This week’s reflection was written by Michelle Morris:
tiny clouds pass,
A visitor has come to the garden.
A glimpse of black feathers,
What was your experience?
I feel very grateful that my office has a bay window that looks out to the garden. I have developed a practice of sitting in the morning and writing a miku, taking in the environment, the sky, the trees, the plants, the colourful flowers that bloom for a time. And the sounds of the birds singing, and people working and talking. During the day I like to pause, sit quietly and observe the view from the window. These mindful moments are deeply fulfilling and replenishing.
Focusing on external sights, sounds, and physical body sensations helps to anchor ourselves in the present moment, into ‘the power of now’. It helps to shift our focus away from stress, pulls us out of ruminations of the past, worries about the future and enables us to have more equanimity.
This mindfulness approach is based on a practice often given to novice monks in Zen temples, enabling them to sustain a meditative state while doing their daily work. It is a practice which also helps cultivate connection with nature, and the outside world.
Psychology Today reported on research which found that pausing to view scenes of nature helps us to refocus our attention, and people who sit near windows are healthier, happier, more tolerant, and more enthusiastic toward work. One study showed that prisoners whose cells offered views of nature were sick 24 percent less frequently than others.
De Young, an environmental psychologist, recommends sitting near a window and putting a small timer on your desk to remind you to take “microbreaks,” a quiet moment or two to “reflect and stare out the window, to bring your mind to a quieter place.”.
David Ponta writes what he calls “the world’s least ambitious daily newspaper”. A daily blog in no more than 140 characters about his observations from his porch while drinking his morning coffee. He notes:
“This daily habit of quiet observation is very important to me. Even if the rest of my day is taken up with busyness and distractions, at least I’ll have had a short period of attentiveness to the natural world to keep me grounded …”
Another inspiring example is Etty Hillesum and her writing. Her diaries convey her experience living in Holland during the Second World War, during which she volunteered to help inmates in the camps.
“The sky is full of birds, the purple lupins stand up so regally and peacefully, two little old women have sat down for a chat, the sun is shining on my face – and right before our eyes, mass murder… ”
This young woman did not deny the horror she came face to face with, nor did she complain, but continued to observe and enjoy the beauty of nature. If even in extreme conditions a person can have this kind of awareness, maybe in the midst of our often busy lives we can also find moments to pause, observe, and be replenished by nature.
Weekly practice idea: Sit for a few minutes in the morning in a place where you have access to nature, even if it is only one pot plant, and bring mindful attention to external sights and sounds.