Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hurry Up to Slow Down: The Paradox of Mindful Living

   So I had an epiphany yesterday – I was cooking a zucchini omelet for lunch  and had the following thought: I would be happy all of the time if I didn't have to rush and hurry.

   What a profound insight. It led me to wonder what I was rushing around for – Why do I always feel that I am in a hurry?

   Well, I had to laugh at the answer! I rush off in the morning to go practice yoga, and then I rush home to sit and meditate, and then I rush through meditation to rush off to walk the dog, and then I hurry the dog home so can hurry through paperwork and cooking lunch so I can walk quickly to work. In all of my attempts to slow down, I still managed to somehow speed up. I hurry up so I can slow down, I hurry now so I can relax later, I hurry through this moment so I can be present in the next. Oh, how silly I am!

   There was a time in my life where slowing down came much more naturally to me. Living in Northern Thailand, where the pace of life is more mellow than North America, it was much easier to see the world with fresh eyes, appreciating all that the present moment had to offer. In a culture that lives so differently then we do, I walked down the city streets of Chiang Mai in awe of all that I saw, smelled, and tasted. I worked little and earned little and I was so happy. I was never in a rush. My biggest decisions in a day were "Do I want the pineapple shake or the mango shake? Green curry or Red curry?"

   Thai culture kept my life fairly simple. It was cheaper to eat out than to cook for yourself. I had a laundry lady who washed, dried, and folded my clothes. The city was small enough that I could bike everywhere. The Rasta bar was around the corner from where I lived – they played Bob Marley every night – I was in heaven. The Thai phrase "Mai Pen Rai" sums up Thai life quite nicely – it literally means "no worries."

   When I returned to North America, I vowed to bring a little piece of Mai Pen Rai back to my life in Canada. I wanted to live simply here, no rushing, no worries. And while I cook, clean,  and do my own laundry, I am blessed enough to be able to have the space to slow down and yet I still manage to fill that space with spiritual to-do lists and zen activities.

   So this morning, I biked slower to yoga, enjoying the quarter moon still out at 5:45 am. I let myself ride in a lower gear, not peddling so hard, no longer pushing to get to my destination. Once, when I was on a meditation retreat, a monk told me of spiritual practice that I needed try – One Gear Lower, he called it. Just shift into a lower gear and slow down. I remembered his words this morning. One gear lower, slow down.

   I practiced yoga with much less attachment to how many poses I "got done." I biked home slowly, enjoying the morning sun that was now awake for the day. I wrote this blog leisurely, while watching a cat bath in the sun and a dog chew on a bone. So content, they are, so Mai Pen Rai.

   And now, I will slowly walk the dog, one gear lower. Ahhhh, how I have missed Mai Pen Rai.

© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, Angela Dawn MacKay 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Anxiety Monster

Here lies the Anxiety Monster. Shhh! Do not wake him, for even though he appears to be snuggled in the darkness, he lies in wait, ready to feed on your insecurities and angst, your fears and self-doubt, and most of all, your self-hatred and aggression.

So why don't you give him what he wants? Why don't you feed the Anxiety Monster all of your worst thoughts and your most shameful deeds? Send him a basket full of anxiety, all of the unkind words that you say to yourself over and over again.

You can feed him all of your angst and woe, but know this – he is always hungry and will always want more. He will never be satisfied with what you left at the door. So how do you deal with a monster who is always hungry?

The only way to stop him from eating a hole through your heart is to make room for him there. Find a space that he can live on all the love that you can give, a space where he can heal the woe of all that he ate so long ago. Swaddle him in the folds of your heart, finally accept him as one tiny part, a part of you that expects too much, from yourself and others, a heavy touch.

Remember that the only way to turn away from praise and blame, pride and shame, it to be just a little more kind to the monsters of your mind. See the wisdom that they represent rather than see their rage, angst, and lament. Gather your monsters with love and care, acknowledging the wisdom hidden in there.

