center Herb Garden. 657 East Ave., Rochester, NY 14607. Herbs, tulips, rose bushes, flowering trees, benches, side gardens, + lots of green grass for walking, picnicking, sports playing, dog walking, jogging, meditating, + relaxing.
    • Historic Gardens at Eastman Museum. 900 East Ave., Rochester, NY 14607. Almost right across the street from RMSC, Eastman Museum has gardens for passersby, tours for those who want history, + Garden Vibes summer concerts 1 Wednesday each month, June-August.
  2. Just Breathe. Inhale. Pause. Exhale. Pause. Repeat. Since you have to breathe anyway — might as well hone + harness it. Instead of just oxygenating your lungs, think about the idea of oxygenating every single cell in your entire body. 2 simple steps:
    • Pause. As soon as you arrive to a comfortable spot within the garden, plant your feet. Look around. Notice the color of the sky. Feel the air. Smell nature. Pause and breathe normally. Say to yourself, At this moment in this time, all I have to do is breathe. And then, when you breathe as per usual with your normal breath, feel proud that you have accomplished all you need to accomplish. Feel proud that you have nothing more to do in this very moment.
    • Slow Down. Once you have enjoyed a few regular breaths, let your breath slow down. Do not force your mind or body to slow. Allow your slowed breath to be a natural guide for the rest of your body. Slow your breath in whatever way feels most comfortable. I like to start by inhaling a bit slower + deeper and pausing at the top of the inhale; and then exhaling with the goal of releasing more slowly than I inhaled, and pausing again at the bottom of my exhale.
  3. Let Go. Release your thoughts. Stay present in this moment. Easily the most intimidating part of “mindfulness,” as this part starts to invoke meditation. But both are actually very easy + natural once you try:
    • No Pressure. The goal of letting go, and so meditation, is not to be free of thoughts. It is to be free of the burden of thoughts. Practicing letting go, and therefore meditation, is actually quite freeing because all you’re doing is granting yourself permission to … let go. To say no. To say, Thought, I see you, and I hear you, and I say goodbye to you. Let thoughts come into your mind. In fact, welcome thoughts to do so. The more thoughts that enter, the more practice you have saying good bye.
    • Visualize. Most of us will vastly struggle with letting go of thoughts, at first. A happy bridge to full-meditation is the prop of visualization and/or mantras: both will help you say goodbye to thoughts. What do you visualize? Nothing. Because you visualize your breath. Focus on the air, the space between. Focus on a part of your body that needs more breath. Breathe to this space. If this doesn’t work, try a mantra. What do you say? Something very simple. Positive. Truthful. I am safe + secure. Flowers are beautiful, just like me. Sunshine feels happy. I believe in my values, + I believe in me. Say the same phrase over + over + over, again. Promise, you won’t be thinking 1 thing.

According to Tich Nhat Hanh, this is called Walking Meditation. You can do it anywhere. A room in your apartment. The pavement on the street. Halls at work. Aisles of the grocery store. Walking Meditation, + so Mindfulness, can be achieved anywhere we step foot.

I hope you enjoy trying. Let me know what you think!

#mindfulness

#bepresent

#belocal.

Auld Lang Syne. Happy New Year’s Resolutions 2013!!

Here’s to Auld Lang Syne.
And Here’s to New Year’s Resolutions!
1. Practice Patience.
2. Journal Nightly.
3. Yoga & Dance Regularly.
4. Free Range Meat Only.
5. Meditate Daily.
Ronk (Rocky) & Klonk (Klondike)
patiently waiting to ring in the New Year. 2013.
To see what these all lead up to….

Practice Patience. I’m either in a hurry, or I’m in a hurry, and there’s no such thing as not-in-a-hurry. For me, when something exists in this extreme where it lacks even its opposite as a balance, I’ve found that only 1 approach works. The Opposite Approach. Whenever I feel the urge to hurry, I will do the exact opposite of hurry: no ifs-and’s-or-but’s. I will calmly take my time even if I am late for work. For one (and for me), taking my time doesn’t mean wasting it. For two, I bet that I make it to desired destination just as quickly and, now, with a clearer mind. Why Opposite Approach is so crucial? Because if I practice patience wholly and without making excuses, I surmise that it will wholly permeate my every thought & action so that patience becomes second nature. (Think on how, in athletic endeavors, I’m now left-foot -dominate, despite being right-handed, because of wholly playing Left-D in soccer every single game throughout my high school career.)
 
I will calmly take my time even if. 
 
