Live it fully now

“One swallow does not a summer make, nor one fine day”.  I spotted two swallows one morning this week, one swooping low near the bridge in Skibbereen and the other on the road to Union Hall. Both filled me with mixed emotions, first a deeply instinctual, primal, sense of joy to see these remarkable birds having made their epic journey to get here, heralding the beginning of long summer days. Joy was immediately followed by a poignancy, remembering many Summers spent with loved ones marking the return of the swallows. These sightings made me very happy, reflecting on the turning of life, the leaving and returning, the joys and the sadness, all part of this bigger picture.  

A subtle thought enters my mind that perhaps I wrote about the swallows before, but that’s ok, it happens every year and even though the feelings are similar, they can still catch us by surprise, as they announce the promise of brighter days. Somehow the swallows reminded me of how building and repeating small, simple habits, slowly and consistently, into our everyday lives, over time, a lifetime even, can build a simple, mindful life of noticing, paying attention and feeling thankful.  Even though meditation is a practice we repeat and repeat, time and again, it never loses its novelty and is never the same experience twice, we bring a curiosity and a gentleness to our practice to see what’s alive in this moment for us, in our inner and outer worlds.  

The swallows represent great hope, and their arrival is something to mark and celebrate in our year, currently an extremely challenging one on a global scale. These resilient birds make it back every single year. What an incredible achievement, reminding us of consistency, reliability and repetition in nature and the cycle of our lives. And because our seasons are no longer as clearly defined as before, these steady markers of the approaching summer are very reassuring. By learning to notice what’s going on around us through repeated meditation practice, we can really savour these gorgeous moments in the changing seasons and be so grateful for them. Like the quote above, however, it takes more than one swallow to make a summer and the same goes for mindfulness meditation, it takes more than one attempt.  

The skills of mindfulness and compassion are not developed overnight but learned repeatedly over time and deepened over the seasons of our lives.  The repetitive nature and transformative power of mindfulness, when practiced regularly, strengthens our inner reserves and resources for coping, perhaps with times of prolonged rain here at home and prolonged conflict situations that are happening around the world in this moment. Maybe there’s conflict in your home, in your close relationships or in your heart or mind as you read this. Or maybe you are ‘at war with yourself’, a phrase coined by Tara Brach, a state of being I think we can all identify with, as so many of us are in the habit of constantly criticising or giving out to ourselves.  

Being in the moment and noticing nature all around us can help us to shift our attention away from self-criticism, rumination or overthinking and simply take in what is here and now.  Over time, compassion-based mindfulness can help build peace and calm inside us which in turn can have a ripple effect, radiating outwards. With regular practice we learn to notice when we are at war either with ourselves or with others and we can bring compassion and soothing to these troubling situations. This in turn makes space for us to notice many things to be grateful for.  

We can give thanks that, along with the swallows, the sun has also arrived this week and what an instant boost of energy it brings. Feeling bare feet in sandals or on the ground, the smell of freshly cut grass, the heat of the sun on our bodies, birdsong, truly a feast for our senses. Bright sunny days have such restorative value and they have been scarce enough this year. Let these mindful lines by poet Danna Faulds inspire us to make the most of every precious day. “Do not let the day slip through your fingers, but live it fully now, this breath, this moment, catapulting you into full awareness. Time is precious, minutes disappearing like water into sand, unless you choose to pay attention”.

Monthly mindful journaling workshops are running at CECAS on April 27, May 18 and June 22. Each two-hour mindful journaling workshop will combine mindfulness meditation practices, reflective questions, poetry, and embodied writing techniques. There’s still time to book your place for Saturday, April 27, 4 – 6pm. €35 includes printable worksheets and audio recordings for listening at home.  

Weekly drop-in mindfulness sessions continue at CECAS, Myross Wood, Leap on Tuesday mornings through-out the year (May 7, 14, 21 and 28) from 10am-11am.  €12. All are welcome to join this wonderful community of practice.  

For more information, phone: 087 2700572 or email:
FB: susanoreganmindfulness 

Susan O Regan

Susan O'Regan teaches mindfulness and self-compassion courses and workshops in West Cork.

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