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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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.



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From the Heart

 


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A compassionate reminder

Live life today

For so many years I lived my life in the future.  Constantly projecting a picture of what life could be like, constantly looking for the next big thing to make me feel alive. Whilst I was busy projecting, the day-to-day life, the real life, just past in a blur.

It took the death of a relative to snap me out of that fantasy world of make-believe and come back to life as it is right now.  I vowed from that day on to live life now, not in the future.

“Death is not the greatest loss, the greatest loss is what dies inside us whilst we are still living”.

Those simple moments we lose. That empty cup you stare into, wondering who drank your coffee and then suddenly realising it was you. Those moments you get to the top of the stairs and wonder why you went up there. That destination you arrive at and then suddenly wonder how the hell you got there.  The truth is we have all done it.  Small moments that may seem insignificant but what if we spent a whole life like that, what if you only had a few months left to live and you look back on your whole life like you looked into that empty mug. Is that it? was that my life? it must have been, nobody else has lived it for me.

Ask yourself the question “what simple thing can I do right now, to nourish my life”

I used to think, Oh I will enjoy life when I have this or that, or life will be better when I have completed this task and the next big think comes along. Life will be happier after the next holiday and so on and so on, always one day sometime, but never today. It is so easy to fall into this trap, I catch myself still doing it now and again.

Something amazing started to happen when I said to myself “what simple thing can I do right now in this moment to nourish my life and make a difference”.  It could be as simple as being aware of breathing, or just listening to the birds outside, having a mindful cup of tea or coffee, small moments of awareness that ground me to a life of reality and authenticity.

I started to not need the vacation to feel happy, or the next big thing to come along to make me feel alive.   I dropped the need to be so busy and in turn became more productive.  This different mode of thinking, although sometimes difficult to maintain, has and is having, a profound effect.

Last year, I took the leap to reduce my day job working hours, from five days to four. Something that was always going to happen in the future, started happening there and then, that day. Just a small step made possible by just living now, not in the future.  It has meant less money coming in but there is no contest when I weigh it up against having more time to live life in this moment, to follow my heart and passion, to write this blog and to hopefully inspire others to see it is possible.

Cherish those beautiful small moments, it may be walking barefoot on grass, walking the dog, sipping a cup of tea, listening to a friend or loved one or counting your breaths up to ten. Whatever it is, it is what reminds us we are alive now, right in this moment, not in the future.

Pause, take your time, be bold, be courageous but more importantly, live your life today, not tomorrow, not next month or next year, but today.

Be happy, have a great week.

From Roger

www.themindshed.co.uk

Meditation, The Mountains, The Ocean, The Sky

Like Space

Meditate without centre or limit!

Like the sun and the moon,

Meditate in brightness and clarity!

Like the mountains,

Meditate, unmoving and unshakeable!

Like the ocean,

Meditate, deep and unfathomable!

Milarepa

It has taken me a little while to open my eyes and reconnect with the earth, to see its beauty again.  It was always there but it was like a veil was over my eyes.

The sky, endless, colourful, forever changing. Above the clouds, always blue.

The mountains, serene, majestic, solid, unmoved by the weather and by what happens on its surface, an unwavering stillness and grounded in the face of everything that changes over seconds, over hours, over years.

The ocean, waves come and go, the ocean doesn’t hold on to them.  The tide comes in and go out. At times the waves may be rough but always under the surface, there is calm and peace.

Perhaps the earth can teach us,  to show us the way, to lift the veil, to open our eyes.


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Meditation doesn’t have to be so serious

Mr.Serious

There are times when I can be far too serious.  I started writing a post this morning about Silent reflection.  Half way through it, I re read it and thought it was very sombre and to be honest didn’t reflect how I feel at the moment.  I want to laugh, I want to smile.

How infectious a laugh is.  Yesterday I was driving down the road and a car was trying to park on the kerb opposite. It was double yellow lines and they were obstructing the oncoming traffic.  I stopped and waved through the oncoming car, the driver looked quite cross and did a hands up gesture as if to say “what the hell are they doing”.  In that split second we made eye contact, I laughed and shook my head, as she drove past me I saw her grimace turn into a smile.  A small snapshot moment, but it is powerful.

I haven’t always been able to smile and laugh.  I mean, a smile that is from the heart, one of those smiles you can see in the eyes and beams out.  Its getting easier.  Until I started meditating and doing the body scan, I didn’t even realise my brow was in a permanent frown haha!

A happy (or not) holiday

I remember as a kid going on a boating holiday on the Thames with my family. It was supposed to be a happy time but I was far from happy for some reason. My anxiety was raging and the holiday was fraught, the boat (or more likely the steerer!) had a tendency to veer towards the wrong channel in the river and we seemed to be forever fending off and avoiding going over the weirs. I was certain that there was going to be an impending doom for us all. I didn’t enjoy it one bit, which is odd that some years later, I ended up living and working on a narrow boat.  I can laugh now when I think back to that holiday but at the time it was a nightmare.  When I picture it now, it’s quite comical.  A seemingly happy, picturesque holiday on the river, scenes of the gently flowing water and tree-lined banks. That vision then smashed by a revving boat engine and screams of reverse,reverse for gods sake before we go over the weir!

Anyway, I digress but just a little snapshot of my early life and how I took life far too seriously from a young age.

Meditation and dropping the seriousness

I also looked at meditation with this seriousness I always knew.  I went about it as if I was doing an expedition up Everest,  but a few years down the line, I’ve learnt to hold it lightly, to smile with it and to laugh. It really doesn’t have to be so serious.  My meditation teacher mentioned Donald Trump in a meditation the other day, I can’t remember the context but it made me blurt out a little laugh mid meditation.

When I come to meditate without the seriousness, strangely I seem to get more out of it. As if by letting go a little, allows the meditation to do its work.  Letting the dust settle, allowing myself to just be me, with a little smile on my face.

Smile

I can only say I feel lighter just lately (in the spiritual sense, I have put on a few pounds in the last few weeks) which has allowed me to drop the rigid seriousness and smile a bit more.

Of course there are times when life has to be serious, the world we live in can be a serious place (too much so sometimes), but I think it is useful to be able to drop the serious every now and again.

So until next time (might be back to serious then, but maybe not) I wish you well, have fun, have a laugh and most of all, may you be happy.