Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Can you meditate anywhere?

Gosh I've been so resistant to doing a blog this week!  When I first started out and, having read around, the general consensus was that you had to post 3 times a week to get your message out there (what message?....where?.....).  So being the dutiful person that I am, that's what I aimed for, and ...I think one week I achieved this.  Ah there's the rub!  Mindfulness by definition is about not striving for things!!!  It's about being in the moment, paying attention to what's there for you right now; being accepting of yourself and all your little faults.  So in setting myself a target for writing a mindfulness blog - I have kind of missed the point.  Mindfulness isn't about being goal centred!!   Some teacher I am! 

But then again, that's why I LOVE mindfulness.  You can never get it wrong.  It is what it is on any given day.  You may practice diligently every day, for 30 minutes, sat on a special cushion, in complete silence, your zen timer patiently counting down the minutes until your practice is over.  Or you may be sat squashed like a sardine on the 201 to Manchester, 9 different ipods sharing their tinny, irritating version of tunes you'd never normally listen to - all the while eavesdropping (I say eavesdropping - I mean come on!  People share EVERYTHING when they are on their phones on the bus!).  You just can't help but overhear that Brenda is having cheese and onion pie for tea; Kylie copped off last night and woke up with a love bite and no purse and the ubiquitous "I'm on the bus, I'm getting off now...I'm walking towards I am" conversation. Yes, I have tried to meditate during said bus journeys - does it work?  Sometimes.  Does it make my meditation experience any less than a Buddhist monk (ok maybe that's the wrong example), let's say from someone sat quietly on their spesh cushion?  I'd have to say no and that's because mindfulness is about experiencing the now, whatever it is and wherever it is. 

I mean let's face it....if you can meditate on the 201 you can meditate just about anywhere!

So next time you are on the bus or train, why don't you take a moment to look out of the window and pay attention to the view.  Or close your eyes and just feel your breath rise and fall, easily and effortlessly - letting any thoughts drift by like leaves in a stream........Oh.....and when Brenda says she's having cheese and onion pie for tea....TELL HER TO SHUT UP COS YOU'RE MEDITATING!!!

Have a great week


ps Cautionary note:   No commuters were harmed in the making of this blog.  It is perhaps inadvisable to shout on a bus especially if late for work (poetic license has been used here).

Sunday, 20 March 2011

I really must stop catastrophising!

As part of my on-going development as a mindfulness trainer I regularly attend supervision meetings.  The aim of these sessions is for trainers to discuss any issues they may have either with their own meditation practice, or with their work with others.  We also have time to discuss books we've read about the subject, interesting courses we've seen, future workshops that we are planning and the merits of internet dating (Yes I did say that!).  Well it's not all work work work!

Anyway, it was at one of these supervision sessions that the idea of "trust emergence" was discussed.  It's a Buddhist principle which, in a nut shell is about not always planning everything to the nth degree but going with the flow and seeing what emerges.  So for instance, instead of me sitting down with a specific subject for my blog, I just wait and see what inspires me and what my subconscious throws up.  I've just realised that my definition isn't perhaps as eloquent as I'd like so for a more edifying description, see below:

