Categories
Mindfulness Meditation

Contemplating Being And Doing

During the pandemic I’ve been concerned about my tendency to value doing over being, which makes sense in the context of my work as a counselor and teacher. There are needs of others to attend; focusing on my own needs for stillness and solitude can feel selfish.

But there is great value in contemplation. Finding stillness within; spending time observing rather than intervening; knowing that sometimes the best thing you can do is what you don’t; each of these may open into a perception with greater clarity. With clarity comes a calmer way of seeing and understanding the world as it is at present.

This meditation is intended to help with the experience of stillness, and includes recitation of two poems by Mary Oliver. You’ll find them just beneath the video and audio.

Today by Mary Oliver

Today I’m lying low and I’m

not saying a word

I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,

the bees in the garden rumbling a little,

the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.

And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.

Quiet as a feather.

I hardly move though really I’m traveling

a terrific distance.

Stillness.  One of the doors

into the temple.

The Notebook by Mary Oliver

Six a.m.—

the small, pond turtle lifts its head into the air like a green toe.

It looks around.

What it sees is the whole world swirling back from darkness:

a red sun rising over the water, over the pines,

and the wind lifting, and the water-striders heading out,

and the white lilies opening their happy bodies.

The turtle doesn’t have a word for any of it—

The silky water or the enormous blue morning, or the curious affair of his own body.

On the shore I’m so busy scribbling and crossing out

I almost miss seeing him paddle away through the wet, black forest.

More and more the moments come to me: how much can the right word do?

Now a few of the lilies are a faint flamingo inside their white hearts

and there is still time to let the last roses of the sunrise float down into my uplifted eyes.

Categories
Mindfulness Meditation

Managing Stress During the Pandemic: Social Connections Matter!

Surviving stressful times means attention to self-care of the body, mind and soul.  Exercise, healthy eating, social connecting, prayer and meditation are all helpful.  But don’t overlook the importance of casual connections, and see what impact you make on those who need your casual connection.

On Thursday, August 3 2020 Jane Brody, in her weekly “Personal Health” column, described the impact of social connections on well-being, especially on stress management during the pandemic. As you would expect, maintaining social connection with those closest to us is very important, but maintaining social connection with so-called “weaker ties” (i.e. acquaintances) also predicts a lot about well-being. Here is an excerpt from her column:

“Katherine L. Fiori, chairwoman of undergraduate psychology at Adelphi University who studies social networks of older adults, has found that activities that foster “weaker ties” than are formed with family and close friends foster greater life satisfaction and better emotional and physical health.

“The greater the number of weaker ties, the stronger the association with positive feelings and fewer depressed feelings,” Dr. Fiori said in an interview. “It’s clearly not the case that close ties are all that older adults need.”

And not just older adults, all adults. Dr. Fingerman said research has shown that, in general, “people do better when they have a more diverse group of people in their lives.” But as Dr. Fiori observed, “Unfortunately, Covid has severely curtailed our ability to maintain weaker ties. It can take a lot more effort to do this online.”

Dr. Fingerman’s research has also shown that people who are more socially integrated are also more active physically. “Being sedentary kills you,” she said. “You have to get up and move to be with the people you run into when exercising.” Consequential strangers also help your brain, she said, because “conversations are more stimulating than with people you know well.””

From “The Benefits of Talking to Strangers,” Jane Brody, NYTimes, August 3, 2020

You can find this article in full at this link:


At our August 4, 2020 “Take a Break From Stress” online meditation meeting, I recorded this video (audio-only can be found directly below the video) that is based on this theme:

Audio:

Best wishes for a peaceful day,

Jim