15 Quiet Minutes: Mindful Walking

In the first 15 Quiet Minutes post I encouraged us to try meditation. This time, I’m going to suggest something a bit more active, because our quiet minutes don’t always have to be spent just sitting still in silence.

Mindful walking can be done anywhere. In fact, I recommend simply walking out your front door and around your neighborhood. If at all possible, leave your phone at home, or if you don’t feel safe without it, at least put it on silent or do not disturb. I hope it goes without saying, but please choose to walk at a time and in a location where you feel safe!

Mindful walking isn’t about getting your heart rate up or getting more steps in for the day, instead it is about walking slowly and being present to the world around you.

Pay attention to the sounds you hear: birds calling, kids laughing, dogs barking, traffic, the wind rustling the leaves. Try not to judge the sounds and think, “The traffic is so loud!” or “Why does my neighbor have to mow her lawn at 8:00 at night?!” Instead, just accept them. They are the sounds of your community, of the world around you.

Next, focus on what you smell. Again, try not to judge good or bad, just notice. Do you smell wet earth? Exhaust fumes? Flowers? Freshly mowed grass?

What do you feel? Notice the warmth of the sun, or the cool evening air, the breeze blowing through your hair,  or the feel of your clothing against your skin. How does the pavement or dirt feel beneath you? How do you shoes and socks feel on your feet?

What do you see? Can you find something new that you never noticed before? Perhaps you hadn’t noticed that you neighbor recently repainted the trim on their house, or the lovely color of the roses at the house on the corner. If you see something really beautiful, try to resist taking a picture of it. Instead, look at it. Really see it. Take you own mental picture of the image. Try to notice what you are hearing, smelling, and feeling as you look at this beautiful sight. You might be amazed by how well you’ll remember something after really paying attention to it!

This is your time, your fifteen minutes out of the day to wander and just be. To observe what is around you without having to judge or analyze it. Your time to be present in your body and in your world.

Try to stay in the moment. If you find your mind wandering to your to-do list, or planning dinner in your head, return your attention to one of your senses. Choose to focus on the feel of each step as you take it, or on the sounds you are hearing around you. You can even choose to focus on a specific sound, like only listening to the birds or the breeze in the trees, or a specific sight, like the way the light hits the leaves, or a sensation, like the feel of each footfall. You could choose this specific focus for a few minutes, or for your entire walk. Center your attention on whatever helps to get you out of your head and back into the present moment.

I hope you’ll give mindful walking a try. I’d love to hear your experiences with the practice. I’m looking forward to taking a mindful walk tonight for my 15 Quiet Minutes practice!

Until next time, blessed be!

A Summer Solstice Tarot Spread

Cards pictured are from Monstarot Tarot Deck, the Gaian Tarot, and Tarot of the Crone. Goddess figures from Brigid’s Grove, and the sun prayer beads are available in my Etsy shop.

Summer Solstice kind of sneaked up on me this year—I can hardly believe it is tomorrow! This year the Solstice falls on different dates, though, depending on your timezone, so for some of you it will be on the 21st.

It is definitely starting to feel like summer here. The high today is supposed to be near 100. At the Grower’s Market this weekend cherries and blueberries were available, as well as lots of lettuces and greens, and a few early cucumbers. My absolute favorite part of summer is enjoying the succession of fresh, local fruits and vegetables. The tomato plants I am growing  are full of flowers and green tomatoes. They’ll enjoy this heat we’re having, even if I don’t!

At this peak of the sun’s energy, we celebrate creativity and the fruit it bears. We celebrate the creative, fertile power of the earth that feeds us, and our own creative energy that brings joy to ourselves and others.

As the sun grows stronger, my thoughts have also been turning to questions about power—how we access it, how we use it, how we fail to claim it, or give it away to others. I am writing here of our own personal power, the power to direct and make choices in our own lives, not “power-over,” i.e. trying to control others, that is the more common association with power in our culture.

This spread for the Summer Solstice looks at these themes of creativity and power, helping us to call on the energy of the sun, even as it begins to wane again, to help us access our own inner power and to light our creative fires.

Question: What do I need to know during this next turn of the wheel? (From Summer Solstice until Lammas)

  1. Overall Theme
  2. Key Opportunity
  3. Key Challenge
  4. What will fuel my creative fire during this time?
  5. In what area of my life do I most need to claim my own power?
  6. What action(s) can I take to stand firm in my own power and live according to my own values?

I’d love to hear how your reading goes. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about the spread.

May you have a blessed Summer Solstice and a blessed summer season!

15 Quiet Minutes: Beginning

One of the goals I set for myself this month was to take fifteen quiet minutes each evening to meditate, pray, check-in with myself, write in my journal, etc. I’ve been enjoying it so much, and thinking of so many ways to use that time, that I’ve decided to create a series of blog posts called “15 Quiet Minutes”. I will share ideas for meditation, spiritual practices, nature practices, and creative practices that will help us all take fifteen minutes for ourselves in the evenings to relax, unwind, still our minds, and connect with our hearts, our creativity, with nature, and with the Sacred. I plan to publish a new post around each full and dark moon. I wanted to leave a couple of weeks between posts to give us time to try out each new practice and see how it works for us. I have lots of ideas, so the series will continue for several months at least. I hope you will join me in taking 15 Quiet Minutes for yourself each day!

Today’s post is about beginning. First, figure out when you can fit this practice into your life. Take a look at how you spend your time, and see where you may be able to claim fifteen minutes for yourself. I am doing my practice in the evening as a bracket to my morning spiritual practice, as a way to end the day the same way I start it, with some quiet time to sit with myself and with Goddess. However, if evenings are not possible, find a time of day that will work for you. You may do it in the morning if you don’t already have a morning spiritual practice, or in your car or at a park during your lunch break. Choose a time that will work best for you and your schedule.

