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Mindfulness – Listening

Twists and turns in the journey

As I journey into this life with meditation and mindfulness, it becomes harder to put my experience into words.  As the mind becomes quiet, so does the stories, the self and the reasons why.

This is meditation doing its work, unseen, without glory. Creating space, immense and timeless.  A space where the pushing and pulling stops, where the influence of experience and knowledge has no power. Where the motives of the ego mind diminish.

The demands of the mind still come, the fears, the judgments, the attachments, but from this space created by the practice, they can be acknowledged, felt and allowed to move through freely, with ease.

I believe it is from this space we can see change and transformation.

The road is full of twists and turns.  I know less now that I did when I first started out and I am happy to rest with that.  The knowledge that got me here did just that, it got me to sit on the cushion, to search for the space, but the practice turns this all upside down.

I came to this practice seeking change, security, happiness and peace.  What I was really seeking was satisfaction and reward, all from the ego mind.  All my efforts were based around this.  My ego mind had played a trick, a self projection, it showed me a little picture of what life would be like in the future, an illusion, totally unreal.

From this place of still mind, free from the known, no true or false, no should be or should not, the illusions fall away.  In this rawness emerges something new, peaceful and still.

Listening

I will often just go and stand in the back garden and listen. Just listening to the birds singing, trying to pick out the different calls (it’s usually Robin, he has such a lovely tune).  Then I listening to the far away sounds, the traffic on the road, the kids playing on the park, the dog barking, the plane passing by overhead.

Just listening can be a meditation in itself, opening up the space in the mind, away from the narrow channels of awareness we build. Just allowing it all in, not wanting it to go away or be different, just listening with curiosity.  There is a great beauty in listening this way, it is quite extraordinary.

Our ears are so often blocked up with projections, opinions and thoughts that we rarely listen at all.

The more we truly listen, the quieter it becomes, the more the space opens up.

Generous Heart

We must keep an open and generous heart in this practice.  There are times when I have closed my heart on this journey, becoming hard and stern with myself.  In that tight-fisted, closed down mode of thinking, the space closes in.  A day or week may go by, little things start to niggle you, you start to push away noise, fear may arise in the belly, be aware of it, this may happen.

Go gently, breathe, soften, sit back, sink in and root our feet to the floor.  Things may go awry, that’s okay, we can always come back, always.

Go to a quiet place, close your eyes and drop into your heart. Just listen, the heart knows what you need, no words are required.

Just listen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gently, Gently

 

Go gently into this life. 

Hold it gently in awareness.  Everything is going to be ok.

Observe with gentle curiosity this thing we call life.  Let it evolve and change as it always will, moment to moment, day by day, year by year.

Underneath the pushing and pulling, the resistance, the judgements is a beautiful place, a little piece of solid ground.  A place of stillness and peace where we can see it all unfold.

A little piece of solid ground in an ever-changing world, it is right within us.  In the breath, in our eyes, in our nose, in our hands, in our feet, in our hearts. It is right there whenever we need it.

A gentle strength, a gentle courage.  I never thought those words would go together, but they do.  Gentleness is strength and courage.

Gently we can lean into our discomforts without battling with them. We may see them for what they are, unmasked.  Like a cloud floating by in the sky, like the ripples in a stream, it comes and it goes.

With this gentleness we see the space between stimulus and response and wow how lovely that space is. The space that affords us a birds-eye view without being caught up in the moment.

From this place we can feel sad when we are sad, angry when we are angry, happy when we are happy.  We don’t have to sugar coat our natural emotions. Our true emotions need to be felt, not pushed away, not resisted.  Gently we can acknowledge the truth of how we are feeling, to gently be with it, without knee jerk reaction, authentic and real.

Somehow the spirit of gentleness tells us what we need.

Go gently into this life, hold it lightly in awareness. It’s all going to be ok.

 

 

 

 

 

Meditation – Awareness

 

There is a space between the thoughts, a pure moment of awareness, silent, still, peaceful. A quiet calm of nothing, just awareness.

 

In that infinitesimal gap between the out breath and the in breath, there is just awareness, pure and simple.

 

When we drop the I, what is left? Walk, talk, work, eat ,sleep, etc. Just awareness.

