I have set a date for the publication of my mantra book Essential Mantras for Everyone. At last! I hear you say :) Well... I wanted an auspicious date, and I reckon the first New Moon of 2018 is just perfect! It will be out on 17 January. Meanwhile, a chance to get acquainted with a truly beautiful mantra, sung by the extraordinary Carrie Grossman. I am so honoured that she has given her blessing for me to make the video below - putting my photos to her beautiful music. Enjoy!
I have to admit that the picture above was taken on a pretty exceptional day. It was day 4 of my first 40-day practice. I was on time for the sunrise and with the tide in, the light and reflections in the water created a magical effect. Right now, with our clocks having gone forward, it is even more of a stretch to make it for the sunrise. And I have a feeling that the light won't be the same as it won't be at the same angle. But there is only one way to find out! (If I do manage it you'll be first to know!!)
Today wasn't extraordinary, but it wasn't a 'bad' day either. I guess it was 'average'. And in my case that is pretty good. I have so much to be grateful for – and I am.
I managed some mindfulness today as well and a walk in beautiful sunshine! I feel that the mindfulness and guided meditations are gradually changing my outlook, and shoring me up to weather the storms when they come along.
'Mindfulness is changing me,
like a river smooths a stone'
~ Beautiful Sky.
Today I listened to a talk about 'Practising with a Broken Heart' by the buddhist monk Ajahn Achalo. It seemed to chime in with some of my thoughts from yesterday about breaking and mending. We all face a broken heart at some point in our lives. Some are more prone than others, but no one is immune. It may be due to a bereavement, the end of a close relationship, another's hurtful words or actions, and even ourselves (I hadn't considered that before, but it is true that we can end up so utterly disappointed with ourselves that we break our own hearts).
But we can mend. And that is the beauty and the miracle. When we manage to get through such difficult times, somehow our hearts grow a little bigger, a little stronger. Going through heartbreak is a part of the human condition and it connects us with others, because we then know how it feels.
Buddhist teaching is to allow the feelings to be – and to know that our awareness is not part of them, that the feelings will eventually lessen. Think of a tsunami – it roars in and seems insurmountable, but eventually it receeds and there are smaller and smaller waves. So too with the sadness of a broken heart.
Thinking of several of my friends who are going through such sadness right now, all I can do is send them metta (loving kindness). When I am sad, I can send this to myself and I can also send out the sincere wish that there is less suffering for us all. In this way I can turn my sadness into a compassionate wish.
Ajahn Achalo included a quote: 'The heart that is broken and heals can hold the whole world'. This is so beautiful because it reminds us that the understanding gained from the experience expands our hearts so they can love even more.
The 'work of the heart' is never wasted.
Connect with me on Facebook and Instagram. Namaste.
Yesterday was a new moon – and what better time to start my practice again? This time I am going to follow the moon and so my practice will be for about a month (29 days). As before, I will walk mindfully for around half an hour, somewhere in my neighbourhood, probably the beach because it is so beautiful there.
Don't expect too many sunrise photos! Though I'm getting up much earlier than I did before I started my last 40-day practice, I don't always catch the sunrise, which is happening at 6.17am these days in New Zealand! But it's not really about the photographs, though they are a beautiful side effect. It's about mindfulness and 'showing up' for myself.
I have to admit that though I had intended to continue my daily walks, I was letting it slide. It seems I still need the structure of a daily practice to help pull me along. I didn't realise how much I'd missed it until I did it!! The feeling of being in nature and being 'present' to myself, right now, in this world. It was wonderful. I know that I am a different person starting this practice than who I was at the beginning of the last one. I am growing and changing, still making mistakes – and still learning.
I feel so excited about it. I think the excitement comes from not knowing what I will encounter on this new practice. And at the same time knowing that I will gain 'something'. And it will be in perfect timing, as all things are.
the humble path...'
~ Beautiful Sky
And so the end of my 40-day practice has come. The weather was pretty mild, though overcast as I did my mindfulness walk. I'm feeling much better today and I think the worst of my cold has passed.
I've learnt so much over the past 40 days. I've met with Mr Resistance, come up against my limits, and managed to keep going. The practice has had other benefits: it has given me regular exercise and has helped me to form a new, healthy habit of early rising. There has been the mindfulness itself, too, which relieves stress, kindles creativity and is helping me to think more clearly and to respond instead of react. I am certain that mindfulness is enriching my life in many ways.
So what now? Where do I go from here? There are lots of thoughts about my next project. All sorts of ideas (as usual). But this practice has taught me to focus on one thing at a time and to see it through. So I will ponder a bit more before I dive into the next thing. And I will keep this walking habit going. If not every day – then most days. Because for me, it gives a centre, or a foundation on which to build a creative life. I highly recommend it and would love to hear of your own experiences of following a practice like this.
So this isn't really the end but a beginning, an opening to a whole world of possibilities!
I'll still be posting photos and you can connect with me on Facebook or Instagram.
I think I'm getting better at photographing the sunrise – and that's simply because I've been doing it a lot over the past few weeks. It is the same for mindfulness. I've been practising and so I am better at getting 'into the zone', so to speak. Even so, I feel that no matter how much I practice, there will be days when mindfulness will elude me.
