The window

The mind whirls, the cogs ticking. I think about what this all means.  What is this mindful life? how can I analyse it? how can I put it into words?  Nothing comes, the words are there but I can’t quite string them all together so I stop and look out of the window.  I have moved my little desk upstairs, in front of the window that looks out to the back, over the houses to the edge of the town and the trees on the hill.

My mind tells me this is wrong, you can’t just sit and stare out of the window, a memory flashes up so vivid now. That day I was sat in History class. I was bored so was staring out of the window, out to the school playing field and the trees beyond. I got told off by the teacher.

A little voice inside starts to speak, it is a voice that used to be so, so quiet. I could never hear it but over the last few years  its got a bit louder.  It is a voice of compassion, gentle, warming, kind and from the heart.

“You are here my friend not there, it is gone, all is ok. That feeling of wrong is just a memory.   What was wrong then, is not wrong now”

I look out of the window, here in this moment. I look over the rooftops to the trees on the hill, branches all bare hibernating for winter, their tops gently swaying in the breeze.

A plane passes overhead and in that moment a flock of birds soar up from one of the trees and then disappear out of view. Three big pigeons waddle across the top of a roof.

Beyond, the clouds roll by in colours of grey, blue, white and yellow.  It starts to rain, little droplets forming on the window, the pitter-patter sound on the roof above.

Simple, nothing special, so easy to miss but oh so beautiful.

What is this mindful life? The words still haven’t come, but here in this very moment looking out of the window, a feeling of joy bubbles up inside.

Maybe it needs no words, just an experience. A fleeting moment in time.  It can’t be grasped at, held on to, intellectualised and dissected.

A window, a little moment in time.

Maybe it is just this.

 

 

 

Waiting

What are we waiting for?

For so long I found myself waiting,

waiting for a better life,

waiting for more money,

waiting until I have got this mindfulness thing a bit more,

waiting until I am little older and wiser

waiting for the clouds to clear,

waiting for peace and calm,

waiting for something, anything to happen,

waiting before I can fully live this life.

What a false illusion. In waiting for all the cards to line up perfectly, I missed living.

I missed the fact that I was breathing, awake, alive, vital.

I missed the fact that life isn’t always perfect and that imperfection is ok.

I missed the smell of fresh coffee (my favourite),

I missed the birds singing

I missed so many sunsets.

Words cannot adequately describe it, all that is left is this.

I’ve given up waiting, I hope you will do the same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A great adventure

An adventure, lost in time

Those times so vivid in my mind now, times when an hour seemed like a day, a day seemed like a year and Summer felt like a lifetime.

Times when a ride out on my little bike to the next village was a great adventure.

Times when I was awake, vibrant, unencumbered by conditioning.

It seems dream like, may be not real, just a fleeting memory of a time when I was young, the past, gone, never to be experienced again or so I thought….

Life raced on, for some strange reason for years I stopped myself experiencing, I closed my heart, closed my mind, closed my ears and tried to close my eyes as often as I could to block it all out.

Pain, grief, loss, joy, happiness, anger all pushed away or held on to so tightly, not allowed to pass through.  I didn’t know there was another way.

I didn’t know that those times, those endless days, unencumbered, alive and awake, they were still there, just under the surface waiting to be discovered again.  Re-born again into existence by simple, beautiful awareness.

So ordinary, so simple, so easy to miss, no wonder for years I didn’t see it.

Little moments in time

The coffee with my friend.  My ears open, I listen to him speak, there could be a thousand people talking around us at that moment, but all I hear are his words.  My mind is nowhere else but there.  I fully taste the coffee, rich, bitter, strong.  I feel my feet on the floor, grounded, solid.  We seem to drop out of time. For a while our time there seems endless.

The drive to work.  I feel the hands on the wheel, my bum on the seat.  Everything considered.  I turn the radio off, I want no other sound, just the car’s engine.  I hear the gears changing, I do a little wave to lady who has just let me through and mouth the words thank you, I see her smile but she doesn’t wave back.   A car shoots out of a side road right in front of me, I have to brake, for a second I feel that familiar knot in the stomach but I let it pass through, the stimulus has gone, it is over, I don’t need to react or respond.  I wind my way across the lanes, the sun is just poking its head over the horizon, the trees like skeletons, bare, waiting for the season to turn. Just at that moment, I feel more alive than ever, unencumbered.

A walk in the garden.  I let the dog out, he wants to wander around and sniff the myriad of different scents he can pick up.  I look out, not much happening in the garden at this time of year, but wait that little palm I planted last year, crikey it has grown.  A flash of white catches my eye in the bed at the side, snow drops with little heads dangling. My ears pick up on the sound of the little Robin singing away. There is another bird call further away, one I havent heard for a while. I can hear it over the sound of the traffic, a crystal clear ‘keeow’ shriek almost.  I stand on the chair to get a better view over the fence and to the fields beyond the edge of the town. There, high above the trees are two buzzards soaring.  I sit for a while and just listen, a beautiful simple moment in time.

