New Book “A Sensual Garden”
Our new book will be available April 1 in Apple’s iTunes store. Titled “A Sensual Garden: Creating a Place for Being in the Present Moment,” it will show you how to add plants and landscape features to enhance the sensual (sight, smell, touch, taste, sound) effects of your garden and also show you how to deliberately take in experiences from the natural world (especially in your garden) to be mindful in the present moment.
The book will be available as a “pre-order,” that is, it hasn’t been released yet, so you can only order it in advance, and when it’s released then it’ll be added to your iTunes account. We expect to publish the first chapter here on the blog so you can get the flavor of the book for yourselves.
We also expect to make the book available to you if you are a subscriber to the blog.
Let’s go on to the subject of “mindfulness.” Mindfulness is now being examined scientifically and has been found to be a key element in happiness. Mindfulness is being found to improve mental and physical health.
Mindfulness is a hot topic these days, just like meditation. Mindfulness is a state of awareness and presence in the moment. In the state of mindfulness, you are fully involved in what is happening in the here and now. It is related to meditation, but it is not the same.
You might be aware of the type of meditation in which you focus on one specific thing, often your breathing or some sensation in your body, and bring your attention back to that focus when it wanders. This is called focused-attention, or mindful meditation.
The other type of meditation which is often used in research is open-monitoring meditation. This is where you pay attention to all of the things happening around you—you simply notice everything without reacting. This too is mindfulness, being aware of the present moment.
You can think of mindfulness as simply being fully in the moment. Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines it as paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally—as if your life depended on it.
Mindfulness has roots in Buddhist philosophy and religion, and is considered very important for the path to enlightenment. But it also takes on new, secular definition when viewed from a Western psychology lens. Dr. Ellen Langer, a Harvard psychology professor, literally wrote the book (Mindfulness (A Merloyd Lawrence Book)) on mindfulness. She says that
- Mindfulness is paying attention to the situation and context and seeing new meaning.
- Mindfulness also implies continually receiving new information and being open to new cues.
- Mindfulness emphasizes process over outcome.
In short, mindfulness is about tuning in and being more aware of every experience.
Increased mindfulness could help you become more focused on each moment, more creative about how to deal with the moment, and in control of yourself. Research has shown mindfulness to lead to a happier, healthier, more relaxed you. It can also help you more fully appreciate each precious current moment (which is all we have, really). Here are some of the most recent studies related to mindfulness. Mindfulness training may:
- Help with weight loss. Mindful eating means paying attention to each bite and eating slowly while paying attention to all your senses (Harvard Medical School, Womens Health).
- Lower stress. Mindfulness increased both mental and physical well-being in patients with chronic pain, cancer, heart disease, and more (Elsevier).
- Offer other brain benefits: Better focus, more creativity, less anxiety and depression, and more compassion to name a few.
How You Can Practice Mindfulness
I don’t want to discourage you, but some people can naturally meditate, without even knowing that they are doing it. Others find that they must at least nurture the mental attitudes and exercises (by reading and practicing) that put them into a meditative state, and still others require tutoring and coaching to achieve such a state.
Yet, mindfulness can be achieved with more or less effort by almost everyone.
Exercises might begin with triggers or cues to help put you in a mindful state when you might lose concentration. For example, while eating, to remember to savor each bite, you might use the action of using your fork as the trigger or cue to think about each bite. More (deceptively simple) practices include practicing appreciation and letting go of control.
Practicing Mindfulness in Your Sensual Garden
After several chapters on how to create a sensual garden, we use it as a place in which to practice mindfulness, to be in the present moment. An excerpt in this chapter:
Now it is time to be “in the moment.” Mindful of NOW.
Be quiet. Close your mouth. Inhale.
Again, breathe out, breathe in.
Notice each sense.
What do you smell?
What do you hear?
What do you feel?
What do you see?
Now, close your eyes.
Listen, and let your limbs go limp. Don’t try to identify what it is you smell or hear or feel. Just be.
Don’t concentrate on how hot or cold you are.
Don’t think about what hurts physically or emotionally.
Don’t think. Just be.
Don’t think about what you have to get done today or tomorrow. Don’t think about what you have done or what someone has done to you.
Don’t think about smelling, or hearing, or seeing, or touching. Just be.
God bless you all.
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Ellen J. Langer, Harvard professor of psychology, determines that the mindless following of routine and other automatic behaviors lead to much error, pain and a predetermined course of life. In this thought-provoking book, her research has been "translated" for the lay reader. With anecdotes and metaphors, Langer explains how the mindless--as opposed to the mindful--develop mindsets of categories, associations, habits of thought born of repetition in childhood and throughout schooling. To be mindful, she notes, stressing process over outcome, allows free rein to intuition and creativity, and opens us to new information and perspectives.
Langer discusses the negative impact of mindsets on business and social relations, showing special concern for the elderly, who often suffer from learned helplessness and lack of options. Encouraging the application of mindfulness to health, the author affirms that placebos and alternative, mind-based therapies can help patients and addicts move from unhealthy to healthy contexts.