Like this morning. I did my walk up my nearby hill and I was about half-way through when I realised that I had been totally submerged in a long 'to do' list. I was making all these plans for how I would spend my day and what I would get done. Because I had been away for a couple of days, I was keen to 'catch up' with all the tasks I had left behind. But the point of mindfulness is not to admonish the failure, but to notice the thinking mind – and begin again. So I did.
After my practice I got to thinking about all my tasks and worries. They hadn't gone away – ha ha. And it reminded me how grateful I am for my practice. It takes just half an hour and that's half an hour when I don't worry or fret or beat myself up about some mistake or other. It is like having a micro holiday every single day. How lucky am I?
So in answering my initial question, I feel that while I am far from perfect (and maybe never will be), I am content to know that I am getting better, learning and growing.
Remember that whatever you focus on grows. Hope you are having a wonderful start to your week!
Connect with me on Instagram @mybeautifulskyphotos and Facebook.
I have just managed to get back into my blog! I have no idea what went wrong - but it seems to be fixed now. Curious that it first went down on the 22 August, the day of the solar eclipse. A bit spooky that. And there certainly was some weird energy in the air.
The next day (32), when I set out in the morning I got to the beach with some awesome light around but my camera's photocard decided to misbehave. It seemed like everything was against me. Later, flitting through posts on Instagram, I came across the following quote from the awesome Ram Dass: 'It is important to expect nothing, to take every experience, including the negative ones, as merely steps on the path, and to proceed.' So that was a good reminder. These obstacles are annoying but the main thing was that I did my mindfulness walk each day. And I did.
On day 33 I caught a beautiful sunrise and went off down to the beach. I did my mindfulness walk a little differently that day, picking up driftwood and shells as they 'called' to me. I collected quite a few bits and pieces, including fragments of sand dollars and a crab carapace. Inspired by some of the people I have seen on Instagram, including Day Schildkret of Morning Altars, I used my finds to create a mandala. You can see it below. It is not symmetrical, not perfect – and I'm ok with that. The finished mandala reminds me of a sunrise.
The following day (34) was another one of those 'bare' sunrises, when the sun is going to come up in a sky bereft of clouds. The glare is intense. So, fed up with getting headaches, I took a different route. I walked uphill from my house and then back down. It was perfect. The glare was shielded by trees and houses on the way up and down and I was able to do my mindful walk in my own neighbourhood.
Day 35 and I was in Moeraki on a weekend away. I had hoped to photograph the famous boulders and perhaps get a shot of the milky way – but a thick blanket of cloud put all ideas of that to bed. Here is a shot of Moeraki harbour, under that thick mantle of grey cloud. I did my mindful walk along the coast, listening to all the different sounds, including the sound of the ocean, birdsong, buzzing of bees and the distant noise of someone hammering on wood.
That brings me to today (Day 36). I did my mindful walk in my own neighbourhood again this evening. The sunset wasn't much to look at today, so no photos of that. But on the drive home from Moeraki we went inland via Geraldine and I saw some very strange-looking clouds, and so here they are.
It was INTENSE this morning! The sun in the bare sky. These days the sun is coming up at 7am and so it is a bit of a scramble for me to meet it. By the time I get down there the sun is in the sky and if there are no clouds, well it is just very BRIGHT!! I may have to have a rethink about when I do my practice as walking into this sun is not really practical. I may have to wait a bit on clear, sunny mornings.
I took this one while I was drinking my morning cup of tea. It really is beautiful. I feel so blessed to live here.
But the lagoon, with the water reflecting the sky, it was just stunning this morning. All yellows and browns. I hope that the sun is shining in your part of the world. And even if it isn't, you can bring some radiance of your own.
Be a radiant sun,
who enter your orbit.
Listening deeply is one of the greatest gifts you can give to someone. You can also give this gift to yourself.
This morning down on the causeway the 'soundscape' was different from how it usually is. There wasn't the screeching of seagulls – for some reason they were absent. Instead I could hear the chitter chatter and song of smaller birds. I've noticed a lot more birdsong over the last week or so. Perhaps a sign that spring is on its way.
Listening is a receptive action. It is lterally allowing sound in to your eardrums. You can use sound as an anchor in meditation. Tibetan or crystal singing bowl meditations help calm the mind as you immerse yourself into your sense of sound and the pleasant vibrations of the singing bowls. Playing the bowls is a subtle skill and I highly recommend Michael Perricone. You can find him on Insight Timer.
If you think about it – the whole Universe is vibrating, moving and dancing in time. We are part of this. On a personal level, there is an inner voice that you carry with you. It is a quiet voice and needs you to be still for a moment to hear it. Are you listening?
Mr Resistance was not around this morning (woohoo!) and so I was up and out by 7.30am. When I got down to the causeway, there was a big thick cloud right in front of the sun. Not great for photos.
So I carried on with my mindful walking. By the time I turned around to walk back, the sun was climbing higher and the light was casting shadows from the rocks along the edge of the causeway. Beautiful light and shadows.
shrink as the sun climbs
vanquished by light'
Just a few words and a picture.