by Innerworks on December 13, 2012

The Gift of Winter: Silence

Okanagan Lake lies still, dark and silent.  It is time for its natural resting season from the intensity of activity the past summer. A winter blanket of gentle snow as far as one can see creates a softening to our world in the Okanagan that was previously so active and abuzz.  Something stirs deep within as we view and experience our world in winter. We are reminded of our own natural rhythms and our true nature to take time to become still, to rest, to be silent.

The Okanagan Mission area is moderately populated and offers many services and amenities for a wonderful balanced lifestyle, and because of its unique situation in the valley and commercial make-up, it is not subject to much thoroughfare traffic. The rhythms of the Okanagan Mission community are determined by the daily rhythms of the residents.  There are those special winter snowfalls that still the activity of the residents and a deep and palatable hush descends on the area.   Stillness penetrates all with the gift of silence from the snowfall.   And from the stillness and silence we feel the grace of a moment of peace.

Just as the water and land are rejuvenated from this time of stillness and silence so are all beings.  We can choose to struggle through this time or utilize this time to deeply benefit our mind, body and spirit.  We can consciously step into the winter season with the intention to accept a different pace in which to live; to slow down, become stiller and receive the healing benefits of this quieter time.

Gifts of silence and stillness:

v  Control over our senses; particularly speaking.  Stop talking so much is one of the simplest and fastest ways we can experience greater silence, presence and connection with ourselves and others.

v  Calms and sooths the nerves thus making it easier to get both mental and physical work done.

v  Provides space and opportunity for self analysis and contemplation: recognizing patterns of the mind.  From this we can choose and make positive changes with awareness from inner knowing.

v  Control over our emotions as repetitive experiences of conscious and contemplative silence bring serenity and calmness.

v  Develops inner spiritual strength.

v  Develops receptivity and listening skills.

Exercise:

 

Incorporate a few minutes of silence into your daily routine: observing one silent minute in your car before driving to work or at your desk just before beginning work.  Take a moment to turn your focus inwards and be silent during lunch, in your car before starting the drive home, after watching the evening news or a minute of conscious silence before sleep.  Choose a “cue” that will work for you to remind you of this simple but profound practice.

 

Many have the perception that a Canadian winter is something that is to be avoided; the snow, the long nights and diving temperatures. The temperate winters of the Okanagan can provide a comfortable opportunity to receive the gift of winter.   Others become anxious with the busyness of the seasons social responsibilities.  Through the practice of silence we can make those conscious choices of how we perceive our environment and what we choose to experience so the gifts are not lost upon us.  These are the gifts of inner quiet, peace and calm. This is the Gift of Winter: Silence.

In the sweet territory of silence we touch the mystery. It’s the place of reflection and contemplation, and it’s the place where we can connect with the deep knowing, to the deep wisdom way.
— Angeles Arrien quoted in The Millionth Circle by Jean Shinoda Bolen

Published in the Okanagan Mission Review Winter 2012 Edition

 

 

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Preparing for Autumn on a Deeper Level

by Innerworks on September 20, 2012

  Acceptance.  This is the quality that prepares us for the change from the fun-filled, balmy days of summer to    the return of routine and cooler days of fall, for the change of any season and for all changes in life. Acceptance is not about a passive resignation to life; it is about a perspective that is developed from a place of neutrality and presence.  From this place all changes and situations in life; including the change of one season to the next, can be experienced with ease and clarity.

How is acceptance developed?

An important component of acceptance is the practice of “non-judgment”.  Judgment often shows up when we make a comparison.  When we compare or label something; this is good, this is bad, that was better, this is not as good, we are making a judgment and as soon as we make that judgment we create an attachment, or a belief which limits us from being with the moment and sets us up for our suffering.  One of the best ways for enjoying and embracing any moment, any season of life is by practicing non-judgment; not comparing this time or situation to anything else or any other time or situation; by seeing it for what is  and fully embracing the gifts it has to offer.

Looking at this time and our movement from the experience of summer to the experience of fall notice how you compare and label your experience.   This is natural for all of us not only living in Canada but particularly Kelowna, a summer resort town, where we are so vibrant and alive and maybe seen at our best during summer.  It can be challenging to let that time go without comparison and step into the autumn of the year where all things settle back into routine and a quieter and less exciting time.

How do we change our perspective and accept what is?  Just notice each time a judgment comes up; which will show up in the voice in your head or in your language around your experience.  Just notice, pause and instead of going with the judgment in an unconscious or unaware way, just say, “isn’t that interesting” or “what is that?”  Just notice and let it go.  Bring yourself to the present moment by being with what is right in front of you.  There is no way to truly “prepare” for any experience; what is important is to be present to every experience. This subtle and small shift will change your life from being unconscious or asleep, to a conscious life, or awake.

Autumn is the time of harvest; the time to reap the rewards of the efforts from the previous season.  Symbolically; it represents that stage in life also, the time where we can begin to relax and enjoy the fruits of our labours.  There is much to be grateful for, to embrace, enjoy, relish and be with the experience of the fall season.  Being fully present and accepting all that is unfolding at this time allows the opportunity for a new range of sensations and experiences that come with the autumn.

