“Those who make compassion an essential part of their lives find the joy of life. Kindness deepens the spirit and produces rewards that cannot be completely explained in words. It is an experience more powerful than words. To become acquainted with kindness one must be prepared to learn new things and feel new feelings. Kindness is more than a philosophy of the mind. It is a philosophy of the spirit.”
~ Robert J. Furey
I’m a firm believer that we as humans struggle with the modern day lives we have created for ourselves. With longer working hours, increased stress and pressure, reduced exercise and time outdoors, the exposure to toxins and decline of quality nutrition in our diets, our bodies are working much harder that they need to be. Our modern lifestyles come at a cost to our wellbeing.
I have experienced this personally. There has been a time in my life that for months (or more) on end, my mind, body and soul had suffered erosion and I had felt all tanks finally reach EMPTY.
Once a single mother with young babies, living with PND, PTSD and sleep deprivation – my health and wellbeing broke down completely. I was living far away from family and friends so support came as an occasional voice on the end of the phone. The chance for physical breaks to refuel, rest and give something back to myself were rare. Until the day I stumbled across a concept that stopped me in my tracks: KINDFULNESS: the principle of enriching mindfulness with kindness to create a sense of warmth, gentleness and peace within a meditation practice.
I was certainly no yogi at the time, or any kind of meditation master. Especially with two small babies and a Tween in tow. My best attempt at mindfulness was to try and keep my mind in the present moment while I ploughed through a large pile of washing (aka Mount Washiosko) or other motherly tasks around my home. It helped in keeping worry and anxiety at bay, but did not have me feeling relaxed or replenished in any way. So when reading more about the teachings of Ajahn Brahm, and clearing space to implement this simple concept of Kindfulness, my life began to literally transform. Within minutes.
What I love about this ritual I’m about to share with you is this – no matter what your time management, health or even money situation is, this is a gift you can give yourself whenever and wherever you like. I think of it as creating sacred space for me to hang and connect with myself – to listen to my body, bring everything back to centre and rebalance. It is a place I make room to cultivate joy, forgiveness and to exercise self-compassion.
The foundation of wellbeing begins with the balance of mind, body and spirit, and without awareness of when this balance is disturbed, dis-ease is initiated. How can we give our bodies what they are crying out for if we can’t hear them? Of course this isn’t the sole answer to restoring wellbeing, but it’s a darn good start! Feel free to modify this exercise to make it your own.
Introduction to Kindfulness
Find a place that is quiet and comfortable. Seated is best, with hands placed together in front of the heart. This helps you stay in your heart’s centre, rather than in your head.
Begin by closing the eyes and taking some slow and gentle breaths. Inhale for 3-4 seconds, then exhale through the mouth, making sure you can hear your breath on its way out.
How is your body feeling? Tight? Tense in places? Stressed? Increased heart rate? Make sure to observe rather than begin delving into each symptom you notice.
Next, begin your gentle breaths at your own pace, working with your body’s natural rhythms. Become aware of what you observe. You can deepen this by bringing your mind to the top of your head, and gently scanning down into the face, neck, upper torso and continue on slowly until you get to the feet. Mindfulness is about creating awareness, and acknowledging the feedback your body is giving you.
Now it’s time to send love, warmth and kindness to those feelings of stress and tension. Hold those feelings tenderly as you would a newborn child or a tiny flower. Greet them lovingly, and continue the gentle breaths while doing so. Visualise a warm, thick, gold, melting liquid gently flowing down from the top of your head, slowly making it’s way to your feet as you scan and observe. Gently smile while doing so to deepen the practice and your intention.
(#Key Tip: there is no time limit for this process. Take as long as you need. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your body)
The home stretch… Bring your mind back to you breath. Begin observing the new feelings you have. The noticeable differences are often feelings of warmth, joy, fuzziness, relaxed and calm. Or perhaps you still feel a sense of anxiety and unrest, but with a little more ease this time. This is okay too. Notice that there may be new space around these emotions where you can tend to them on a deeper level without judgement.
The most important thing to remember is that this sacred practice is ever changing, and is the highest act of self love and compassion you can give yourself. It is a true reconnection of your mind, body and soul. To feel everything fully, and then nurture yourself with kindfulness is a hug for the soul and spirit.
With Warmth and Kindness,