“Happiness not in another place but this place, not for another hour, but for this hour”

Walt Whitman

As this new year begins how about asking yourself what’s your sunshine? What is it that brightens and lightens your day? What is it that you love? It’s so good to be in touch with what brings us ease, joy, a sense of safety or peace. For me 2018 is about following my own sunshine a little more, bringing enjoyment centre stage. Making time for the things that make me happy to be alive.  What if enjoying yourself was the best thing you could do for your health and wellbeing this year? How would that infuse your resolutions and intentions? How could anything be more beneficial for your wellbeing and happiness?!

Of course we can enjoy in so many different ways, it’s not a prescription for any particular behaviour rather it’s an invitation to relate to our lives in a particular way. To seek out the enjoyment in our work, our relationships, our home life, our  travels, our doing and our non-doing. To recognise those moments that delight, or spark our interest, make us smile, feel inspired, excited, connected, caring, happy…to feel grateful a few times a day.  This is one of the greatest acts of self-compassion.  I’m not suggesting turning away from what’s difficult, on the contrary it’s about resourcing yourself to embrace your life fully by drinking at the well of ease and steadiness first. Mindfulness is about balance, and embracing our lives also means having in awareness what’s alright, what feels good, including in awareness an aspect of this moment that we can enjoy.  However bad things are its also true in any moment that some things are OK.  This may sound trite but consider it a little more deeply if it does. In the beginning of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course we often share the perspective that as one teacher who knows all about living with chronic pain puts it “no matter what illnesses and injuries you are carrying, while you are still breathing, there is more right with you than wrong with you.” ― Vidyamala Burch. I will never forget her sharing on a training that I attended with Breathworks how feeling the gentle stroke of her eyelashes when she blinked was an example of a pleasant sensation present alongside pain. Tuning into what there is to enjoy may be simply discovering the particular fall of light through the window, or birdsong, or the gentle touch of your hands on soft clothing.  To spend a few minutes exploring what feels good or OK at the beginning or for the whole of a meditation period is a wonderful kindness to the nervous system, ever vigilant as it is for what’s not OK and usually a breath away from flight fight freeze.

Discovering and savouring the pleasure and enjoyment in meditation is a wonderful way to get attuned to ease and joy in more of your moments. What’s alive for me in my own practice at the moment is really savouring the sense of wellbeing, any comfort I can feel and giving myself permission to linger there, to savour any pleasant body sensations and the mood of calm that flows from that. Sometimes quite quickly a deep sense of peace can arise, regardless of the conditions of my day or the mood I was in when I began my meditation.  Then it seems in a sense that practice becomes finding the sunshine, thats always there behind the clouds (because it is, somewhere!).  Feeling the solidness of earth that supports us is also a joy.  Experience right now how you are feel held by the ground, and gravity. You can let go a little into that support. Explore the possibility of softening and relaxing wherever you can in the body. In this way we grow the flexibility to weather the storms. Watch how the trees respond to winter, rooted to the ground but softening in the wind. And how everything in nature appreciates the rain as well as the sun – of course there’s pleasure to be found in all the seasons. Each of us has our own sunshine, a place or activity or company or solitude that nourishes us and makes us feel good. Even and especially when our life circumstances are hard, listening to what it is that we need is vital. Doing what we love is an act of kindness to ourselves, and also to others because the more nourished and delighted we feel the more present we can be to others.  

I listened recently to a talk by the amazing Adyashanti, who likes to laugh as well as teach deep presence and freedom of the heart and mind – what has stayed with me the most was his repeated encouragement to his students : ‘enjoy yourself’.  May you direct your sails this year to finding and making space for what it is you enjoy, what you love and treasure. Like many of you I’m sure I have friends right now who are unwell or nearing the end of their lives – nothing makes the importance of cherishing what we have more vivid does it? Savouring, relishing and delighting in our health, our capacity to communicate, our mobility whatever our current limitations might be, is to honour and value ‘this one wild and precious life’ as Mary Oliver calls it. What is it you plan to do with it she asks – how about enjoying it?! May you find possibilities to play – the spirit of play helps us learn, connect and be well. Have fun! The Course in Mindful Living programme that I support as a mentor has regular sections on play, suggesting games, creative play, laughter yoga amongst a whole long list accompanied by a music playlist to enjoy, be moved by and move to…In Finding Peace in a Frantic World Williams and Penman tell us that in Latin America doctors ask patients presenting with depression ‘When Did You Stop Dancing?’.  Let’s all dance a little more (whatever that means for you) in 2018. 

There is a tendency for us all to get a bit heavy about being mindful, partly that’s our habitual ‘doing mode’ worrying about getting it right and trying hard, or assuming because we’re being quiet that we’ve had a sense of humour bypass – it’s good to lighten up! It saddens me that ‘being mindful’ has become another criterion to judge ourselves by, to be good at, to work hard at. Sure it takes patience, effort and commitment. But how about considering our meditation time ‘play-time’ instead of ‘home-work’, a time to fall in love again with the life that’s here, to rediscover the simple joy of being. Our aliveness is so extraordinary, when we explore it closely and with real warmth and interest.  Consider this lovely line from the 13th century Poet and mystic Rumi

“Keep knocking and the joy inside will eventually open a window to see whose there”