For the Anxiety Monster can be open and free, the wisdom of equanimity, seeing all things, both big and small, as worthy of love from one and all. What appears as a monster is just one side, for the wisdom, it does tend to hide, or rather the monster is too scary, for us to see its wisdom clearly. So kiss your monster on the cheek – notice it, but let it sleep, don't feed it with the stories of our mind that we tell ourselves all the time. Let it be and you will see the wisdom within anxiety.

© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, Angela Dawn MacKay 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Peter the Poetic Pig

   Once upon a time, on a farm far far away, lived Peter the Pig. While his friends were out playing in the manure and the mud, Peter would sit in the corner of the pen, composing his next masterpiece using nothing more than a dirty stick and a piece of crumbling birch bark.
   Peter wrote down everything he saw. He wrote down the feel of the mud between his toes. He wrote down the things he smelled with his nose – the mud, the breeze, the grass, the trees – Peter wrote down it all. He described everything he saw - the chicken and the crow and how they moved just so. Peter wrote it all down for prosperity, even though he didn't want anyone to see, see what he'd written in the corner of the pen, sitting all serenely, all quiet and zen.
   But then one day, Peter's writing corner was disturbed by a Bull who was most perturbed. The Bull snorted and snuffed, he stamped and huffed. He glared at Peter and then stomped towards him.
  "What are you doing over there?" the Bull asked Peter with a curious stare.
  "Why, I'm writing," Peter said, looking up over his page, wondering why the bull was in such a rage.                   "Writing…," said the Bull. "What's writing?"
    "Hmmm," Peter said. He had never thought that the farm animals may not know what writing was or what it meant to be a poet.
   "Well, writing is when you make certain marks on paper that mean things, like a picture of the words we say out loud," Peter said. "Here let me show you… This here is the letter "A" and this is how you make a "B"…"
    The Bull sat down beside Peter, looking very closely as Peter pointed to the strange markings.
   "A…" the Bull repeated.
   Peter smiled, offering his stick and bark to the Bull. "Would like to try?" Peter asked.
   The Bull looked from Peter to the stick and bark. He extended his hoof, gingerly taking hold of the stick. And the Bull began to write.
  "That's right, " Peter said. "First, you put a line here, and then you move the stick down this way, and then you move this way."
   The Bull did just as Peter instructed. He stopped to look over his creation.
  "A…" the Bull said, smiling. Then he looked at Peter and then looked down at the ground. "Can you teach me more?" the Bull asked.
  "Why, yes, of course," Peter said.
   So day after day, it went this way, with Peter teaching the Bull the alphabet. Soon, the Bull could not only read small words, but he could write short sentences as well.
   One day, the Bull decided he wanted to write a poem.
   "How do you write a poem?" the Bull asked Peter.
   "Well, you just write what you see, what you hear, what you smell, what you touch," Peter said. "A poem can rhyme, but it doesn't have to."
    The Bull gave it a try. He used his own stick and wrote in the mud. He wrote and wrote, it seemed like forever that he wrote. And then the Bull put the stick down and looked up.
   "Would you like to read it?" the Bull asked Peter.
   Peter smiled. "Yes, I would," he said.
   He looked down at what the Bull had written:

   Down in the mud, I learned to write,
   with the wind blowing and the sun bright.
   A poet pig, an unlikely friend,
   became my teacher, in the end.

  Peter looked up at the Bull and smiled. The Bull smiled back.
  "That is a very good beginning," Peter said. "But we are not done yet…There's still limericks and haiku's and…"
   Peter and the Bull walked back towards the farm house, arm in arm. They were unlikely friends, indeed.

© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, Angela Dawn MacKay 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Recipe for Peace and Contentment

Main Ingredients:
One cozy bed
Three wooly blankets
A cup of hot tea
Several good novels

Live Ingredients:
One fuzzy dog
Two cuddly cats
One loving husband/wife (optional)

For the topping:
A little whipped cream
Cinnamon and nutmeg sprinkles
Lots of time and space

Mix the main ingredients into a swirl of Ahhhh! Then gently stir in the live ingredients until the cats are purring, the dog is snuggling, and the husband/wife is snoozing. Mix the topping, stirring with awareness and love. Dollop it over the top of the bed with soft music. Allow the peace to cool, letting the scents of the moment linger, hanging in the air. Take the time to drink in all of the moment; both the purring cats, and the snoring husband/wife; the sunshine streaming through the window or the rain pounding on the roof.

