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Intentional presence

The earth knows how to release and draw inwards. It's an ideal time for us to do likewise.

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This time of year draws our attention to the outside world. The fallen leaves beneath our feet may be a crunchy rich autumnal palette or soft, threadbare outlines. We might enjoy the sense of a wide, expansive sky, framed by branches that were once lush but are now bare. In their very emptiness, they offer us more light and space. Everywhere, nature is letting go.

The earth knows how to release and draw inwards, focusing energy to nourish seeds that lie in deep darkness. With the right attention and care, these seeds will flourish in the year to come. It is an ideal time for us to do likewise. 

We know that December can be full of opportunities to connect and enjoy the sparkle of the season – and it can certainly offer joyful, meaningful celebrations with our loved ones and friends. But the month is also a saturated environment. Our devices, radios and tv swell with media campaigns and noise, with images of what happiness looks like (and how you can buy it today!). This sensory onslaught can be toxic to our sense of wellbeing, of belonging and connection.

By creating space for intentional presence, we deliberately and repeatedly come home to ourselves. We can take time to be nourished by silence, to listen inwards, to offer a caring attitude towards ourselves.

What might it look like?

A moment whose only purpose is to connect with yourself. While it is lovely to have an entire day of self-care, the strength of this practice lies in repetition. Little and often will build our trust in this connection. Below are three suggested moments to sample.

1) On waking

Starting the day deliberately sets the tone for your morning and can resonate through your whole day.

When you awaken, there’s an instinct to reach out into thoughts of the day. Instead, draw yourself back in for a moment. You can snuggle in, feeling the warmth of you and the decadent cosiness of it all. Can you sense the goodness that’s already here in this moment? Savour the warmth and the wholesomeness.

And then sense deeper still – do you have an intention or wish for yourself for the day ahead. Keep it simple and short – avoid dissertations! When it arises, let yourself rest in your kind intention, absorbing it fully. Thank yourself for taking the time to offer care. And then move on towards your day.

2) Walking

This practice has endless possibilities. It might be outdoors – whether you’re going for a walk, walking towards work or running an errand – focus in on your steps, and see if you can rest in their motion. Your foot moves and forms a footprint, then it lets the print go and walks on, effortlessly. Moving, forming, letting go, stepping forward. Each footprint new and precious.

As you get used to letting go, sense down deeper – is there something else that can be released? Habitual thinking or worry, judgement or another burden. Is it possible to allow the weight to rest in your footprints, and let yourself simply step away, feeling lighter. In this way, walking can be a path to true freedom. 

3) The joy of a cuppa

This meditation is made for the chilly weather! When you have a hot drink you can take the opportunity to draw yourself fully into that moment. Be aware of the physical sensations: the mug, the heat, the weight, the aroma. Slow down for that first sip, so you can fully enjoy the warmth and taste.

You might gently revisit your intention for the day. Can you re-feel the warmth and kindness from your early morning; the gift of self-care that you offered? Then let yourself take another sip, having nothing to do but savour, and then move back into your day.

We can learn intentional presence at simple, pleasant moments. As we practice, we strengthen our ability to come home and fully embody ourselves, just as we are. Over time, it means that we can be a powerful ally for ourselves when we are swept up in thinking, worry or anger. We draw ourselves deeply into this moment and stabilise our presence, reminding ourselves that some part of us knows how to touch stillness, peace and clarity. We know our way home.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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