 

When we see through our mental patterns, those little stories we tell ourselves, the judgement, I am not good enough, the should haves, the should haven’ts. When we smile because we recognise it for what it is, just a thought. Just awareness.

 

When we finally realise that we are not always in the driving seat and don’t need to be. Knowing that there are some things we simply cannot control and simply return to our breath, the anchor. Just awareness

 

When we open our eyes and look at a flower as if seeing it for the very first time, the colours, the scent, the shape. Just awareness.

 

 

 

Like the clouds parting to reveal a clear blue sky, we will get glimpses of these spaces of awareness from time to time.  When they come, be curious, ponder them, explore the space around the thoughts and between the breath.  Awareness, pure and simple.

 

 

 

 

 

Change

“A walk in nature, walks the soul back home”

Mary Davis

This morning, as me and George tromped across the fields on our morning walk, I could feel and see the subtle shift in the seasons.  The smell of damp earth, the misty sky as the sun broke through, the vivid colours in the trees, reds, yellows all just starting to change.

I remember a time I used to dread the end of summer, I would mourn for it, cling on to its memory, those long summer days and warm nights.

This time it feels so different.  As we stand in the middle of the recently ploughed field, my feet firmly planted into the earth, rooted right here in this moment, I look up and see the changes happening, I can smell and feel the clear crisp air, the mist flowing over the field, nature at work, a new beginning.

How strange, it is as if I have never seen this happen before, never before witnessed the subtle changes of seasons and how beautiful it is.  Maybe I was always too caught up in mourning the passing of summer, stuck in the past, worrying about the future and forgetting the present.

There is a sense of deep peace here, just here in this very moment, not clinging, not grasping, not reaching out.  Just letting these changes happen and witnessing it all unfold in awareness.

Just a little moment in time.

Beautiful nature, the greatest teacher of all.  Nothing is permanent, everything changes.

 

 

Back to basics – Meditation and life

In walking, just walk, in sitting, just sit. Above all don’t wobble

Yun-Men

Balance

The simple beauty of those words, just walk, just sit.  Just saying them can bring a sense of peace, a relief almost. Several times a year I attend a sesshin, a day of intensive meditation and most importantly, a day of silence, no talking. I used to find the silence a bit awkward, now the relief of silence is priceless.  I adore those days of just walking, just sitting, just nothing, just being. It’s just lovely.

If you wobble, don’t worry, don’t fret, take a deep breath, remember you’ve balanced before you can do it again

It is a fine line we walk in this practice of living (mindfully).  To strive to be our very best yet at the same time grounding ourselves into this very moment, to reach out but not hold on, to be curious about life but not over think it. It can sometimes feel at odds with the world around us.

Although I try my best to walk this line with care and attention, I still sometimes feel myself being thrown off-balance at times. This is normal, it really is okay. It is simply life and a reminder that it is time to go back to basics again.

Peel back the layers again – meditation, back to basics

Simple Awareness

When we feel off-balance it is easy to use meditation as an escape, to withdraw from our life.

When we start to feel like this, it may help us to be reminded of this one thing:

Meditation is about being fully present, awake to what is.  Simple awareness.

The practice of meditation is about cultivating the ability to be awake in our life, not separate from it but awake to life as it is.  By doing this we can start to be more curious about what is happening, “ah I feel off-balance, time to go back to basics” is just one example.

Intention

Setting an intention can be good but I find it can also sometimes get in the way with meditation.  Before you even sit for meditation, notice what your intention is, are you looking to get something out of the meditation? Are you looking to change something? are you coming to sit with an “okay let’s get this over with” attitude? whatever it is, notice it and then let it go as if it was a cloud floating by in the sky.

Posture

Going back to basics means also checking your posture in meditation.  I often notice myself slouching a little, especially when I am feeling a little off-balance and out of sorts.  Posture is important, it sends a message to your inner self “hey, I am here, I am aware, I am returning to balance”

Whether it’s on a chair, cushion or stool, visualize the most beautiful and ancient tree, its roots deep in the earth, its trunk upright and straight and its leafy canopy reaching up into the sky.  That’s our posture. Our feet, legs, knees, rooted to the floor, our backs straight and upright.  Just allow your body to be still, sitting with a sense of dignity, a sense of resolve, a sense of being complete.

Attention

It is easy to over think what we are supposed to be doing in meditation.  It helps to pair it back to the basic placement of your attention.