Moments that are disguised in everyday life, I have nothing but gratitude for finding them again.  Those times that seem to last forever.

Moments that make you see that there is nowhere else we have to go and nothing else we have to become.

The great adventure is right here, right now.  It always was and always will be.  When we think we have lost it, there it will be right under our feet.

Be well

Be happy.

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to life

Life and awareness

As I sit and write today my attention keeps being drawn to the little puddle that is being formed on the patio outside the door. The rain is falling at a steady rate, drumming on the glass and roof, each raindrop forming a ripple of perfect circles in the puddle, the sky reflected in its surface. Simple,  absolute perfection.

You may wonder if I have gone a little strange staring at a puddle and wonder why I make such a big deal of it, but it is oh so easy to miss in our quest for something grander, something bigger.  So easy to by-pass in our striving, plotting and planning.

Simple present moment awareness, I missed it for years, it passed me by.

Even when I started this mindful exploration of life and journey into mindfulness and meditation, my mind played a little trick to push me out of the present moment.  It showed me a little snap shot picture of what it thought life would be like in the future, when “I had got it”.

A calm mind, bliss, peace, no stress, oh how wonderful it would be.

Many times I wondered why it wasn’t working. Many times I nearly gave up. Many times I felt uncomfortable.

I staked my happiness on some future ideal, which was just an illusion.

My practice changed when I settled  into  fully accepting what is here, right now. Be that to get rid of my racing mind, stress, bliss, peace, whatever, I stopped chasing it.

It is subtle but made a huge difference.  I stopped meditating to become different.

We meditate to be who we already are, to be right here, right now, awake and vital, our natural self, nothing added, nothing taken away.

Swallowing a bitter pill

This can be a bitter pill to swallow. I know we sometimes desperately want to change, to escape from the present moment but we find the harder we push it away, the harder it pushes back.

The truth is, there is no other moment, this is all we have. This is our work, right here, right now.

Not always comfortable, not always easy, but when we turn our attention to the present moment, it can open us up to moments of wonder and beauty.

When we make this subtle change of acceptance we can start to be satisfied with just being.  For me it was like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, a big sigh of relief.

We may find that the things we chase such as happiness, peace, a calm mind etc.. we no longer have to go out looking for them, they come to us.

Which takes me back to that little puddle, simple present moment awareness.

Our minds can race away but in this moment is a little bit of peace, a space where we can rest a little while…..

Lets rest here a while, in this moment,
in this space between stimulus and response
a space of peace.
With nowhere else to go but right here, right now, this is the only moment we have.
There is no-one else we need to become other than who we are right now, right here.
Simple awareness, simple perfection,
sometimes the most profound is found in the most simple.
Thanks to life
Thanks to life

Surrender to the call for deep rest

“In the silence it will appear, wait, be patient, all will be revealed”

I don’t mind admitting that this time of year usually leaves me feeling exhausted.  December and the beginning of January is the busiest time of year at work, I am usually leaving the house long before the sun has risen and returning long after it has set.

Previous years have seen me battle this busyness, pushing away the tiredness, denying it, avoiding it, wishing it away.  Sure enough, the more I pushed it away the harder it pushed back!   Sleep and rest would become impossible as my mind raced with thoughts of the future and regrets about the past, little stories playing over and over, a sure sign of a tired mind.

So often we try to run away from our emotional states, we run and run and think  we have got away from them, only to turn a corner and see them standing right there in front of us, we may repeat this time and time again.  I know I have, it took me years to realise maybe there is a different way.

What if we stop running and pause.  What if we turn to our emotions as if they are an old friend, helping us, telling us what we need to hear, showing us the way, pointing us to our own inner voice, our guide, our intuition.

A few days ago I turned and greeted the tiredness, I opened the door and invited it in, I surrendered to its call for deep rest. I gave it permission to be here, thanked it for telling me what I needed.  In that acceptance something new began to form, a sense of peace, a place of contentment.

That night, I had the deepest sleep, a good ten hours solid.  I woke up to the feeling that my mind had been filing things away all night, clearing and sorting.  I felt fresh and deeply rested.

Sometimes our emotional states are trying to tell us something, they wont let up until we listen, until we fall silent, until we pause.

