Deep breath in.
Deep breath out.
It’s a couple of minutes past 6am. A glass of water, a splash of the same on my face and I quietly creep out my room towards the front terrace of Dunkeld Bungalow.
There’s no one in sight as I pick my spot for the morning and spread my yoga mat across the length of the ground. The cool air creates a misty atmosphere at Ceylon Tea Trails; crisp, fresh and pleasantly quiet as I get comfortable in sukhasana, the easy pose, crossed-legged at the top of my mat.
I let my eyes wander for just a couple of moments, across the landscape that is beyond me, taking in the dull grey sky that is just turning a golden yellow and the glimmering Castlereagh Lake below. Deep breaths to soak it all in, and on a gentle sigh, I close my eyes.
I begin my mornings all the same; a couple of minutes of practicing mindfulness and focusing on my breath. Regardless of where I am, this routine grounds me, allows me to be more aware and present in my daily life. The more aware and present we are, the better we function and better engaged in life we can be.
Taking a couple of moments in this manner to pause, noticing subtle body sensations, allowing emotions to be present, tuning into the breath can be an extraordinary experience. The general goal is to cultivate a sense of focused relaxation although there is more than one way to practice mindfulness. At times, the process may not seem or feel relaxing at all, but over time, it will be the key to self-awareness.
In some corner of my mind and also my heart, I want this moment to last longer. Because I know my time is limited at Dunkeld, I want to be fully immersed during my stay. Practicing mindfulness therefore, is like having a handy tool by my side. Whenever I feel my mind wandering, I am able to bring my attention back inward and to the present.
Softening the skin of the forehead. Relaxing the jaw. Elongating my spine so I can sit up taller. Chin slightly tucked. Lengthening the neck. Enabling an even flow of fresh air, in and out. Breaths in, directed towards the belly so it expands. A momentary pause and then breaths out, emptying the belly so it softens. A continuous ebb and flow, a rhythmic dance of within.
At times, I find that concentration techniques such as repeating a mantra or a phrase can be helpful. Some of the most commonly practiced single-word ones are ‘OM’ whereas others can tend to be sonnet-lengths and tongue twisters.
My favoured phrase is sabbe satta bhavantu sukhitatta – may all living things be well and happy.
A couple of minutes go by (perhaps even more) and I hear footsteps from the far left coming towards me. The sound of a tuk-tuk raging down the hillside. A bird call or two. And yet I bring my focus and attention back to my breath. Long inhalations inward, and deep exhalations outward. A bug lands on my hand, then my foot and I remain still. I remember it being a difficult thing to do – but to remain motionless is like building muscle strength; something that gets better and easier with time and practice.
One may wonder what thoughts come to mind and if it’s altogether a bad idea to have a thought at all. Mindfulness however is in acceptance of all thoughts but in a non-judgemental way. I acknowledge mine and I let them pass, bringing back my attention inward, towards my breath, breathing in through the nose and out through the nose or mouth.
Some days are easier than others, some more challenging but it is all part of the experience and practice. On this particular morning, the solitude helps and I am able to effortlessly immerse myself in it.
Time almost seems to stand still.
When it feels right, I slowly rub my fingers together, gently blink my eyes and open them up to the morning light.
Deep breath in.
Deep breath out.
Written by Shabna Cader, Asst. Manager – Communications, Resplendent Ceylon.