In the ancient practice of Zen, there’s a lesson called ‘taking off your shoes’. It’s the first instruction that students receive when they start their training. By walking around barefoot along a wooden floor, they become exposed in a way that feels unfamiliar, a bit scary and probably a bit awkward. Anyone caught sauntering around the zendo will be told to stop by the zen master, who will instruct them to “pay attention to the bottom of your feet as you walk”. It is the start of a process of opening up, letting go of our usual defences (‘why the hell do I need to take off my shoes?’) and to detach from external signs of value (shoes). In becoming exposed in this way, the student learns how to become present in every step they take to discover their true value.

The practice of Zen is actually the practice of falling in love. And taking off our shoes is a metaphor for opening up and becoming available to love. It’s about releasing control, cultivating patience, being mindful of our actions (and how they impact others) and paying attention to the world we live in. And it’s more important than ever as research suggests that we’re lost in thought nearly 50% of our lives, probably getting swept away by our internal sh*tty committee (that judgy, critical inner voice… you know the one), which makes it very hard to be present in life. But there is something we can do about it, and it doesn’t involve a zen master and burning incense.

Becoming available to love is simply another way of being present and we can learn this through the practice of mindfulness. This is a key part of getting ready for love because if you want a healthy and happy relationship then it has to start with you. A happy relationship is found in the happiness of your own mind and life {TWEET}. Does this mean that we’re happy 100% of the time. Hell no. Mindfulness isn’t about stopping negative thoughts and feelings and chasing after the good ones, it’s about our relationships with those thoughts and feelings so that when we get knocked off course (which we all invariably do), we can pick ourselves up, bounce back quickly and get back on track. We can become the observer when things go tits up in life and this is the difference between watching a shit storm unfold and being in the eye of a shit storm.

As with most things we want more of in life (love, happiness, joy), it’s not a case of ‘finding’ those things, like a destination to get to, it’s about creating the right conditions for them to naturally arise. Through the practice of mindfulness, we can create the right inner conditions to support us through lifes ups and downs.

There are many ways that you can practice mindfulness but there is one that we can’t recommend enough – the meditation app, Headspace. We are such big fans of these guys. Andy (a former Buddhist monk… who is a little bit dreamy) provides 10 minute guided meditations to help you sleep better, stress less and even smile more. It’s all through an app so you can meditate on the go and because it’s only 10 minutes, even us busy bodies can fit it in.

We’ve been recommending this app as the perfect accompaniment to our Get Ready for Love coaching package and Get Ready for Love online course, and to get you in the mood here is here is a beautiful visualisation on love from Andy (plus a podcast on relationships.

With love, Vicki x

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