The Book of Chakra Healing, Liz Simpson.
Daily journal, given by a great friend.
Journal Nightly. Throughout junior high, high school, and college, I was a huge journal-er. Not only did it keep me writing daily, which is crucial to the integrity of any writer, but also, it truly helped me to sort through the webs and annals of my brain. To confront the lies that crept in whilst I wasn’t a-watch. Journaling helped me through some of the most crucial and fragile moments in my life so that I could recover and, ultimately, heal. It had to be over 1 year ago that I stopped. A few months ago, when I began learning about and working on Chakras, I realized how integral daily journaling is to keeping me in balance. I’m excited to begin my journaling anew, using both a journal and my laptop to stay connected with the written word and my most tangled-up of thoughts.
 
I will journal nightly, even if it is just one word.
 
Yoga & Dance Regularly. Both of these, I’ve just discovered. Yoga, back around March 2012 and dance—or at least adult dance—as I began to listen to the whisperings and longings to move fluidly, once again. (Or, that’s the idea.) Immediately, upon my first visit to Open Flow with Caroline, I felt at home in the TRU Yoga Studio. Having practiced somewhat regularly for 9 months, I’ve found that Yoga has increased my muscle tone, particularly in my back and shoulders, my breath quality, as in how deeply I can inhale & exhale (and unfortunately not how freshly or sweet my breath naturally smells), and my flexibility so that my muscles feel both longer and more lithe. The anchor of calmness and rejuvenating qualities that yoga affords has changed both the way I move and the way I think. This year, I’ve realized that to attend yoga regularly is not to be indulgent. It is to be whole. Dance, where I will attend classes just across the street at Park Ave Dance Company, will be an exclamation to my newly setting routine. I cannot wait to combine the energy of Contemporary movement with the strength, balance, and flexibility of Yoga.
 
I will practice yoga & dance regularly so that I will be whole.
 
 
Free Range Meat Only. Okay, let us qualify this only. I will still eat cheese burgers, at least to start, even if they are not free range meat. And if your grandmother cooks some chix parm and invites me to dinner, I will eat grandmother’s chicken parm. All things considered, you know? Also, this is a huge dietary change for me; as long as this qualifier helps to guide me to totally free range, I’m okay with it. Why free range, you ask. Here’s the thing. I’m not interested in changing the meat industry. Right now, it’s not my calling. What I am interested in is energy. Positive and Negative Energy. Energy exists, both positive and negative, & energy is transferred. In my personal opinion, if any animal is raised or slaughtered inhumanely (and so with negative energy surrounding it), then that negative energy transfers into me when I eat it. (Again. Energy is neither created nor destroyed. It has to go somewhere!) Okay, and the thought of these inhumanely treated animals makes me feel like a hypocrite if I continue to eat them &, yet, in any degree, disagree with the inhumane treatment of any other animal, no matter how large scale or small scale this treatment may be. I’m not saying anyone is wrong for eating meat. I’m just saying that I feel compelled to begin eating only free range meat. And I cannot ignore how I feel (even if another thinks I’m crazy or frivolous or inane or annoying or {insert judgment here}, and if you do care about what I eat, I implore you to ask yourself why. And then why again. Boom.).
 
I will begin to eat only free range meat. 
 
My first book
of meditation & mindfulness.

 
Meditate Daily. I began practicing meditation my senior of college while taking my first creative writing class with a woman who has grown to be one of my most favorite professors at The University of Pittsburgh. A highly accredited writer, Prof. Fiona Cheong explored alternative methods to inspiring creativity and centered her class upon meditation. She asserts that studies show that the same wave lengths emitted by the brain during meditation are akin to those generated during creativity. And so we breathed. At first for 5 minutes while beginning each class. Gradually working up to 10. We also learned. By following the mindfulness practices of Tich Nhat Hanh, this class implored us to fold meditation into our daily lives with activities such as walking meditation, washing dishes meditation, and oranges meditation. Since 2007, it’s taken many years and semi-routine yoga classes to build my mind’s muscles strong enough so that they can let go of all thoughts, moving or not, and breathe. While I typically meditate before falling asleep at night, I’ve found that folding meditation into my daily routines—much like those lessons taught by Tich Nhat Hanh and instilled by Prof. Cheong—centers me. So that I am me, in spite of.
I will meditate daily, in spite of.
 
My hope is that all of these will help me to trust my instincts more fully. If I cannot trust myself, then who or what can I?? 
 
 
Happy New Year 2013!!
♥.