Mind Full or Mindful?

The rhythmic patterns of undulating water are calming.

"It has been shown that being near, in on or under water 
can make you happier, healthier, more connected and better at what you do."
Taken from the book "Blue Mind", by Wallace J. Nichols

Watching soft waves lapping over sand in shallow waters
with the gentle ripples just catching the sun and drawing my attention 
to a beautiful white pebble beneath the surface.

Being mindful seems to be talked about a lot, but do we really know what it is?
Our busy lives are very full, so are our minds as we rush from one occupation
to another, sometimes doing several things at once.
Even our leisure time can become stressful when we try and cram in
too many things.

"It is only through the senses that we experience what it means to be fully human"
extract from "Sight and Sensibility" by Laura Sewall.

The ocean brings in a new energy.
When we are near the sea, all our senses are awakened;
sight, sound, smell touch and hearing.
The ocean awakens us so that we may understand life and live it more deeply.

Tender embrace

Noticing things as if for the very first time in a contemplative manner,
without labelling or judging.
This little catkin full of yellow pollen entwined in last year's leaf.
I loved how the soft natural background brought my attention to this lovely scene.

A play of shadows on a white wall and door 
brings me into a whole different dimension that feels surreal.
Shadows can transport us into a whole new world.

I recently came across these sweet snowdrops nodding their little heads
in the breeze.
They brought me totally into the moment, despite the town environment.
As I contemplated their welcome presence
all other sounds and distractions disappeared.
My breathing slowed and I felt my body relax.

I brought some pussy-willow into my home and notice how the little fluffy balls
change a little each day.
Nature is a perfect way to absorb life mindfully.

Walking along the lake, besides the lovely view on the water and mountains,
I am taken by the shadows of the decorative iron railing.
Walking mindfully, conscious of each steps I take, and how that feels,
is another way of calming the mind and letting go of any overflowing thoughts.

Have you noticed that when in shock, saddened or grieving, our breathing
becomes more rapid and shallow?
This immediately increases our feelings of anxiety.

The best way for me to calm down is to slow my pace, 
become aware of my breathing and consciously slowing its rhythm.

Here is a link to slow, calm breathing:
The cardiac coherence is a rhythmic or a coherent heart rate variability (HRV)
that balances the nervous system associated with stress and emotional state.
This can be attained through this 5-minute breathing technique.

Perhaps you use your own methods of practicing mindfulness,
it is possible that you're even doing it without even giving it a name!
It is useful to know that bringing ourselves into this state can
lower our blood pressure, reduce our stress levels, enhances sleep and improve our concentration.

Being aware of the beauty before us, and immersing ourselves
quite totally, allows us to take a step back from our over-active lives
and minds and bring us into a field of inner peace and contentment.

Breathe in the sky!

Many people manage to make space in each day to do mindful meditation,
but even without this, sitting quietly and breathing calmly for five minutes
will certainly be very beneficial.
I'd love to hear if you give that a try and how you feel about your experience.
Walking meditation is something which anyone can do.
Try it!

Slow breathing is something that can be practiced anywhere.
I sometimes do it when waiting in a queue. 
It calms any feeling of impatience I might have.
It can even be done when stuck in traffic jams or when travelling on public transport.

As a last thought,
Jon Kabat-Zinn, in his book "Wherever You Go, There You Are"
"Mindfulness provides a simple but powerful route for getting ourselves unstuck,
back in touch with our own wisdom and vitality.
It is a way to take charge of the direction and quality of our own lives,
including our relationships with the family, our relationship to work
and to the larger world and planet, and most fundamentally, our relationship
with ourself as a person."

I have enclosed a photo of some of the books that I have found useful. 

The Little Things Around Us

Beauty is all around us to awaken all our senses
but how often do we think about the beauty of all the little everyday things?
We sometimes just take them for granted, or don't even notice them.

