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.

 

 

 

 

 

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


 

 

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.



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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.