Tag Archive: stillness

On Being Present

Being present has been on my mind lately. It’s funny because it seems that the 2 occasions when one is fully present are:

1 – when you’re purposely thinking about it, consciously being present
2 – when you’re completely not thinking about it, when you’re really into what you’re doing

Here are some times when I feel I’m the most naturally, effortlessly mindful and present:

 Being Barefoot

Walking barefoot connects you with the earth, lets you feel every single step you take, makes you conscious of where you walk to avoid stepping on something unpleasant. You can’t walk barefoot outside without having your mind on the sensation. It’s like seeing the ground in extreme detail through your feet. Every pebble, every crack in the sidewalk, the soft coolness of grass, the heat radiating from sun-warmed pavement, the resistance of rock, the yielding of sand.


Found it!

The passing of the geocache.

It’s like being Indiana Jones without the bad guys chasing you. Finding clues, searching for treasures, opening containers to see what others have left – it’s SO fun!  I find that when my little posse and I go geocaching, we seem to be very ‘in the moment’. Each little step or discovery that gets us closer to our find is so exciting. Watching my son find a cache, talking about where we think the clues are leading, searching through the cache once it’s found and looking at each article, deciding what we’ll leave behind for the next treasure hunters – it’s always an adventure and we never miss a moment of it as it happens.

Eating grapes

I make a point of enjoying each grape that I squish in my mouth. I bite down just enough to crack the skin, then kind of stick my tongue in and turn it inside out so that the next bite is a crazy splash of juicy, grapey goodness.


I love yoga. I really do. But I have to admit that my favourite part is the ending when we lay there and relax. It’s unbelievable to me that doing ‘nothing’ could feel that amazing. The whole class feels good, but the relaxation, integration and inner focus is so centering and energizing. Afterward I feel like I’m back on track, fresh and balanced and renewed. There’s just nothing like it.


Sleepy boy on a boat ride.

My little guy taking a rest on my lap during a ride up the creek.

Being close to another person, close enough that cuddling is something you do together, is one of the best things in the world. The warmth of your co-cuddler, their smell, the fact that they find comfort in being close to you as well. It’s hard not to pay attention to that.

So….can I apply my ability to be in the now to other situations?

If I can eat grapes mindfully, then why do I stuff popcorn in my face? Perhaps I could use my grape-eating mindset when eating popcorn, enjoying each kernel, feeling its texture and fully tasting its salty, buttery deliciousness as it dissolves in my mouth. (Ok, I think I can see why I inhale it.) If I can live each moment of geocaching, why not try to be fully present while grocery shopping? Can I smell the freshly baked bread as I pass the bakery? Do I feel the chill of the coolers in the dairy aisle? Do I realize how many germs are on the handle of my grocery cart?

How about you…?

After much practice and training of your mind, do you think it becomes easier to slip into being mindful and present on a regular basis? When are you the most mindful?

This is part 2 of the Mindfulness Through Photography post I just wrote….That was a synopsis of the seminar. This is a compilation of nuggets of wisdom, thought provoking tidbits, things bouncing around my head and stuff we talked about at the workshop.


  • Consider trying to be aware of how you view a situation/person/feeling/whatever. Are you passing judgement on it or are you accepting it? Even good judgements are still judgements.

    What do YOU think?

  • Sometimes judgement can be the opposite of compassion. Rather than pass judgement on someone, including yourself, consider a compassionate view. Perhaps you will find that you have a great capacity for it. (I need to work on this one.) And do practice compassion and gentleness toward yourself. We usually think of it in terms of other people, but you need to be nice to you.
  • Carolyn Coker Ross describes the Buddhist idea of radical acceptance – “Radical acceptance is accepting what is on a deep level without judgment – not saying it’s right or wrong but just that it is.” Trying to change or control what is leads to more suffering. She goes on to say, “It is not the size or severity of the problem that makes us able to accept what is.  It is our intention to heal.  An intention to heal brings us back to love which is the destination of our soul’s journey to healing.”
  • Chatter/self-talk isn’t necessarily bad, but being aware that your chatter is just that – chatter – and not a definite truth, is important. Just today, my mind was on a chattering tangent while I was cleaning the bathroom. I heard my mind say, “It’s your own fault, you could have avoided it.” Thankfully, I was able to let go of that nasty, hurtful thought, realizing that it was my own self-doubt talking and not a truth.