A simple needle and thread which is taken out and used
Do we really see it?
We may appreciate how useful it is and even look at it
differently one day and see how aesthetically lovely it can be in its simple way.

Matches are in most households
I keep this little decorative box in my living-room,
always on hand to light a candle.

There are so many useful little tools in my kitchen area.
One of my favourites is this small ginger-root grater.
I use ginger a lot, both in my cooking and in warming winter drinks.

Another little item in constant daily use is my individual herb tea filter.
It's great for making just one big mug of delicious peppermint or lemon verbena.

The humble pencil sharpener
I just love using pencils, especially freshly sharpened ones.
How pretty the little curls of pencil shavings appear.
I can hardly bear to throw them away and have been known to keep some
in a small glass bowl on my desk just to look at their shapes and texture
and see how they catch the light!

"Great oaks from little acorns grow"
I love to collect these in the autumn
and keep them in a small pottery bowl to enjoy them each time I pass by.

There are other little things which are so important, like exchanging a smile with someone
sitting next to us on the bus, maybe even saying a few words.
A small gesture of help, like holding a shop door for a mother 
with a pushchair
or being thankful when a younger person stands up to let me sit down
in the metro lurching dangerously forward as it sets off!

It's the little things in life which have enormous importance
They influence the way we feel.
By noticing all these things as we go about our daily life,
it adds new meaning into all we do.

Looking on the Bright Side

In the normal course of everyday life,
there can be times when we may feel discouraged, disappointed or saddened.
We often have our mind set on something in particular which falls through,
making us feel let-down.

Allowing the difficult moment to pass, 
and creating the necessary space or distance between our emotional response
to an actual situation, allows us to dedramatize things as we see them in the moment.
In other words, letting the negative feelings fall way when things don't go as we'd hoped.
From that moment on, we're able to reconstruct a situation
without labelling it as good or bad.
Turn the page, rewrite the story, create something new and
accept what has happened, or in some cases, what has not happened.

This is all about looking on the bright side of things and adapting to new situations as they arise.

When I look at life, which is a mixture of light and shadows,
I can see that the shadows help us better see the light.

"The darker the night, the brighter the stars"
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

February is here with longer days and more light.
The florists are selling little pots of spring bulbs which bring joy into any home.
This last little narcissus flower smiled at me bringing me sunshine into my day.

Bunches of tulips are available in beautiful warm shades
just waiting to fill my prettiest vase.

and it's a joy to capture their lovely lines with my macro lens.

 These days, I'm watching four hyacinth bulbs develop in a little box.
I love these buds getting ready to unfold.

So happy soaking up the sunlight in front of the window

and opening a little more each day
bringing colour and happiness into my life.

Besides photography, crochet always puts me in a marvellous mood.
Joyful colours, the act of creating something new,
sometimes to make gifts, sometimes to decorate my little home.

I made this colourful heart-shaped wreath a couple of years ago.
Right now it's bringing cheerfulness to all who pass and also for me
every time I come home!

So if you're feeling just a little glum today,
for whatever reason,
just stand back from it all
breathe slowly and deeply
and create a new situation for yourself.
It works every time!

This time last year, it was snowing.

Scene and Story for January 2017

How do I embrace the long month of January?
I fill it with all the things I love!
I light a candle in a pretty cut crystal candle holder.
I reread some favourite books to savour them once again
and discover new delicious details I may have missed before!

I get out my yarns and crochet hook and start creating with colour and design.
There is nothing more rewarding!
I like to feel the softness of the yarn, choose the colours by the mood I'm in.
Feel the smooth metal of the hook work its way in and out of the stitches
in a calming rhythmic manner.
Creating circular designs which have a beautiful harmonious feel to them
Mandalas too are full of flowing harmony.
Snip the yarn, sew in the loose ends.
What shall I make?
It doesn't matter for now.
Just create and sigh a sigh of contentment.
The pleasure is in the doing as much as in the foreseeable end product.