Be still and listen. Breathe. Appreciate simplicity. Notice that all around is what it is without your opinion about it. Beware, for the baking of peace and contentment cannot be rushed – it takes precision, patience, and presence.

And whatever arises out of this primordial soup, be with it as it is, without your opinion making it anymore real than anything else. Allow anger to cool into clarity, passion to deepen into compassion, and ignorance to fade into wisdom. Breathe.… Feel.… Listen.… Look.…Smell.… Taste. …Touch.…

Touch your deepest sorrow, your hidden longings, and your secret delights. Live here in this moment of now-ness. Breathe in the ordinary…Breathe in your true nature…and rest in that.…

© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, Angela Dawn MacKay 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Mermaid who wanted to be a Pirate

  Once upon a time, there was a Mermaid who lived deep in the sea. Ever since she was a little girl, she wanted to be a pirate on a pirate ship. She would dress up in her pirate hat and eye patch, waving her sword, screaming "Shiver me timbers!" to all who would listen. She stole pearls from the oysters and took the goldfishes’ gold.
   The Mermaid longed for the day which she could be a real Pirate, sailing on pirate ship on the High Seas. She waited in the underground caverns with her buried treasure in hopes that she could lure in some pirates.
   Then one day, the Mermaid's plan worked. A pirate ship set anchor in the harbor near the cavern.
   “They must be able to smell the treasure,” the Mermaid said, smiling. “For I know I certainly can!”
   The Pirates rowed small fishing boats ashore and tethered them along the rocks. One by one, they climbed through the narrow passageway that was the cave's entrance. There, on a rock in the center of an underground pool, the Mermaid sat, waiting. 
    “Greetings, fine gentlemen!” the Mermaid, taking a bow. “Are you here to look for buried treasure?”
     "Aye, lass, we are! I am Captain Crook, criminal of the High Seas,” the Captain said, bowing as he took off his big purple hat. “And who might you be?”
  “I am the Mighty Mer-Pirate, Pillager of the Low Seas,” the Mermaid said. “ I steal from the waters and the creatures below.” 
   “Well, Mighty Mer-Pirate – I’m afraid that your bounty will be ours! Argh!!!” Captain Crook said, laughing. 
   “Well, Captain Crook – I’m afraid that your fine ship will be mine!” the Mermaid said as she dove into the water and swam towards the pirate ship.
   “Argh! After her, your filthy swine!” Captain Crook said, pointing at his crew.  
     The filthy pirates jumped back into their rows boats and rowed as fast they could. But they were not as fast as a mermaid swimming through the sea.
     The Mermaid easily beat the pirates to the ship. The pirates shouted and cursed, calling the Mermaid horrible, slimy things. 
     She ignored their curses and climbed up a ladder, pulled up the anchor, and hosted the mast. Then the Mermaid stood at the helm of her ship and addressed the pirates below.   
    “Ahh, you poor Pirates, don’t you know – there is no honour among thieves, especially those who sail the Seas. Buried treasure for your ship – it’s not a bad deal – in fact, I’d say, it’s quite a good steal!” the Mermaid said laughing.
     “Argh! You Slippery Fish! We’ll get you, if it's that last thing we ever do!” Captain Crook called.
      And with that, the Mermaid sailed off in the waters, sailing the High Seas, at last. She put on her eye patch and plum coloured hat, the one with the grey feather sticking out of the back. She grabbed her sword and went to the wheel, screaming “Shiver me Timbers!” out to the whales and seals. She swobbed the deck with her tail, sliding up and down the wooden planks. She cursed at the parrot and spit overboard.
      “A real Pirate, I am now, at last! And oh, how it is such a blast!” the Mermaid said.