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Recipe for IPA Steps 4 and 5: The Pause and the Flow

beth-circle-head Beth Heller

In our final installment of our mindfulness series, we’ll take a look at the last two steps in our recipe for Holiday I.P.A. (Intense Present-Focused Attention):  awareness and flow.   While these words may sound a little woo-woo, they’re actually really basic practices that can help us not only feel happier, they can make the world around us a kinder place.   

To explain what we mean, and to keep going with the holiday theme, let’s imagine a beautiful snow globe — a crystal dome containing a festive holiday scene that gets obscured by a swirling blizzard of snow when the globe is shaken.  Given a moment of stillness, the snow settles again, allowing the clarity of the scene to re-emerge.  

So what’s this got to do with awareness and flow?  Well, it’s not a stretch to suggest that our moment to moment experience of our life functions in a similar way.  Sometimes, our outlook is clear and calm, we see our experiences as they are and respond in a wise and compassionate way.  At other times, life shakes our “globe,” stirring up emotions and creating confusion.  We might act impulsively or speak aggressively.  Understanding this phenomenon – that sometimes our minds get in flurry – and committing to a calm, abiding patience that allows that flurry to settle – is awareness.  

Copy of Part 3

Going one step further, and returning to our snow globe, there’s yet another action we can take called flow.  Flow happens when we start to realize that we don’t need to get in a tizzy every time someone or something shakes things up.  When we identify with the clarity (the scene in the globe) and not with the snow, our reaction to the events of our life become much more skillful.  

So how do we practice awareness and flow?  We simply use all the tools we’ve discussed thus far:  noticing the life force in our body, connecting with our breathing and paying attention to our thoughts and attitudes.  Here’s a basic practice of awareness and flow:  

  • Several times a day, carve out 2-5 minutes to sit quietly
  • Notice if your mind feels stirred up and stormy or calm and clear.  Use the visual of the snow globe if it’s helpful.  
  • Using awareness  (that calm, patient observation described above) and a) if the globe is calm, enjoy the clarity or b) if the snow is swirling, sit or wait patiently for the flurry to settle.  Focus on a flow of your breathing, bring a sense of patience like a kind grandparent might use with a small child to the process.  
  • With practice, you will begin to notice that the snow settles more easily.  
  • Now, throughout the day, practice using that abiding, patient awareness during more active times.  See if you can feel the stillness at the center of the storm.  

Did our recipe for Holiday I.P.A. make a difference in your holiday season?  Let us know!

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