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.

 

 

 

 

Knocking down the walls of fear

“Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack, in everything, that’s how the light gets in”

Leonard Cohen

For many years I built a metaphorical prison for myself. Brick by brick, wall by wall, until I was completely surrounded.

The walls I built were made of fear and shame.  Although it was all in my mind, it felt very, very real, trapped in a prison of my own making.

But what was I afraid and ashamed of?

The truth is, I was afraid to expose who I really was.  Sensitive, awkward, anxious, quiet and well and truly in the closet.

I was so afraid that somebody might see the real me, I built a prison to hide in and I started to live a lie.  In doing so, I cut myself off from life bit by bit.

If we believe it, fear has the ability to stop us from taking any action.  It will tell us that it is just far to painful to show up as ourselves in the world, much better to stay in the familiar prison.

I want to tell you now, there are cracks in the walls we build, big enough to let the light in and to show us the way out.  True happiness, true contentment and peace will never be found in the prison of fear.

knock down the walls or just open the door

It took me until my late twenties and early thirties to accept who I am and to be comfortable in my own skin.  It is work in progress,  I can find myself back in the prison sometimes but once you have seen the way out, you don’t forget it.

Mindfulness – Coming out of auto pilot mode

One of the things mindfulness is good at, is taking us out of auto pilot mode. In autopilot mode we are unlikely to see the patterns of behaviour that put us in the metaphorical prison.

With a heightened awareness that mindfulness brings, I can see when I am starting to build the walls again, when anxiety and fear start to take over.

A daily practice of meditation and everyday mindfulness provides the awareness.  So when I find myself back in the so-called prison, I don’t have to knock the walls down, the prison door stays wide open, it never gets locked, all I have to do is make the choice to walk through it.

Kindness and compassion

In my post “From the heart” I wrote how compassion and kindness has helped me over the last few years.

There was a time I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror, now I look and smile as if I am greeting my best friend.

At least once a week, I will carry out this simple compassion meditation and drop these words right into my heart.  I start with myself and then wish the same for a close friend or loved one. I don’t search for a special feeling or emotion but more often than not a feeling of peace and contentment will arise during the meditation.

May I be well, May I be happy, May I be free from suffering and harm.

May you be well, may you be happy, may you be free from suffering and harm.

Being kind and compassionate to ourselves and others can bring great inner strength and inner peace.   It helped me to see, that I can just be me, I can have a soft heart but also a strong back, I can be kind but doesn’t mean I am a walk over. I can be sensitive and caring because that just who I am. I can drop the macho bullshit, it’s just not me.  A big learning curve, but one that allowed me to escape that prison I built once and for all.

Goodbye prison

Mindfulness and meditation have changed my life.

To be clear though, It hasn’t changed me. When I first started with it, I so badly wanted to change, to be somebody else.  It is what brought me to the practise in the first place, but it had other plans.

It is returning me back home, back to my natural state, my true self, just simply me.

I hope this helps anybody out there that feels stuck in a prison of fear, shame, guilt or whatever other things we build our walls with.

Take the time to stop, to notice, notice the cracks in the walls you have built around you. Be curious about the light that shines through them and go after it.

There is plenty of time, know that it is okay. It is okay to just be yourself.

With Best wishes, I hope you have a great week, from Roger.