To 'trust' is to make the leap of faith required to enter the seething sea of change. 'Emergence' refers to the process by which the complex things we experience arise spontaneously from underlying contributing factors.  Insight Dialogue: The Interpersonal Path to Freedom…(Paperback)
by Gregory Kramer, Chapter 13
I really loved this definition and the idea of jumping into "a seething sea of change".  I called my first blog "leap of faith" and it took me about 20 minutes to press the send button when I'd written my first post.  This was because I was totally outside my comfort zone, standing on the precipice of a brave new creative world.  I didn't know what outcome would emerge from my random ramblings, I just had to trust that it was the right thing to do and jump!!!  Having landed firmly on the other side, well ok I may have hit my head on the way but no other major injuries (no bruised ego or wounded pride......well not yet anyway) I can look back at the view and think "I'm really glad I did that".  I never thought I would sit at a computer and feel excited at the idea of writing a blog or be able to cope with the fizzing adrenaline rush that consumes me when I haven't got a clue what to write!!!  But I'm still here and I'm still writing.
So I guess I'm inviting you to have a go at a little "trust emergence".  Do you always need to know where you are going and plan for every eventuality?  Is your path mapped out for you or can you take a diversion because who knows what's down this road as opposed to that road; what view you may miss or experience you may not have.  "Trust emergence" is really about being totally in the moment or "mindful".  Just letting things happen and going with the flow.  Why don't you give it a go and see what "emerges"!
One quick story to finish off with:
The other evening I was awoken by the sound of our side gate being rattled.  It was 5.30 am and still dark outside.  Hub was, as usual, dead to the world, puffing and blowing so I gave him a nudge - D!  There's someone trying to break in!    He stopped snoring and sat up bleary eyed!  "Someone is trying to break in at the side gate!!!  What shall we do?"  By this stage D was awake and confirmed that the said gate was indeed rattling like a rattley thing!  I ran to the back bedroom window - the security lights were on....gulp!  D ran to the front - that wasn't on (BECAUSE HE'D NOT REPLACED THE BULB DOH!!!).  Unfortunately, it was at this point that we realised we didn't have a view of the side.  I therefore made the executive decision to race down to the kitchen and set of the infra-red alarm sensor in a bid to scare off the burglars!  I felt sick with anticipation as I went into the kitchen as I could see the side light was also on - someone was definitely there trying to break down our side gate.  Alarm goes off - cats go wide-eyed with fear - I go wide-eyed with fear and then look round to see D, fully dressed armed with mini-D's cricket bat. "DON'T GO OUTSIDE!!!"  I say.  "What if they beat you up? ". I was terrified, but with a small sense of pride at my bloke being all manly!  I stand behind him, not knowing whether to arm myself with the bread knife  (risky) or the cat scratching post (just weird!!)  and we took a deep breath and tentatively opened the back door.
And there, in the darkness he stood,
Bobby the badger!
And so you see, that's what happens when you have a powerful mind!  Talk about catastrophising!
Have a good week.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Don't miss one day like this...

I read a really interesting article this week, all about how technologyy is shaping our lives.  We live in a digital age where our every waking moment, thought or action is recorded for all to see.  It so instantaneous, but does it interfere with us living in the moment?

Even before the advent of social networking and camera phones I've always argued with my hub, D, about his need to photograph everything and keep a record for posterity.  Now this is a lot to do with his penchant for archivy - history and record keeping is kind of what makes him tick so I know I should cut him a bit of slack.  However, I have often found myself saying - stop photographing and LOOK AT THE VIEW!  I'm just not sure you can ever fully do justice to an image by photography alone - it needs to be in context.   I have a photo of the Grand Canyon which looks great but what makes the Grand Canyon GRAND is the fact that it's impossible to capture by camera due to it's utter vastness.  It needs to be seen in context not in isolation.   You'd think I'd practice what I preach but no!  In a moment of madness I decided to take a photograph during an Elbow concert - imagine the scene, it's the encore.....Guy Garvey begins to sing "One day like this", his voice like a gorgeous piece of toast, soft and buttery on the top but with a bit of crunch underneath! - the chorus arrives (Throw those curtains wide - one day like this a year will see me right) the lyrics rising majestically - huge and anthemic, the crowd singing as one, totally lost in the moment! And happens!  Loads and loads of huge bouncy balls descended onto the crowd, accompanied by a veritable ash cloud of ticker tape!  It was breathtaking!  I was beside myself, singing my favourite song, marvelling at the mad view in front of me, people laughing and batting these huge balls from one side of the crowd to the other, their faces misted by the descending confetti!  I must capture this moment I thought and reached for the camera.....In the excitement I couldn't find it - then I did...quickly I need to get it out of the case:  aghgghghgh where's the "on" switch - oh it's there!  Quickly (Throw those la la)...more ticker tape, what should I photograph?.....I want it all, a photo of everyone enjoying this moment, get the balls in and the ticker tape CLICK, CLICK, CLICK.....and then it was all over.  It was at this point I realised that I wanted to do it again because I hadn't taken it all in - I hadn't been fully engaged from start to finish and I really really wanted to be.  It's one of my favourite songs and I wanted to hear every note, sing every word and watch the performance unfold before my eyes.  Instead I watched half of it (which was WONDERFUL) but missed the finale as I was too busy taking the photo!  Oh I was SOOOO annoyed with myself afterwards - especially when I saw the photos - THEY WERE RUBBISH!  You can't even tell what they are supposed to be.