This 2nd verse of the Tao Te Ching applies here.

When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.

Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other.

Therefore the Master acts without doing anything
and teaches without saying anything.
Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.
She has but doesn’t possess, acts but doesn’t expect.
When her work is done, she forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever.


  • Psychology Today describes mindfulness as…”a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”

    In the moment.

  • Be a witness to your mind. Realize that you are not your thoughts. When you observe yourself thinking or reacting, you’re aware of, or witnessing, your mind. The witness is a non-critical observer.
  • Mindfulness can be an effective antidote to anxiety. It can bring you through a situation, present in the moment rather than having your mind run wild.
  • Pay attention to your body as a witness. This is one of the exercises I like in yoga. The instructor leads us as we focus on each part of our bodies, checking in, not judging whether it feels good or bad, just noticing. It’s a great way to get your head in the right space for yoga and I think it would make a good beginner meditation for those of us whose minds wander easily.
  • Breathing meditations and exercises are great ways to relax and to be in the present moment.
  • While you’re doing your best to focus, sometimes stuff comes up. That’s ok. Own it. Make a choice about what you do with it. Use your reaction to it as insight.
  • Invite your witness to observe, validate and let go.


  • We have to discipline our minds for stillness. We all have so many responsibilities, distractions and obligations that accessing our internal stillness can be very difficult. It’s worth the effort.
  • Inner peace; in the moment; just being…what is it to you?

This weekend I attended a workshop called Mindful Photography. I really had no idea what to expect. This is the first workshop I’ve ever been to and was pleasantly surprised to find I wasn’t going in feeling nauseous about being around a bunch of strangers. I missed my turn onto the highway on the drive in, because I was rocking out to the radio, and arrived last, but not late.  There were the two workshop leaders, Kaye-Lee and Robin, two women, a man and a teenage girl. I also noticed a plate of muffins and cookies, which made me happy, and a dish of olives, to which I was indifferent. I sat down between the two women.  I think the main reason I didn’t feel nervous was because I made the assumption, correct or not, that anyone signing up for this workshop wasn’t going to be the type to be judgmental about the other attendees. I mean, obviously we’re there to learn and share, so I used my technique of  just ‘telling myself‘ that this is an accepting environment and went happily from there.

The idea of the workshop was to make us aware of our inner chatter, to then notice that chatter and, after discussing mindfulness, to practice letting go of our distracting self-talk. We used photography, not as a way to express ourselves, but to access what happens inside us. Kaye-Lee described the camera as a porthole to our inner selves.

The room held a table covered in random items. Our first exercise was to choose two items to photograph: one that we liked, and one that we didn’t like. Afterward, we shared our experiences. The items we chose stirred up emotions – connections to childhood, strong feelings about injustices, frustrations about technical aspects of photography, creative thoughts and the desire to take a good photo. Essentially, it created inner chatter. I’ll tell you about mine and show you my photos.

A little aside…..I tend to be drawn to visually simple things. I always preferred the colouring books with the thick black outlines to the ones with more detail. This usually translates into anything I create. As much as I may like the idea of a collage, I’m afraid the end result might make me lose my mind. Also, my goal in taking a photo is often to create or capture something that holds significance to me.

Here are the items on the table we had to choose from.

Item table.....

More items...

The item I liked was a marble carving of a woman. I put her in a few different places, different types of light and took some shots. Here’s my first shot using natural light.

One of my first shots of my 'like' object. Just so you can see her straight on.

Then, I took her into Kaye-Lee’s office, which has a lovely cozy atmosphere, to see what I could come up with. I had the idea of perching her on the edge of the bookcase and taking the shot from below. I wanted to show the idea of ‘putting her on a pedestal’. When I looked through the camera, I saw something that was not merely significant to me, but was a reflection of something that had been part of my life for a very long time.  She was up high, put there, sitting there, resigned, faceless and unknown,  keeping close to herself, on the edge, while being watched, monitored,  judged, analyzed, defined from an even higher place by, quite ironically, a two-dimensional face.

