Wake Up and Smell the Birdsong

Image of a Tui

Last night I taught a workshop on stillness. Coming at the end of the day I’d experienced it was a joke. I’d had almost no sleep and was feeling completely spun out. The peaceful walk in nature I’d anticipated with my dog turned into a two-and-a-half hour fiasco involving a possum that left me hoarse and exhausted – both of us covered from head to toe in mud. I couldn’t imagine experiencing stillness, let alone teaching it to anyone. So I did what I often do in the face of impossibility. I showed up and told the truth.

Truth is, I’m not a regular meditator. I love feeling centered and peaceful but a meditation practice has never been my strong point. I asked the group does anyone here meditate? All of them raised their hands. Great, I thought. But when I probed a little deeper I discovered that many of those meditators felt they “should” be doing it more or better.

So we opened up the possibility that living a conscious centered life and developing a personal practice for peace might look different for each person. I felt the whole room breathe a sigh of relief at the dropping of yet another story of how we should be doing better. What unfolded was one of the sweetest workshops I’ve ever experienced.

Here are a few of the ideas we explored:

  • What if, instead of meditating for 20 minutes morning and night you remembered to take one conscious breath (or tried the 4-7-8 breath technique) at a busy moment in your day?
  • What if you could bring mindfulness and gratitude to the act of eating – even when eating something you’ve labeled “bad” – and what if that could be your meditation?
  • What if, instead of jumping into action mode, or getting on the Internet as soon as you awaken, you could begin your day by stepping outside and taking a few breaths to set the tone for the day you want to have?

That last one, today, is how I chose to begin. I stepped out on to my porch and a little bird in a cherry tree was singing its heart out. All by itself, in the darkness like a solo Gospel choir. The perfect new beginning…

Susannah Kenton

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