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"Close Your Eyes And The Whole Universe Disappears" oil painting by T. Boehle copyright 2009

My husband and I just returned from berry picking.  We are fortunate to live down the hill from a wooded, wild groove of berry bushes.  We each set out with a plastic quart container left over from carry out.  As we started up the hill into the woods the path is dotted with black berry bushes.  The berries are sweet and are the first to go.  Our neighbor, probably got here before us, I think to myself.  I make my way into the bushes, spotting a branch laden with the dark berries.  I notice that I feel resentful that my neighbor got here first.  Wasn’t it just yesterday that we noticed the ripe berries? I ask my husband, Mm hmm he says busy picking.

I breathe and remind myself that I can still enjoy the picking.  With that I switch from left to right brain.  In moments I am lost in berry picking.  Carefully, considering the ripeness of the forward berries, scanning the picked umbrella-like cluster for missed berries while scouting for branches out of sight heavy with berries.  The sound of the berries hitting the bottom of my plastic quart is satisfying.  I am focused and experience a sense of peace while I work.  I slowly realize I have depleted the resource and as I begin to back out of the bushes I am aware that a vine has attached itself to my bare leg.  When I reach to attend to it, I find it is very sticky and has tiny thorns that have worked their way into my skin.  It has a hold of me.  My awareness causes slight alarm and I shift from right to left brain as I consider my dilemma.  Standing still and balanced, I reach to carefully lift the top end of the vine and slowly pull it away from my leg.  I become painfully aware of the thorns as I force them to tear away from my skin.  The pain is unpleasant, but I feel pride in my endurance to bear it.  I am here to pick berries.  There are some really sticky vines in here, I say to my husband who is ahead of me.  Mm hmm he says.

I pass him as I climb the hill.  Deep into the woods the wine berries are everywhere.  I begin to make up rules about how to pick them.  My left brain is excited.  Be sure to finish one whole bush before moving on.  Only pick the deeply colored red berries.  Be vigilant to empty each drupplet.  I become aware of my rules and take a breath.  Enjoy, I think.  I smile to myself, understanding how hard I can be on myself.  With out a chance to think otherwise, I leave the bush and begin picking at the next one and then I notice that just a bit further there is a bush filled with aggregates of beautiful deeply colored red berries.  They are large and succulent looking.  I am greedy, as I softly drop berries atop of berries.  I feel pure joy at my discovery and in that realization I become aware that I have abandoned my own rules.  A fleeting notion of guilt passes and I remind myself that I am here to enjoy myself.

With my next breath I let go of the guilt and fix my gaze inside my carry out container.  There are creatures climbing on the berries.  There is a small Daddy Longlegs making her way to the top.  She is easy to help out.  Another spider is tiny with a very bulbous abdomen.  She is a yellowish color.  I try to convince her to climb onto my finger, but she is wary and my finger is so big compared to her size that it is clumsy in coordinating a capture.  My inept attempts send her deeper into the berries.  I think better and turn my attention to the tiny green bug that I previously thought was a piece of leaf.  I marvel at all that is in my cup.  My right brain is in the flow as I delight in the surprises of color, line and movement.  It is a painting come to life.

Where are you, I hear my husband call and I shift to left brain.  I am way ahead of you, I say as I survey the land.  I look at the container full of berries and calculate that I bet I have more.  My husband rounds the corner.  How much do you have he asks and holds up his quart filled to the brim.  I show him mine, ¾ full.  I smile.  You are so competitive, I say.  I am, he says.  I smile and look into my quart, shifting in to right brain.  The berries are beautiful, a range of red colors.  Each berry soft and fleshy.  Each comprised of plump sections that catch the light.  I am curious.  I place one in my mouth.  Let’s get ice cream he says.  Mm umm, I agree.

s" -Oil painting by T. Boehle.

"The observed shift of the spectra to longer wavelengths reflects the relaxation process" -oil painting by T. Boehle

Relaxation is a state that you come into. It involves change and participation. When you are willing to change your perspective to connect differently from your present state you are prepared to begin.

Find a comfortable chair to sit in and place your feet flat on the floor. This provides you the connection with the support of the earth and its magnetic fields that assist you in balance. With you feet flat on the floor and your hands resting on your thighs, begin to feel the warmth within the palms of your hands. Notice the pleasant feeling the warmth provides your hands and your thighs as your hands warm the fabric between your hands and your thighs.

Shift your attention from the pleasant sensation between your hands and your thighs and find a spot across the room on which to focus. This spot will be just above your line of site. It can be remarkable in its interest or simply a place on the wall. Allow your eyes to focus on your spot while making all the necessary adjustments for comfort of your entire body.

And now, with your feet flat on the floor and your hands resting on your thighs and your focused ahead of you, bring your attention to your breath. Notice your belly as it you bring oxygen in through your nose. Notice the rise in your belly and bring your awareness to the rise and fall of your belly while your eyes are focused on your spot and your feet are flat on the floor with your hands resting on your thighs.

This coordination is work. Allow your self to experience it as it is for you. If the complexity of this new work is challenging allow yourself to feel okay with your ability as well as your concern. However you do this is okay. It is perfect. Bring no judgments of yourself and your abilities. And if you like, practice breathing in for the count of four holding for the count of two and exhaling for the count of six.

Practice 3-5 of these breaths. Feel yourself settling deeper into the chair as you breath with your feet flat on the floor, your hands on your thighs and your eyes focused forward. Notice that your eyes may begin to experience a change in your vision. As you focus forward you may notice a narrowing of your vision similar to the idea of tunnel vision where that outside your focus falls into the darkness. Your eyes may begin to feel heavy and you may want to close them. With your eyes closed, your feet flat on the floor and your hands on your thighs bring your awareness to your breath.

Let your mind drift as you notice your breath in and out and as your mind returns and attempt to capture your attention with ideas acknowledge it without any judgment and then bring your awareness back to your breath. As you relax your mind’s activity may increase and provide you distraction from your breath. Whatever happens is okay. It is perfect. You welcome the distraction of the mind’s activity as you bring your awareness back to your breath acknowledging that the mind’s activity is a reminder of all the distractions life provides you. You are grateful for this reminder as it serves to strengthen your practice of being present. And you know that when you are present you can become relaxed.