One season ends another begins. One experience ends another begins. The only thing that causes us challenges, discomfort or just sensation around this is our judgment; labeling what is good to what is a not good or comparing experiences.  Accept that things are transient; the seasons teach us this.  As we accept the changing seasons with equanimity we accept ourselves with that same equanimity, non-judgment and hopefully love.

 

 

 

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Mindfulness in Okanagan Mission

by Innerworks on March 23, 2012

Walking Meditation

Mindfulness in the Mission:

Special Spots in the Mission Perfect for Stress Relieving Mindfulness Practices

We are blessed with an extraordinarily beautiful environment in the Okanagan Mission. The natural beauty and geographic diversity of the Mission brings enjoyment and appreciation.  It also provides an abundant venue for the supportive de-stressing practice of mindfulness. Away from normal distractions, the easy access to nature in the Mission area provides a setting that calms our emotions and centers our attention, smoothly preparing us for meditative practices.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness can be described as a focused awareness on the present moment; observing the moment to moment thoughts and activity of the mind; not judging or attaching to the thoughts or the activity.  This place of observing the mind can be referred to as the seat of consciousness.

Why Practice?

There is a growing and popular trend to mindfulness practices as our culture has discovered that the pace, competitive nature and intensity of our high technology society has contributed to increased levels of stress, anxiety, and dissatisfaction.  Mindfulness meditative practices have been proven scientifically to counter the stress response and positively access the parasympathetic nervous system; sometimes know as the ‘rest and digest’ response.

Dr. Andrew Weil has stated that if stress is not the cause for the illness that all illnesses are exacerbated by stress.  Science has proven that mindfulness practices can counter the “fight or flight” response that is kicked off by stress and when this response is chronic, the body can be continually bombarded by stress hormones that can lead to conditions such as sleep disorders, depression, chronic fatigue, high blood pressure and heart disease.  We have lost control of our nervous systems and have become dependent on external ‘quick fixes’ that eventually lead to greater concerns for our health and well being.  Mindfulness practices help reset the nervous system and increase our ability to regulate our emotional states contributing to improved focus and concentration, clarity, increased sense of peace and openness in relationships and resiliency to change.

How to Practice?

The practice is simple; focus on the breath, begin to watch your thoughts (like watching a movie) watch with detached interest.  As your thoughts wonder, do not follow them, let them pass and bring your focus back to the breath. The goal is not to completely empty the mind, (although there may be moments of mindless bliss), but to detach from your thoughts over and over again.  Simple and also challenging; it takes commitment.  But the benefits are truly worth it.

Where to Practice?

Mindfulness practices can be done anywhere. The Okanagan Mission provides some particularly wonderful venues to support the practice and offers countless other benefits from the pure beauty of these treasured spots. Some of my favorite venues for practicing mindfulness in the Mission:

1. The Mission Creek Greenway.  (begin km zero at Lakeshore and Truswell) The greenway provides a wonderful walking meditation experience.  Use the above guidance to focus on the breath and release the mind.  As you walk become aware of your feet and connecting with the earth; keep the focus on a steady and even breath.  Soften the eyes and remain fully present with your surroundings.  When thoughts arise; allow them to pass and bring the focus back to the breath and your feet connected to the earth.

2. Cedar Park (also referred to as the Kelowna Crags, 2.6 km from the left turn off Chute Lake Rd onto Mountainside Drive, and continue up the mountain on Chute Lake Rd.)  This beautiful little park offers a very peaceful, high elevation experience of the valley; perfect for a quiet seated meditation.   A short walk from the parking lot is Lebanon Creek; it offers a spot to sit and be with a mountain stream and nature. Or continue on and find a boulder to perch on and silently sit and be with your breath and enjoy the energy of the dynamic outcrops of the rocky crags.  Sit comfortably, with spine erect, allow the eyes to be soft and downcast and focus on the breath.  Again, allow any thoughts to rise and pass and continue the focus on the breath.

3. The Labyrinth at St. Elizabeth Seton House of Prayer (5819 chute Lake Road. Take the left fork on same road to Cedar Park: see above)  Walking a labyrinth is a historical and sacred mindfulness practice.  It can be treated as a pilgrimage or a symbolic journey of life to death and rebirth.  I like to enter the labyrinth posing a question or an intention to heal a situation and as I walk, focusing on each step, my mind releases, forcing me to be fully present with the shape and design of the labyrinth.  I walk silently, head slightly down and at one with the labyrinth.  The centre of the labyrinth allows a moment of contemplation before turning back and open to receive any insight or clarity on my original intention for being there.  (Note:  is is respectful to bring a small donation to support the care of the Labyrinth and the Prayer House.)

Mindfulness practiced in the beauty and peace of the Okanagan Mission is a specia , supportive and sacred opportunity.  Enjoy.

(reprinted: from the Okanagan Mission Review Spring 2012, written by Lori Pinnell, Certified Transformational Life Coach)

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