I’m at a writer’s retreat this week in Malibu. It’s as gorgeous here as you can imagine. I’m nestled in a retreat center hugged by the Malibu canyons perched on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It’s a multi-million dollar view with the size of neighboring homes and their amenities to match. It’s a perfect place to clear my mind and be mindful- there is plenty of time for me to think, pray, write and relax.
In the afternoon, when the morning clouds begin to dissipate by the warmth of the sunlight, the ocean becomes a brighter blue and the horizon becomes more clear and distinct, not mushed into the morning skies. As I look out and enjoy the beautiful scenery, I take pictures in my mind to take it all in, morsel-by-morsel. In fact, it’s almost too pretty here that I sometimes have a difficult time comprehending and grasping the lush green landscape, the topaz blue ocean, the palm and eucalyptus trees swaying in the salty breeze. I accustom my eyes to the beauty by bite-sized pieces, ingesting and digesting each, slowly.
Mindfulness practice skills are the same– like those bite-sized tea sandwiches at afternoon tea–they are to be enjoyed and savored, bit-by-bit. The first morsel in any mindful practice would be to start with breathing. Breath is a gift of God. God breathed life into all the animals, Adam & Eve, you, me, and us.
As the air fills your lungs, picture God’s love and grace filling and expanding into your body. Imagine that He is literally growing your capacity to breathe and take in the beauty and lush scenery of this moment. Then, hold the breath inside; take note of God’s presence and loving attention through your breath. Let it linger in your lungs, feel the air emanate slowly to those other parts of your body, like a soothing balm, calming those tight places in your physical body and constrictions in your soul. Let the air you breathe in be a meditation of you receiving His power and grace for this moment. Just for now.
Then breathe out. Exhale slowly while acknowledging that God is too big to be contained, too wise to be comprehended by our limited minds. Breathe out the areas of weakness and tightness–the cynicism and discouragement of the day. Exhale the insecurities and skepticism, and make room inside. Increase your capacity to receive and give.
If you find it worthwhile keep breathing in this way for a few more minutes. 5-10 minutes is a good starting goal but there is no judgment if you do it for just a minute. Take a small bite each day. See if you can ingest more as you go along.
Sometimes in your mindfulness practice the beauty of the day can only be taken one bite a time. Savor, take your time, ingest and see if the horizon clears for you.