My anchor or placement of attention is the breath. That simple life-giving thing that we take for granted.  Of course, there are other things we can use as an anchor, but the fact that the breath is so normal and so beautifully simple, helps us when we are needing to just come back to basics, back to the real core of the practice.

Our mind will wander.  A bit like when I was teaching my little terrier George to walk at heel.  He would wander off or pull ahead. Gently, I would bring him back to my heel, over and over again. Over time he learnt that it was quite nice to walk next to his dad (plus his dad usually had some treats in his pocket haha!)

The same in our practice, our minds will wander, when you notice, just label it as thinking and gently come back to the placement of attention, the breath (or whatever your anchor is) over and over again. The essence of the practice, over and over. Simple placement of awareness.

Over time, this strengthening of awareness starts to spill out into everyday life. Look out for those times when you see it working.

The beauty and simplicity of the practice – back to basics

Awareness – Being awake

Intention – Notice it and let it go

Posture – Be a tree

Attention – Your anchor, your strength



Hold your life in awareness, encounter it, feel it, honour it, know it for what it is.

Just walk, just sit, just breathe.

Just be you.

 

 

 

 

Turn up the love

I make no excuses, unashamedly I write an awful lot about the heart in this blog.  My mindfulness and meditation journey seems to be taking me more and more into this area, into the heart centre. Compassion seems too light a word for it, it is like tapping into our very being, our very essence, our inner guide.

Listening to the heart

The voice of the heart is quiet, our mind loves to barge right in and drown it out.  It takes time, everyday I just listen a little more.  In silence and solitude, the heart will start to speak.

Connect with the breath, the anchor.  Put your attention to your heart centre and breathe deeply into that area. As you breath in, visualize light going straight to your heart, as you breath out visualize darkness leaving your heart, just listen.

Being the light in the dark

However hard we try, we really can’t escape the fact that there is injustice and harm in the world. We will at some point have to face our darkest hour, I am not trying to be a doom monger here, it is just a fact. We can face this with fear, anger, rage even. Or we could try to up our level of kindness, respect, humility, compassion and integrity to others but first and foremost ourselves.  We have a choice.

Maybe the most bold and courageous thing we will ever do is to be a light in the darkness for ourselves.

Put your hand on your heart, breathe into that space, give yourself the love and compassion you need. Know that its just fine to be yourself. We are unique, there is only one you and only one me. Follow the inner guidance of the heart, just listen.

Strength

When I look back in my meditation log / journal to when I started heart meditations, there is something that stands out from the page. STRENGTH. It is repeated no less than 5 times on the page.  Heart work has the ability to give us strength to face whatever situations crop up in our lives. To head into the dark, trusting the light within, to stand on our own two feet.

At the bottom of that particular page in my journal, just underneath the title “loving kindness meditation” is a little sentence that will forever stand out for me on this journey we call life…

“I can be my own father”

That’s the kind of strength I mean.

 


May you be well

May you be happy

May you be free from suffering

May you be the light in the dark


 

 

Taking the scenic route – A mindful exploration of life

A road trip with Grandpa Ernie

I love a good road trip.  One of my biggest memories from my childhood is sitting in the back of my Grandpa Ernie’s old royal blue Vauxhall Chevette, watching the scenery go by. I have him to thank for my love of the scenic route.

He would very rarely go on a motorway, instead choosing to take to the A and B roads at a much slower pace (in fact I am sure that Chevette never went over 40!).  Over hills we would go, twisting through valleys. Occasionally I would catch a glimpse of a motorway, cars speeding along, whilst we meandered through the lanes. We would point and talk about places of interest on the way.  Everything seen, everything considered.  Trips to the seaside took an age and always an anti climax when we got there,  the competition we had as to who saw the sea first was always the best bit.

As I got a bit older, it became a standing joke how long it took us to get to places with Ernie at the wheel.  I  would get bored and wonder why he just didn’t get on the fast roads, why waste all this time when there was a much quicker route.

Grandpa Ernie died when I was young, I never really got to know him, not properly. Thirty odd years later, I look back fondly, wondering if Ernie was alive now, we could persuade him to run a mindfulness workshop, or better still take us all on a mindful drive through the lanes in his old Chevette. He didn’t know any different, mindfulness was his default setting.

