Busy or ‘Be? An Insight Meditation
This week I am busy again, with year- end accounts, many meetings to prepare for and attend, including our annual Board Meeting, a weekend in Aberdeen with the third year MSc students, plus all the usual work that crosses my desk. A lot of this is because I am going on retreat next week and so have had to schedule around that.
As I travel from Scotland to Manchester today, for a day with MAHQ, I notice that I am talking myself into tiredness. I can feel myself getting edgy, with a real sense of projecting myself forward into the future of my day, as if I’ve drunk too much coffee. This feels like a wired agitation propelling me forwards. I also notice an oppression of time pressure, which is impelling me to work at a frantic pace to get it all done. On top of this I have a frustrated sense of ‘Oh no, do I have to do this too?’ as well as a growing heaviness around my eyes. But, ‘I’ am doing this to ‘myself’.
If I sit back and just be in this moment I can have real enjoyment writing this to you. Exploring in detail my experience of just now and recognising the half-hidden messages that are controlling me. Quite a cathartic experience.
I talk myself into busyness and it is unnecessary. I know I always get what needs to be got done. I know that driving myself this way is counterproductive and adds stress. As my insight practice has developed I see more of the sub-liminal whisperings that drive me and the ones on time pressure and busyness are slowly being revealed to me at this stage in my practice. When I didn’t see them they completely controlled me, adding stress, tiredness and leading to illness.
Now I see the whispering (some of the time) and so I have a choice. The easy thing is to follow the whispering habits any way – the path of least resistance, my familiar way of being. It is harder, but it is possible to refrain from these habits and my years of Mindfulness practice help with this – all that is ever needed is to be present in this moment. As my meditation teacher says – let go of the past (not such a big problem for me) – let go of the future (a big problem for me) – and just be in the present. Whenever I do this there is a relief and a possibility to inhabit and enjoy each moment, each task, even the most mundane.
The time oppression leads to frustration. I have noticed this in my teaching practice recently. When I am holding a group and also holding the need to get through a number of teaching points in good time, my response to questions can be subject to this time oppression and be driven by a reactive frustration. I also notice this in meetings when there is a straying off the point or the repetition of a point we have already dealt with. I notice myself getting frustrated about all the other points we have to cover, all the other things I have to do in the day, wanting the meeting to move on and end, so I can get onto the next thing. I notice it in my home life, when I am ready to leave and my husband isn’t. My time oppression impacts those around me as well an impacting me – adversely. So I am intending to turn these situations into an opportunity for learning – a key lesson – an opportunity to practice patience and tolerance. Let’s see what happens?
The talking myself into busyness, again leads to frustration (are we noticing a pattern here?) but also to exhaustion. So again, can I notice this and just let go of the future and be here now? It is never the current task that oppresses me, just all the future ones.
This is where my Insight practice is right now.
If you are interested in Insight practice, you are in luck. Rob Nairn, Choden and I have a book coming out in April called ‘From Mindfulness to Insight’. In the meantime, if you notice frustration (a manifestation of anger), why not have a go at this practice (working with the emotion of anger) and see if it helps.
Mindfulness training is the first step and then Compassion training. These are the firm foundations we need to build before going on to train in Insight. I can heartily recommend this path of training if we want to be liberated from the half-hidden whisperings that drive us, that cause us to struggle in our life and which lead to our dissatisfaction with life.
I have some wonderful things to look forward also in this busy period: dinner with my daughter in Manchester this evening; catching up with Rob Nairn on Sunday; then I have the luxury of a week- long retreat with Drupon Rinpoche at Samye Ling, followed by a week of his teachings. If I don’t talk myself into tiredness I will enjoy these things all the more.