spirit, mind, matter

"It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end." – Ursula K. Le Guin


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Freedom in Spontaneity

Things at Spirit, Mind, Matter have been busy over the past month. While I haven’t been posting frequently, we have had friends from the states visiting for the past month. Posting should become more regular soon. In the meantime, I wanted to share one of my favorite quotes:

“Laughter is the closest distance between two people.”
– Victor Borge

Victor Borge was a combination pianist-comic who filled my childhood with laughter. I was thinking about this quote and how it relates to mindfulness. When we are living in the present moment we are free and flexible. Our openness allows us the opportunity to see spontaneous humor in life and respond to the little moments in life with wisdom, humor,  and kindness.

I had a moment with this the other day.  I recently accepted a job back in the music classroom. I was moving things into my new classroom when I saw a little boy (perhaps 2nd grade) hop out of the window on the ground floor to go to the playground. Don’t get too worried, it was a 4 foot drop, at the most, and it was after school.   The kiddo cleared that window ledge with amazing agility!  He landed directly in front of me and his face showed that he was certainly not expecting to see an adult standing there.

Earlier that day I noticed that I was rushing around.  I made a mental note to practice mindful walking from the school door to my portable classroom outside. This little incident happened as I was really dropping into the present moment. It gave me freedom.  Instead of yelling at him and dragging him to the office, I felt something different. Something inside tugged and gave me a different response. Instead, I was able to ask a gentle question, “is that a safe way to exit the classroom?” He clearly was thrown at my lack of yelling. After a moment or two, he said no, and I asked him to please go back inside and exit the classroom safely. He was relieved, we smiled, and we introduced ourselves to each other. He assured me that jumping out of the window wouldn’t happen again.

Ah, kids. 🙂

Here’s the thing. The same result happened as would have happened had I gotten mad at him and been “mean” about it. I think it’s important to think through our responses to things to see how we can get to the same end but using the freedom and spontaneity that mindfulness gives us. In my opinion, this is where the practice of ahimsa happens.

So, today, as we encounter people and situations, let us practice mindfulness to appreciate the kind spontaneity that can permeate our day!

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Non-Violence

Almost every spiritual tradition has a teaching on non-violence.  Jesus asks us to turn the other cheek, many eastern religions  and practices (including yoga) use the word ahimsa.  Do no harm.

Most people are pretty good at noticing when they are causing harm to others but many, including myself, forget that these teachings also apply to how we treat ourselves.

Take a moment to think about the ways that you may show violence to yourself.

Shocking, right?

I don’t know about you, but my list has had one or more of these on it at some point or another (and still does)!

  • Beating myself up for something I said, didn’t say, did, didn’t do, did but not “good” enough,  did but it didn’t have the reaction I’d hoped for.
  • Ate too much, too fast
  • Drank too much, too fast
  • Slept too little, too much
  • Didn’t take a day off of exercise when I knew I needed to rest
  • Took too many days off exercise because I was feeling lazy
  • Harshly judging myself to standards I’d never hold friends accountable for

I mean, the list goes on and on and for what purpose? This is violence to self. If we live a life of violence to ourselves, how can we be compassionate to others?  Certainly, we can to an extent, but at some point, that violence to ourselves limits us in compassion to others.

Be kind to yourself

Today and through the weekend, I challenge us all to become watchers for the moments that we are violent to ourselves. When we notice it we can say to ourselves, “this is violence,” and pause.  We can then sit in the awareness of the violence that we are causing ourselves, offer it compassion, and see if we can discern why we are acting like this and name it.  When we see the why, we can better respond with care to ourselves.  I believe that practicing with self-compassion can deepen our compassion towards others.

Choosing to live a life of non-violence is not a one-time decision that expresses itself in the same way each day, week, month, year, or phase of our lives.  I believe that it is a daily commitment and I have faith that if we all start with ourselves, our world will become a more compassionate place.