I want to take the time to write about the calmness and rebalancing I experienced staying with Keith and Olivia. Due to the blizzard we had a whole day inside, which was great, getting to learn more about both Keith and Olivia. Olivia is a writer, therapist, and teacher who helped pioneer the integration of meditation, yoga, and cognitive therapy with traditional Western medicine. She has also worked with Harvard Medical School to train health professionals in new approaches to health and healing and she is also an author of two books (http://www.tenthousandjoysandsorrows.com/about-olivia/).
Her second book is a reflection on her experience with aging, illness, living, and dying. A combination of ancient wisdom, practical pointers, and stories. I only got to read the first chapter, but I will be buying a copy on my return to the UK! An interesting aspect to the book is the process of ageing and the taboos that seem to come with it within the western world. Growing up half Greek and half English, I can definitely notice differences in cultures towards the older generation.
Greek tradition is very much about respecting your elders; and you speak to them (be it a teacher or a friend’s parent) in a more formal way than you would with your friend. In England, there is a sense amongst people that the older generation are almost a burden on society and there is more of stigma surrounding age. Our obsession with anti-wrinkle creams and lotions is one example. If you were to become unemployed at an older age you are much less likely to get re hired by a company even though your years have provided you with so much experience.
One thing that really stuck with me from the book was a story about walking in the snow. How a lady was walking slowly whilst everyone else rushed around her. The lady had to walk slowly as her bones have become more fragile in her older age, and therefore ahe needed to take care as falls can be devastating when our bones become weaker. Time and time again I have walked passed someone, rushing past even, not considering their situation and perhaps their fragility… I was too busy thinking ahead about where I was going or what happened to me the day before.
While mindfulness is something we all naturally possess, it’s more readily available to us when we practice it on a daily basis. Whenever you bring awareness to what you’re directly experiencing via your senses, or to your state of mind via your thoughts and emotions, you’re being mindful. It is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation as well as through other training.
The next time I rush in the snow, I slow myself right down and bring myself back to the present moment instead of rushing through life worrying about my next meeting. I take the time to appreciate the air around me and be more considerate of the journey. The great Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh said ‘The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this peaceful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.’ So here I am attentively walking in the snow…
P.S. The photos in this post are photos from a google search with the usage rights displayed to ‘suitable for re use’. I do not own any of the photos in this post.