So I guess what I'm saying is that despite the advancement of technology - don't miss what's happening in your "here and now".  It's nice to let friends know what you are up to via facebook, posting photos or videos but it's also important to savour the moment too!

Have a good week


ps:  Just in case you are interested, here's a You Tube video of the Elbow song!  Enjoy!

pps:  Hey I've really been in the moment today as was supposed to be writing more about Twitter and Facebook but have gone off on a completely different tangent!  I love it when that happens!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

You can't judge a book by it's ........

In the spirit of adventure, last week I got tickets for a literary event that was taking place at the University near where I work (ooooohh get you... I hear you cry!).  Now I've never been to one of these in my life before and I felt quite mature if a little middle-aged!  I'd got the tickets for D, my lovely hub who is a big fan of David Peace, the author in question, and it was so local (and cheap - £5 with a glass of wine thrown in - bargain or what!!) that I couldn't pass up on the opportunity.

Of course, Monday arrived, the day of the event and D and I both had that "Do we really have to go out on a Monday night" feeling, closely followed by "Who decided we should be adventurous" kind of vibe!  I mean, I don't even like David Peace!  Far too dark and edgy for me.  But, in a show of solidarity we didn't cancel and made the effort to attend.

It made me realise quite how strong my mind can be.  All through the afternoon, I moaned inwardly.  "Gosh I'm going to be so bored, it's going to be full of pretentious people who will all know I've never read a David Peace book in my life, I wish I was at home watching Emmerdale".   And I really allowed myself to believe these thoughts to be true.  By the time I met D I was thoroughly miserable!  We went for pre-show eats which was lovely - I was mindful of my food (see.. I am learning) and savoured every mouthful.  It helped that I was eating particularly healthy and freshly cooked noodles - It may have been different if I'd been eating a fast-food burger!  (Very hard to savour claggy bread and a pickled gerkin).  By the time I'd finished, I realised I had a bubble of excitement appearing and my negative thoughts had shifted slightly.   I was now thinking - "oooh look at me, out on a Monday night going to a cultural event".  I wasn't even missing Emmerdale!

And so with renewed confidence, we swept into the venue.   ...."Hmmm not many people here"...-  Time to balance the negative thought of "oh no - it's going to be me, D and David Peace - how EMBARRASSING will that be" with the more realistic "you know they had practically sold out - it's just that people haven't arrived yet!" idea.  "Mind will you just STOP TALKING!!".   We sat down (you know the score - somewhere in the middle where you can blend in) and I cast a nonchalant gaze around to suss out my fellow audience!  Yup, there were definitely lots of "Students" around (like there wouldn't be - this university being famed for it's creative writing department!!) but there were also other non-studenty looking people there too.  Once I realised that we didn't look out of place, we settled in.  Now I did have a plan B which was that I could quietly meditate if I got bored (wow - poor David Peace doesn't stand a chance - I've switched off already).  But, before I had time to drift off into a soporific stupor, the event began and I was mesmerised! 

David Peace read extracts from his own novels and then chatted about them; how he worked; his personal background and his inspirations.  It was totally captivating and I wasn't even a fan!  Had I taken the trouble to read one of his books I would have known he has a real poetic style.   This is something no television adaptation can capture and is a real strong motivator for reading the book first rather than just watching the film.    He seemed so quiet and unassuming and yet when he spoke his own words he really conveyed a passion and feel for the characters he was writing about.  Towards the end he revealed that he loved to unpick other people's work to see what it is that makes them so good, in particular what makes you want to carry on reading.  He really paid attention to what was happening in the books by looking at the text word for word and trying to see why certain pages moved him, hooked him in or caused a reaction.  He did this by picking out certain sentences/paragraphs and re-writing them, sometimes changing words or the tense of the text and seeing what impact that had.  To me this seemed such a mindful thing to do - he's asking himself.. "what is happening in this moment of reading - how does it make me feel/think/react".  I never realised that there could so much involved in writing books - so much personal investment and attention to detail.

So if I hadn't switched off the negative self talk I could have missed a really interesting and insightful evening.
I've also learnt to appreciate the value of the written word and how much more goes into it.  It's more than just putting words on a page. In this instance, you really can't judge a book by it's TV programme!

Happy reading!

Mindful missyxx

ps  note of caution - readers are advised not to unpick this blog - you will be left with one long ball of gobbledygook and not much have been warned!!