Is this sheep pretty? (in your opinion)
Most of you will have found yourselves thinking that you wouldn't usually define a sheep as 'pretty'. If you breed sheep or attend agricultural shows, you may have other words you use to define or describe the sheep you see, but 'pretty' is not likely to be one of those words, is it?
A few years ago there was a birthday card doing the rounds on the cover of which was a picture of, I think, three sheep and the words, "Which sheep is the most attractive?'
Inside the card, were the words, "You found one attractive?" The humour in this lay in the fact that we don't normally apply the words 'attractive' or 'pretty' to sheep.
Is this sheep pretty?
If you had been walking along that same mountain path and had seen those same sheep of whom I took this photo, would you have even given them a second look, let alone consciously thought about how they looked? Probably not.
The goal of being 'In the Moment' is to just be - either to see, to feel, to hear, to smell, to taste - but not to think! How much of your everyday life can you just be…?
It is likely that there are specific times of day or places when you are less likely to think than others. Taking a country walk, for instance, or lying in a warm, scented bath are both occasions when we are less likely to be talking in our heads, putting words to our feelings. Likewise there are other times when we constantly hold head conversations and analyse.
Thinking is not a problem provided there's a good reason for doing it. Unfortunately we all tend to abuse this ability. We think about things we can't do anything about and when done negatively this is 'worry' if it's in the future, or 'guilt' if it's in the past. Thinking about things that make you feel good is ok but we rarely do much of that. So if there's no reason to be thinking, why do it?
All too often we are urged by our society to have opinions about anything and everything. The media are constantly investigating matters and throwing the outcomes at us so we can form our own opinions on them and the general trend is towards negativity.
Being 'in the moment' doesn't require conscious thought at all. It is about being in the here and now and accepting what is. It is about being alive in all our senses and not just in our heads.
Although we may need to have a view as to where we each stand on important issues such as those which we really care about and which are central to our own lives, we don't need opinions about anything and everything. How often do we pass judgments on matters which don't even concern us? We may see a neighbour has repainted their front door and think, "What a terrible colour choice!" We may have a friend who has just bought a new car which we think is a load of rubbish and we may or may not tell them so.
These two examples are simply none of our business so why do we pass judgment in the first place? Why do we even need to have an opinion about things which do not concern us and over which we have no control in any case?
Although pure Mindfulness teaches us to simply accept what is, regardless, I modify this in the classes I teach so as to make it easier to adapt to initially. My rule is that we cam pass a judgment on something provided that:
- 1. It's a positive judgement and so makes us feel good about whatever it is, or draws our attention to the positive side of it
- 2. It can be a negative judgement about something we are having to make a decision about so we need to weigh up the pros and cons. For example, if you were buying a car for yourself there would be every reason to fully evaluate both the good and bad points of each one you considered.
The task for this month is simply to start to develop an awareness of those times when you pass judgements for no reason whatsoever and let go. It is particularly important to become aware of when we focus on the negative aspects of things we are stuck with but which we have no power to change at this point in time.
One of the main reasons why there are those certain times and places when we tend not to think, is because our minds link places with behaviours. If it is usual for us to think certain types of thoughts in particular places, whenever we are in those places our minds will suggest those thoughts to us. Therefore if we can reduce our habit of negative thoughts in certain places we can help our minds to unlearn that association. Thus eventually we will increase the number of places where it simply doesn't occur to us to think leaving us free to be in the moment instead.
Another very good reason for not passing negative judgements is that once we have labelled something in a negative way, that negative label will always come to mind along with that thing. This may then block our ability to see the good in it at a future date.
For example, imagine you taste a new fruit and don't like it saying, "Yuk, that tastes like sour lemons!"
The next time you are offered some of that fruit, your brain will remind you of sour lemons and you will reject the fruit. Supposing, however, that the first time you were offered that fruit and labelled it as "like sour lemons" you had been given a piece of fruit which wasn't representative and was, in fact, a bad example. You are now blocked to ever trying it again and could be missing out on something delicious.
The word 'Prejudice' comes from pre-judgement. I leave it for you to work out the significance of that for you.
And as for the sheep… ? To a ram all sheep are beautiful!