A guide to deep rest

  1. It sounds strange but give yourself permission to do nothing.  Often we find an excuse to run, to carry on.  There is always something to do, somewhere to go, but right now give yourself permission to stop, to breathe, to pause.
  2. Sit in quiet meditation for 10 to 15 minutes a day, this is your time.  you don’t need to practice a certain technique, just sit there, be aware of your breath coming in and going out.  Allow whatever thoughts, feelings or emotions to be there, you don’t need to change them, right now you don’t need to do anything.  Allow thoughts and feelings to come and go.  If you find yourself getting lost in a thought or stuck in an emotion, come back to the breath, back to just sitting.
  3. Say no to those unnecessary commitments, give yourself some space, some time to reflect, some time to pause.
  4. Sleep.  There are some great guided sleep meditations on the free App insight timer. Give your mind the deep restorative sleep it needs to recover from the busyness of life.
  5. Accept yourself just as you are.  You are amazing and unique, its okay to feel low but be kind to yourself, be your own best friend.  Be gentle.

 

“Gently, Gently, somehow the spirit of gentleness tells us what we need.  With a gentle strength, a gentle courage, we see our thoughts unmasked.  Like the clouds in the sky and the ripples in the water, they come, they go”

The Mind Shed

 

Let the battle end

This moment

I look out of the window, across the rooftops.

The sun slowly sinks, setting the sky on fire with its orange hue.

As the week draws to a close, part of me wants to reflect on what has been and what is to come, part of me wants to be right here in this moment.

The past and the future all flicker through my awareness, vying for attention.

I look at my feet. Oh good, they are still there firmly rooted to the spot, I am here.  I look out of the window again, the sun sinking further.

It is okay, it is okay.

I remember we can hold it all lightly.  Just thoughts passing through.

There was a time, I could spend days and days lost in the past. Re-living hours and weeks. Meanwhile the sun sank as it is doing now, without me seeing it.

There was a time, I could spend days and days in the future, worrying, planning, making up scenarios, playing them all out in my mind.  Meanwhile the sun sank as it is doing now without me seeing it.

Something has changed

Backwards and forwards my mind goes.

Like I was talking gently to an old friend I have known for a long time, I address my mind.

“its okay my friend you can look back, you can look forward but let’s try it here for a while, here in this moment.  Rest here in this moment for a while, watch the sun set, look at the colours, take it all in, breathe gently my friend”.  

No matter how mindful we are, our mind will go back and forwards, it will wander, why battle to stop this.

Ending the battle

There was a time, I thought I must not be doing this right. My mind is still wandering.

Haha, who was I to think I could stop the mind from wandering.

I know (I thought), I will put the mind on a tight leash and try to spend every moment in the present.

Did that work, umm no way.   Layer, upon layer of thought would be built, this isn’t working, I am not doing this right, turned into I am useless, turned into lets dwell in the past and so on and so on.

So lets cut the mind some slack, give it a long leash.

Whoosh, of it went, back and forwards, ruminating, thinking.

The middle way

So maybe there is something in the middle, a middle length leash.

We can observe the mind wander, and gently bring it back, wander again and gently bring it back, wander again and gently bring it back, over and over. Just enough slack but not too much.

No battle, just a gentle but firm awareness of what is going on. There is some peace here.

This is the practice, the middle way, gentle but firm.

Forever changing

So here we are. The end of another week, we can look back, we can look forward, it really is okay.

We don’t have to stay in the past or stay in the future.

There is somewhere else, right here, right now.

Gentle but firm, come back.

Plant your feet firmly into the floor, look out take it all in.

Know that there is some peace right here in this moment. Let it be what it is. Know that this moment is forever changing, evolving, moving, like the sun setting on the horizon.

Let the battle end.

 

 

A beautiful place

 

There is a beautiful place, underneath all the judgements and the resistance.  A place of quiet stillness, where we can just observe with a gentle curiosity this thing we call life.

A place where we can hold life as if it was a little bird in the palm of our hand. Lightly held and observed with curiosity.

A place where we can just hold it all in awareness and let it be just what it is, not manufactured but authentic and real.

A place where we can see that everything changes moment by moment.  The simple, the profound, it all changes.  From this place we can end the pushing and pulling and just let it change and evolve as it does and as it always will.

A place where we can greet ourselves like an old friend, with open arms, an open heart and a big smile and drop the judgements, end the fight and say lets rest for a while.

A place where we can hear our inner wisdom, our intuition.  In the stillness it speaks to us, telling us what we need to hear.  A place where we can learn to trust this voice.

A place we can breathe, I mean really breathe, to feel the air going in and out of the lungs and to know we are fully alive in this very moment.

A place we can meet the resistance and just experience what we are feeling, beyond good or bad, not grasping or rejecting, just simple experience.

A place we can just watch our thoughts come and go, like clouds in the sky or ripples in the stream.

A place that is with us all the time even in the chaos, in the busyness, know it is there just quietly waiting, whenever you need it.

