The Mindful Path – The Lion’s Mind

 02/26/2024 | 09:46 AM 

By Marilyn Halpern, MSW, LSW ~

“If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb.”

As it turns out, this weather-wise expression has several origin stories. It has been attributed to the playwright, John Fletcher (1624) and the writer, Thomas Fuller (1732). It certainly has stood the test of time.

The proverb is of special interest as we deepen our meditation practice. Some people may erroneously believe mindfulness is supposed to result in blissful euphoria. Our unruly minds become lamb-like. Take some deep breaths for ten minutes, clear your mind, and boom you are set to go. Unfortunately, the process is not that simple. For those whose minds race with thoughts or those who find they are caught in an endless loop of negativity, mindfulness can seem frustrating and pointless.

The metaphor of the Lion’s Mind was introduced in Breath by Breath (1998) by Larry Rosenberg. The concept compares how a dog responds to waving a bone. All of the dog’s attention will be drawn to the bone. His eyes will track the bone in eager anticipation. In contrast, if a person waved a bone in front of a lion, the lion is more likely to see beyond the trivial bone to substantial prey. Often in our frantic lives with our wild minds, we are consumed by thoughts. The Lion’s Mind encourages us to pause to see the source, to see the big picture. We are encouraged to contemplate the energy we give to events, thoughts and circumstances that may be inconsequential or out of our control. The process of letting go of what has been called “the small stuff” can allow our minds to settle like a lamb.

For our March mindfulness practice, set a timer for 10-30 minutes. Begin with three slow, steady, deep breaths. As you are comfortable, soften your gaze or close your eyes. Notice the sensation of our bodies supported sitting upright. Slowly turn your head from side to side. Gently, nod your head up and down noticing any tension in the neck. As the breath becomes more rhythmic and steady, shrug your shoulders up and down. As the body becomes more relaxed with the breath, begin to notice any thoughts that come to your consciousness. Allow the thoughts to come to your awareness without judgement, reaction or criticism. The thoughts are as light as air, coming and going. As the thoughts drift to your awareness allow your mind to experience the breath. This gentle practice provides rest and relaxation for your brain.

After your practice, begin to notice if your thoughts are more focused on substance and the big picture or does your mind latch onto the “bones.” Sometimes we can get caught up in our perceptions, experiences and doubts. It can be helpful to write in a journal the thoughts that persist or what ideas may have surfaced. Mindfulness takes courage and fierceness. After all, we are trying to corral our mind which is so powerful it can dictate our demise or promote our wellbeing. For March, as we look forward to the first spring blossoms on the snow laden ground, our Lion’s Mind can be developed or enhanced.

Marilyn Halpern is the founder and executive director of Aspen Care Services. This
locally owned business provides medical power of attorney, care management and
professional guardianship services in the Denver Metro area. For more information visit www.aspencareservices.com or www.aginglifecare.org. Image credit: Roland Halpern

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