The first month of 2018 is reaching its end and there is now a sense that the new year has firmly begun, the cogs of the wheel of the year re-engaged after the pause and call for hibernation around the Winter Solstice. One month on and the hours of daylight have increased noticeably. Our hens now stay out for a whole hour longer and they are laying more eggs. The snowdrops are out and each day, I notice a new clump of beautiful white flowers blooming along the lane. Crocus, narcissi, daffodil and tulip bulbs are popping up in pots, beds and in the grassy banks along the drive, the promise of Spring colour to come. The broad beans sown in November have germinated and are now emerging through the soil, growing new leaves every day, especially when the sun makes an appearance. Pink crowns of rhubarb are also showing through their Winter covering of mulch. The robin and the black bird have started to sing their melodious songs, different from their calls heard throughout Winter. There are subtle changes in the landscape around me that indicate that the natural world is stirring from its Winter sleep.
In parallel, in my own internal landscape, I notice that my body is waking up too as my energy levels increase. This month has seen plans for the year ahead emerge and take shape. 2018 is a special year for me as I will turn 50 in April, a meaningful milestone that is giving rise to all sorts of interesting feelings and reactions within me. My deepening mindfulness practice helps me to notice these without judging or engaging with them, to receive them with patience and compassion, to be curious about them and to accept them as my own experience and my truth. This attitude enables me to connect with the present moment and enjoy the richness of it, staying away from thinking of the past or the future. With the matter of aging, being either in the past or in the future is easily done! Peter’s dad is turning 80 in September, another important marker in our lives. As we make plans to celebrate these important occasions, we search for and reflect on what is important to us. This kind of deep thinking is both influenced and supported by my mindfulness practice. As I walk in nature looking more closely and deeply at what is around and notice the snowdrops, the broad beans shoots, the rhubarb and the robin’s song, I give myself the opportunity to really see and hear these things as if I was discovering them for the first time, without pre-conceived ideas and opinions constructed by my mind. I have heard the robin sing many times so I “know” in my mind what it sounds like. Yet, each time I hear it in the moment, it is a rich experience because I have allowed myself to be open and receptive to it. That moment is full of the richness of life itself. In the language of mindfulness, this is called “beginner’s mind” and being out in nature teaches me to adopt this principle in my every day life, when I have decisions to make, when I encounter a problem to be solved or a challenge to face or when I feel physical or emotional pain. I find that it frees me from the expectations imposed by my own mind and other people’s opinions and expectations. It is in this spirit that I have chosen to celebrate my 50th birthday with a family meal at a local restaurant which I like, sharing good food and surrounded by people I love and who love me. I chose to let go of what I ‘should’ be doing and who I ‘should’ be inviting and listen to what I wanted to be doing and who I wanted to be there. The result is that it feels good and I am at peace with my plans because I listened to me, not at all in a reckless, selfish or insensitive way, but instead with an attitude of kindness and compassion towards me as I took responsibility for meeting my needs. This is a good example of how a good relationship with our inner self contributes to our well-being.
Just as the ground in the garden is, at this time of year, preparing / being prepared to receive the seeds that will be sown in Spring which will transform into beautiful flowers and nourishing fruit and vegetables in Summer, I too am preparing the ground for my year ahead. The practice of mindfulness, with its guiding principles and foundations, is helping me cultivate my inner soil to create the best conditions in which to thrive and flourish.