Nothing we need to become, nowhere we need to go.

A beautiful place, right here, simply in what is.

 

 

Back to the beginning

“Go back and take care of yourself. Your body needs you, your feelings need you, your perceptions need you. Your suffering needs you to acknowledge it. Go home and be there for all these things “

Thich Nhat Hanh

I am going to take a step back today and take a bird’s eye view of things.  I think it is crucial to do every now and again in this practice of mindfulness meditation and life in general.

It is a wonderful thing just to zoom out every now and again.  You could see it as a meditation in itself. To pause and zoom out so you can see clearly all the little nuances of the practice and life, the twists, the turns, the forks in the road.

I hope you would like to come with me, take a flight and take a look, here we go ….

Beginning again

As I look down from a bird’s eye view, I can see that this journey is far from linear but more a series of returns to the beginning.

This is sometimes a bitter pill to swallow.  In a world where we are taught that forward movement, progression and striving are the norm, to think that you might need to start again is a tough one. For the practice of mindfulness and meditation to be effective it is something we have to get comfortable with.

In the beginning, we know nothing, we are just there taking it all in.  As we take information in, we start to put judgements to it, this works, that doesn’t work etc. Soon we are making preferences, we start attaching to the thoughts and before we know it, we are only able to meditate whilst sat on the top of mount Fuji.

I believe this is such a crucial point in the practice.  If we can cultivate the ability to constantly return to the beginning, we can let go of those thoughts, those judgements and those preferences.  What this opens up for us is peace, stillness, an end to the pushing and pulling and an ability to see a new approach and endless possibility.

We can strengthen this in our meditation practice, simply by pairing it back, always bringing it back to the beginning, bringing it back home, back to the breath.

Simply just sit. Sit with no intention other than just to be there.  Just breathe in and out.  A thought will come along, let it come and go like a cloud in the sky or a leaf floating down a stream, you don’t need to chase it or grab hold of it, let it float on by, simply return to the breath, return to the beginning.  Sounds will come to your ears, just let them, let the sound in, listen to it come and listen to it fade away, back to the breath again, back to the beginning over and over, a pure and simple meditation.

I say simple, it is not always so simple.  When our minds are racing away it can seem far from simple but gently gently, we don’t need to come at this with a hammer.  Some thoughts may slip through.  We may realise after ten minutes that we have been lost in a thought, that is okay it really is, this is not a race to the end. Gently come back to the beginning, back to the breath.  We don’t have to strive to be a great meditator. We just have to show up, keep returning to the beginning and keep coming back home.

As we practice this returning, we can see it start to ripple out into our life.  We may start to see a little more peace even in times of chaos. We may start to be able to separate useful thoughts from thoughts that serve no purpose (let them drift on by).  We start to see that the practice of meditation and our life are not separate from each other.

That constant returning to the beginning, is far from failing, it is where the magic happens, where we can grow and transform.

See it rise and fall in awareness

There are times in the practice when things come to the surface. Feelings and emotions that we may have suppressed for years start to be uncovered. We see our desires, our ego, our habitual patterns and addictions clearly. The image of the ‘self’ seems not as solid as it once was.  It can be far from peaceful.

I was lucky to have a teacher that alluded to this early on into my journey.  I also read an amazing book by the late Charlotte Yoko Beck “Everyday Zen”.  An amazing teacher, I recommend her books.  Challenging but very practical, no non-sense, just as it is. She describes the processes we may go through with the practice.

It came to me on a silent meditation day not that long ago, all laid bare, emotions that had been suppressed, rising to the surface.  I didn’t ask it to, we really don’t need to force this. This is the practice at work, shining its light on the dark, hidden places.

We have to have great trust in the practice at this point and lean into our own kindness.  When what we thought was our ‘self’ for many years comes under attack, it can be a little unsettling.

With patience and determination and a continued intelligent practice, the light of awareness shines bright, gradually we start to see more joy and more peace, a release almost.

We see that we don’t have to fight this, we can use what we have cultivated in the practice up to that point.  We can just be with it, observe it, and feel it, non judgementally, bringing forward our innate compassion and kindness.  To just let it rise and fall in awareness. By acknowledging it, it can pass. Not suppressed, but released. Then a return to the beginning, back to the breath, back home.

It is not always peaceful but this is where the changes happen. If this happens, have trust in yourself and the practice.  Be kind, be strong and be patient.

Back to the ground

It helps every now and again, just to rise up, take a birds eye view, to look down and reflect, so we can return with a beginners mind again. Grounded and solid, open to the new possibilities and wonder of it all.

 

“Gently, gently, get comfortable with starting over, come back to the beginning, come back home, no rush, no race, your life seen, acknowledged, felt. This is it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.