This photo amazes me. It is, in 3.3 MB, a summary of how I felt for most of my adolescence and adult life.

Although this stirred up some significant stuff for me, I was quite excited and happy to have discovered this shot. This stuff isn’t anything I didn’t already know was there. I’ve identified it and me and my stuff visit each other from time to time.  I just love this photo. Which, I think, is a good thing. It’s good that I don’t hate it.

Then I took this one….just to see what it’s like.

So....this is what it's like being way up here. It's kind of hard to really see her from up here, isn't it? ISN'T IT?!?! Yeah.

I know. “Wow, she’s angry.” Sure. But that’s ok. I’m also happy. And excited about life. So it’s all good.

I chose a Bratz doll as the item I disliked. I was a Star Wars action figure kind of kid and have always frowned upon the image that Barbie and Bratz type toys project onto girls. So I chose this fancy, highly made up toy that I thought I completely didn’t identify with. I picked her up and smoothed her hair and was surprised to find myself feeling sorry for her in place of the disdain I expected.  Instead of finding a way to make her photo represent why I disliked her and her kind, I instead wanted to be nice to her. Plus I liked the way her hair was tied back. Mine just doesn’t do that quite the same way. She’s no Han Solo, but I guess she’s ok.

Here she is, the poor thing, posing in front of a window looking out on Kingston traffic on a rainy day.

THEN I noticed the beach glass and had to play with it.

Beach glass - I used to call them pebbles when I was little. I absolutely love this stuff. It's probably one of my favourite things.

After everyone was finished, we talked about how we felt and what we thought about during the process. We noticed and acknowledged the self-talk and chatter that was going on in our minds throughout. My chatter involved the quality of the photo I was taking, whether or not I knew what I was doing, was anyone else looking at what I was doing, and my reactions to the objects I chose. It was fascinating to listen to others people’s experiences. Partly, I was loving the fact that everyone was willing to talk and share their thoughts, a very personal thing. There was such a difference in the way we experienced the same exercise. It was a bit of an eye opener. Robin, one of the leaders, described a situation where a puppy runs into the room. One person may react joyfully, another may be annoyed at the owner allowing the dog to run loose, another may be reminded of a childhood puppy and feel sad. Same puppy, completely different reactions to it.

I will try to identify when situations in life are potential ‘puppies’ running into the room and be aware of the fact that we all experience things differently.

Next, Kaye-Lee led us through a breathing centered meditation that involved us inhaling deeply, exhaling deeply and not breathing for a short period of time. No one was crazy about the breath holding part, but when we were finished, she asked us what happened to our chatter during the exercise. We were a little surprised to note that it was gone. This is part of the value not only in meditation, but in just stopping and taking a deep breath once in a while. When we focus on our breath, the chatter stops and there can be stillness.

Then we were allowed to get at those cookies. While I was eating the delicious Carrot Curry Coconut Soup, I considered taking a photo of it for you, but then I would have had to stop eating it. It looked something like this…

After our lovely lunch, we did another photography exercise. We just had to choose an object and photograph it while being mindful of our inner chatter. If we noticed it starting, we were to let it go. This time I went for the beach glass and some little tags I noticed. Here are my pics….

Sigh. Beach glass.

After this exercise, we compared notes again and most of us (excluding me) found that they had much less chatter. I was, however, able to allow my chatter to pass easily, so that was a good thing. Another meditation exercise helped us to work on training our minds to allow our chatter to flow through and out and to find stillness in its place.

This being a new experience for me, I have to say that I’m proud of myself for trying something new, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to be in the presence of people that are willing to share themselves with others – not just at this workshop, but in my life. If you’re reading this, then I’m also thankful for you and that you’re sharing this with me too.

During the workshop, there was a lot of discussion and Kaye-Lee and Robin shared a lot of great stuff that I want to share as well….but this post is long enough, so I’ll write another and just kind of throw down the tidbits that spoke to me and that I think will speak to you.

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