“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 ….
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.”