January can be a tad grey and windy and cold and wet or snowy,
but all these things are a perfect excuse to do everything I love doing!
Even photography is possible indoors
and although it can be more of a challenge, because of poor lighting,
it's time to get out that wide open prime lens and play with distance and angle.

So dear January
Do your best with wind and snow
I am snug at home!


Joining Sarah at Paisley Rain Boots and Lee at Sea Blue Lens
for Scene & Story every month.

Slow Living

Admiring the elegant green needles on this pine branch and the
fluffy fresh snow,
my thoughts turn to how it is so easy to fall into a pattern of a frenetic
lifestyle in the fast lane.

Taking the time to notice how nature creates beautiful still life
arrangements, like these seedpods, leaves and moss fallen after the last snowfall.

Slow living is all about taking the time to savour and fully engage with life.

Just as snowfall slows down nature.
Mindful walking brings our attention to small details.
It makes us more aware and connects us to the present moment.

I noticed these beautiful reflections as I meandered where my steps took me
on my walk.
This scene made me think of the seaside. The wet sands, 
the receding waves leaving shiny reflections of the blue sky.
In fact, this scene was created by melting snow on a country road.

We notice more when we slow down. 
We take the time to see the splendour in the simplest things.

If I had been rushing along, preoccupied in my thoughts, I wouldn't have noticed
the shadow of a tree on a house as I walked up the hill away from the town centre
to be closer to nature.

Further up the hill, I saw how the trees were reflected in the windows of this wooden house.

Looking down, I paused to enjoy the sight of this tiny feather joined by a fallen leaf
on the paving stones. The naturally artistic arrangement was certainly worthy of my pause!

Finally I get up higher where I can see tall trees in all their majestic winter beauty.
This beautiful old oak with gnarled and twisting branches
stretching out to embrace the blue of the early February sky.
The days are getting longer
and all my senses are awakened as I hear the first birdsong of the year.

Sometimes we cannot get out into nature, but we can bring some into our home.
I picked these Chinese Lanterns from a pot on my balcony.
I marvelled at the lacy patterns and structure on their surface.

Noticing how abstract art can be created by gazing at ice-cubes in a bowl.

Some shiny marbles near the window drew attention to themselves in the light.

A tiny narcissus flower in a pot in my home is just coming into bloom.
I like to take the time to enjoy the beauty in shape, texture and colour.

I know that for many people, life is hectic.
The fact of going out to work each day and constantly looking at our watches
is all part of life in the fast lane
and often after work there are meals to prepare and children's needs
to be seen to.

But it would be so beneficial to take just a few moments, if we cannot manage more.
To include perhaps 15 minutes in our day to just to be
instead of constantly conjugating the verb 'to do'.

Early mornings can be used to bring calmness into our lives
Deep breathing exercises do wonders to relieve stress.
Getting up earlier to enjoy peaceful moments
before the rush of the day begins.

I have been meaning to have one day a week when I switch off everything.
That means my computer, my telephone, the television and the radio.
One day and one evening of the week where I can enjoy
the simplicity and quiet without all these distractions and noise.
It will be my goal during this month of February.

Do any of you offer yourselves this special day of peace during your week?

In the meantime, I welcome the quiet moments, going about my everyday occupations
slowly and mindfully (most of the time)!
This includes the preparation and the eating of a meal
and sitting down at the table to eat.

Immersing ourselves in nature , especially for us town-folk, is so beneficial.
Going to the park or taking a bus out of the city
into the peaceful environment to enjoy the trees, the plants and listen to birdsong.

At the end of each day, it's good to observe how I have lived this day.
Have I been rushing from one thing to another
or have I taken the time to slow down and really live
the precious moments as they constantly arise and pass?

It's never too late to finish the day with 
a little personal time to unwind. 
This doesn't mean constantly checking our mobile phones
or switching on the television!

The Slow Movement is being mentioned more and more.
Are we really listening?
It's time!