I certainly find myself in the metaphorical sense wanting to take the scenic route more and more, to come off the motorway of life every now and again and meander through the lanes, taking time to take it all in.

A busy life

Which ever way we butter it up our lives are busy, the world is fast.  It isn’t going to slow down anytime soon and for good reason. Progress has to be made, things have to be done, that’s just how it is. But do we need to race through life?  what are we racing for? what are we trying to achieve?

We like to wear our busyness like a badge of honour.  “How are you today?” “ah yes all good, keeping busy”. You hear it so many times.  If we are not busy, then there must be something wrong.

If you sit in the coffee shop and just drink a coffee or stare out of the window, you get looked at like you’re a psychopath “oh my god, he must be a serial killer, he isn’t fiddling with a phone or making a drinking a coffee instagram selfie, #busy”. Its sound absurd and perhaps a little over exaggerated but you get my drift, busyness is the norm.

If we race through life what happens at the end? Do we go, oh shit, there’s the finish line, the final destination, why the hell did I run so fast, I will try to turn back, nope can’t do that, where are those meandering lanes when you need them?

A mindful route.

The practice of mindfulness can allow us to see that there is perhaps another route, a more scenic option, where you can see the scenery and wind the window down to feel and smell the clear air. A route that allows you to pause at life’s junctions and to be curious about which way to go without being overwhelmed.  A route that allows you to know when its time to pull over and rest. A route that allows you to uncover your inherent zest for life, that buzz of joy in your tummy.  A route that allows you to fully experience whatever is happening right here, right now, good or bad, without judgement or knee-jerk reaction. A route that allows us to mindfully join the motorway of life when we need to, but to come off onto the meandering lanes when it serves no purpose to be going so fast.  A route that above all, doesn’t focus on the destination but on the journey itself.

As we sit in meditation and when we bring mindfulness to our everyday lives, we could see it as a trip onto those meandering lanes, a curious and mindful exploration of life as it really is.

Will mindfulness turn me into a blob?

Sometimes people are put off from trying mindfulness because they believe it will slow them down, numb their senses, turn them into blobs of nothing, without any feelings.

I can only speak from my experience, but the opposite is true.  It is as if somebody has turned up the brightness button, life that looked dull, has started to be seen in Technicolor.  Mindfulness has the ability to awaken the senses. Senses that we forget to use when life is going so fast and we are lost in our heads.  Sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing.

It sounds weird but I swear I’ve only just learnt how to smell again (I really ought to go have a shower).

Instead of becoming a blob, taking time out, in silence and stillness might be the thing that makes us feel more alive than ever, it really is worth a go.

A mindful Exploration of Life

We can’t always take the meandering lanes, sometimes we have to join the motorway, but we don’t have to stay on it forever, why race to the end when there is a whole network of meandering lanes waiting for us to explore.

So there we have it, if anybody asks me what I think mindfulness is,  I will say its like taking a drive onto the meandering lanes of life. Anybody up for a trip?


May you have a great week ahead, if you feel like life is going a bit too fast, stop and breathe, remember this little story, I hope it makes you smile.

From Roger

In The Mind Shed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cutting off the old habits

Dissolution of old habits

There have been times over the last few months that I have felt a sense of loss, as if a part of me has gone.  I believe this is down to the fact that I have been releasing some old habitual ways of thinking.

I’ve certainly become more aware of the negative emotions and the thought patterns that block up the flow of life.  Those emotions that at one time appeared solid and real, now are seen as just a thought.  The impermanent nature of them is revealed more than ever.  In one way this is good but the flip side is it causes me to feel somewhat disconnected. To witness the dissolution of something you thought was so real can be a little unsettling, even if those old habitual ways of thinking where negative.

This is the point we can get stuck and boomerang back to the old way of thinking.  The truth is, it isn’t enough to just disengage with these old habitual ways of thinking. We have to delve a little deeper, to connect with the openness and spaciousness that the release of these habits have created, being curious to what we find without reacting or responding.  It could be,like me, there is a sense of loss, well what does that loss feel like in the body, where is it felt, in the tummy, in the heart, just be curious without trying to push it way.

Delving deeper

By delving a little deeper this way, we can slowly start to connect again to our true self and a transformation can start to take place.  It takes courage and strength to stay with it.  This is the real practice, it is by far from easy and I hope that if anybody is at this point, they find comfort in these words and know they are not alone.  With strength, compassion and self-care we can go beyond just dropping those old habits and start on the road to transformation.