Next, set a goal for yourself, and make it as realistic as you can. If you think you will only be able to take fifteen minutes for yourself twice a week, then choose that. It is better to start small and be successful than to set an unrealistic goal, fail to meet it, and then give up altogether. My current goal is five evenings a week. I’ve kept this goal before, so I know it is doable for me, and it gives me a couple of evenings a week to be lazy and spend too long watching Netflix without feeling like a failure.

Whatever goal you choose, write it down. Write it in your journal or in your planner or on a sticky note stuck to your bathroom mirror. Writing down goals really makes a difference! I like to put little check boxes next to my goals so I can check off each time I do the practice (so if I plan to do it five time each week, I make five little check boxes). If you love checking things off lists, this might work for you, too. If you tend to be more motivated by being held accountable by other people, then you might want to tell someone supportive about your goal, and let them know when you accomplish it each week. Do whatever you think might help you be successful.

You’ll also want to figure out where you can take fifteen minutes to yourself. If you already have a room to retreat to, that’s perfect. If you have an altar, that may be the place where you’ll choose to do a lot of the practices. Some of the practices will be done outside, and the creative practices will require a bit of space on a table, counter-top or floor to spread out your materials. If the only privacy you can get is in your bathroom, or in your car, that works, too! You’ll want  a quiet place where you can put your phone on “do not disturb” and turn off the TV and music.

The first practice is one of the simplest, and one of the most challenging—meditation. If the word makes you cringe a bit, I understand. I’ve tried doing simple meditation by following my breath so many times over the years, and I just end up frustrated and bored. I’ve found that I need some other kind of focus, like a visualization, in order to sit quietly for any length of time.

One of my favorite visualizations is to see my breath coming in as a wave of golden, sparkling energy, and as I breath out, that energy moves out through my skin, so that I am surrounded by a cloud of golden light. You may even imagine yourself dissolving into this cloud of golden light.

Another visualization that I have found really useful is to see myself floating in space among the stars. Just floating, without a care in the world, surrounded by the darkness of space and the beauty of the stars. You could also visualize yourself floating on the ocean waves, or in a still pool, gently rocking in a hammock, or laying in field of flowers. Choose a visualization that makes you feel absolutely calm and at peace, and focus on that for fifteen minutes. Bring your attention back to the scene you have created—feel it, smell it, hear it—whenever your attention wanders.

If you prefer guided meditations, I’ve used this one several times and really enjoy it. This is a great loving kindness (or metta) meditation. You can do a search on YouTube for other guided meditations that you might like.

I’ve found the Meditation Timer app useful for timing my meditations (it looks like it is only available for iPhone, but there are lots of other meditation timer apps available for Android). Another great resource is the Beginning Meditation audiobook by Sally Kemper, which includes several different types of meditations to try.

Don’t worry, if you absolutely hate to meditate, there will be many other suggestions for things to do with your 15 Quiet Minutes. If you don’t want to meditate, but want to start taking fifteen minutes for yourself now, you might try just sitting still and letting your mind wander for fifteen minutes. Just fifteen minutes of peace, of doing nothing, of telling your “to do” list that it can wait, and watching the world go by. Ahhhh, doesn’t that feel good?

Until the next post, I wish you blessings upon your 15 Quiet Minutes, however you choose to use them. Enjoy!

Going with the Flow

Flowing with the Rogue River. Goddess pendant from Brigid’s Grove.

I had big plans for the little staycation/personal retreat that I took in May. There was going to be lots of reading! Lots of journaling! Lots of meditation! I also planned to finish my spring cleaning, but other than that I intended to do lots of quiet inner work.

There was one problem with my grandiose plans—I didn’t take into account the energy of the season. If there is one month of the year that is absolutely buzzing with busy energy here in Oregon, it is May. Every week there is a dazzling new array of wildflowers decorating the hills and roadsides. Baby birds are arriving at the feeders noisily begging Mom and Dad for food. Everything is green, lush, vibrant and bursting with life.

With this riot of energy going on around me, I could not sit still. I easily got all my spring cleaning done and then some. But when it came time to read or journal, all I wanted was to get out! I wanted to be out doing things, not sitting around reading and thinking. I fought myself for a few days, feeling like I was wasting all this precious time and not accomplishing what I planned before it finally occurred to me—I was definitely not going with the flow of the seasonal energy.

It is certainly true that we can choose busyness over spiritual practice as a way of avoiding sitting still and facing ourselves, and I’m sure there was some of that going on with me. But I also believe that a big part of my struggle was related to trying to do quiet, introspective things when the whole tide of energy around me was filled with activity. It was also the most active, energetic time for me in my own monthly cycle. With all that energy buzzing around, no wonder I couldn’t sit still!

Over the past few years, I have gotten good at knowing and working with my personal energetic cycles, but this reminded me of how important it is to honor the energetic cycles of nature as well. It isn’t often that I find myself feeling so lively—I would have been much better served by putting that energy to work for me rather than trying to fight it.

This experience has taught me to pay better attention, and to learn to go with the flow of the energy, not only of my personal cycles, but of the cycles of nature as well. If my plans haven’t taken into account the energy of the season, I may find myself swimming against the current, making whatever I am trying to do that much more difficult. It is one of those things I knew intellectually, but apparently needed to be reminded of in a more experiential way.

Do you consciously work with the energy of seasonal or lunar cycles? I’d love to hear about your experiences!