Simplicity and the three pills

In my practice and more so now in my life off the cushion, I like to keep things simple.  We so love to over complicate things and if something seems too simple we think it just won’t work. In our quest to find something we can’t get, we forget to see what we already have.

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche sums it up beautifully in this recording.  Three precious pills….

A Stillness amidst all the activity, a silence lying underneath all the noise and a spaciousness which brings a feeling of warmth, compassion and calmness.  The three precious pills.


I hope you find these words helpful. Please feel free to comment below.  You can also contact me at info@themindshed.co.uk

You can also find me on the usual social media channels. It is always a challenge, I try to use social media mindfully, there really is so much noise out there, so you wont find me posting too much.

You will see on the home page my Instagram feed, I love nature and photography and so naturally this has become my preferred method of communication though social media.  Most of the images have quotes and or a short teaching, you can see my page by clicking the link below.

The Mind Shed Instagram



Thank you

Thanks again for reading.  If The Mind Shed is a little quiet from time to time, please bear with me.  I write as it is, from the heart, authentic. As such, at times it has to fall silent, to pause, and well, just time to connect with those three pills.  A bit of silence, stillness and spaciousness every now and again is so good for us all.

Be well.

From Roger.

Getting right to the heart of it

I have felt a definite shift in my mindfulness and meditation practice over the last few weeks.  I have felt the need to be silent, to be still, to step away from the noise and to drop into my heart, to hear what it has to say.

The heart seems to have a mysterious way of knowing just what is required, yet so often we don’t listen to it.  In the busyness of life, the heart gets drowned out by the noise of it all, opinions, judgements, I should do this, I shouldn’t do that. When we drop into the heart and truly listen,  intuition comes to the fore and common sense prevails.

I find it fascinating that science is coming round to the fact that the heart may have a brain of its own. Besides its primary function of keeping us alive, research has shown it appears to contain thousands of neurons and neurotransmitters.  I am not a doctor nor a scientist, I can only tell you, (from my heart) it has been one of the most transformational aspects of my practice so far.

“If mindfulness is the boat, compassion is the water it floats on”

Mindfulness without compassion is a bit like trying to push a boat on dry land. If mindfulness is the boat, compassion is the water it floats on (you know I like my nautical references).For this reason, compassion is the most important aspect of my practice and teaching. Compassion, kindness and awareness can come to us naturally if we truly listen to our hearts.

The heart of the practice

It takes time to connect with the heart again. For years, I didn’t listen, beating myself up, fears, judgements, all the noise took over. But slowly, without over thinking it, for ten minutes I would just sit, putting my attention to the heart area and breathing in deep as if breathing in light to the area, then a release of the breath out, sending the darkness out into the atmosphere, just repeating that for ten minutes, light in, dark out.  As with most of this sort of practice it is experiential, it cannot be intellectualised and in a way it can’t be written, it has to be felt and experienced with no expectation.  I don’t practice this at every meditation but at least once a week, I drop into the heart.

The heart knows what we truly need, it wants to be listened to.  Don’t take my word for it, drop into your heart every now and again and just listen. Put your hand on your heart and give yourself the love, the kindness and the compassion you need.

Be patient, watch the small shifts happen and allow things to unfold in their own good time, not forced but from the heart.

With Love from The Mind Shed.



Click for more about the heart from the Mind Shed

From the Heart

 


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Opening our eyes to nature

“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees”

Henry David Thoreau

The stillness, the scents, the sounds, the crunch of leaves under foot.  No better place to practice a bit of mindfulness but in the woods.  I took this picture on a woodland walk, the place just filled me with awe.

As a plant man I look around and try to name all the trees, as a meditator I just listen, just smell, just touch.

Nature does a great job of bringing my right back to this moment, reminding me of the peace and the stillness within.  Ancient trees, just swaying in the wind, roots buried deep into the earth. The cycles of life and death, ever-changing, moment by moment, day by day, year by year.

Simple contentment, stillness and peace.  I take that with me out of those woods, not taller than the tree, but my roots a little deeper, connected to the earth, my head held up to the sun.

I wish you all a wonderful week ahead

From Roger.