Ruth Weston is a business woman, mother and community activist who has attended the daily sit from its early beginnings in the Pandemic. Here she reflects on her learning from Jacky Seery’s course Mindful Movement with Qigong.
After going to Jacky Seery’s wonderful Mindful Movement course I have reflected alot on her talk about pies!
There are mince pies, pork pies, meat and potato pies, apple pies….and there is a life pie. This is the pie that we feel like we have been served by Life the Universe and Everything. And the thing about this pie is that it looks exactly how we think it will look!
Neuro-science and evolutionary psychology tell us that are brains were not developed for happiness but for survival and for procreation. We are wired to see threat and react rather than appreciate and enjoy the good things we have. Rick Hanson says we need to think about something good for around 20 seconds in order for it to make an imprint on the brain – this is not so with something bad.
Jacky gave a really interesting example on the Mindful Movement course: she was teaching a group of new yoga teachers in Sweden, and after the course they got together to evaluate their progress. They were all enthusiastic with their new studios and their new classes, but one teacher thought she might give up because the feedback from her class was “not good”. Apparently, at the end of her first class of 30 people, a woman came up to her and said that she would not be coming again because she did not like the class, it was not for her. One woman in a class of 30 said the class was not for her, but the teacher singled this out and thought she must be no good at teaching yoga! How many of us have had one piece of poor feedback, or been given some criticism, or had a job rejection, or a brush-off and gone away thinking that we therefore must be rubbish?
What has this got to do with pies? Well when this teacher came with her tale of woe she had made this one bad piece of feedback into her whole yoga teacher pie! It had to be pointed out to her that one bad feedback meant 29 good ones! So suddenly the pie was divided into 30 with just one small segment being poor feedback.
Thinking about our own habits we in the UK do like a good moan: We have a lovely day out but what do we talk about? The downpour walking back to the car at the end, or the one shop assistant who was rude, or the ice-cream that fell on the floor. It is so easy – and it is part of being human – to make the one bad thing the whole pie, when if we actually stopped for a few seconds and divided our pie properly we find that the bad thing is just one small segment in a good day.
It is very easy to do this in our lives too – especially when we are having a tough time. Last year was a really tough year for our family: with serious illness in the family, bereavement, major operations, flooding, major building works, money issues – the lot! It was tempting to wonder what we had done to deserve all this stuff. Life could be very bleak. It was tempting to allow myself to be wrapped in this bleak and awful time – to allow all this difficult stuff to be the whole pie. I had to work really hard to take out my pie and slicer and recognise the context of this year: a life, full and interesting with its ups and downs like everyone else, a home, good food, the love and companionship of family and friends, the sunset over the hills each night, the sound of the birds and the rain, the beauty of mountains, trees and flowers. So so much I have. So so much life I have had. However hard my life was – and it was hard – I recognised each day that I also lived in the midst of many good things that came to me DAILY. When I sliced up my pie mindfully, I could see that this difficulty was a segment of a well lived life. When I sliced up my pie mindfully I found joy even on the most difficult of days – because something good was always there alongside the bad.
We are all human and our human lives are filled with joy and sorrow, we have good times and difficult times, and sometimes we have good and difficult times running together! With our human minds primed for threat it is so easy for us to see the whole pie of our life as bad. It is so easy to focus on the difficulty and pain to the extent we blot out from our consciousness the good people and things we have in our lives. It can be so easy to wrap the cloak of fear, of pain, of anger or grief around ourselves so it becomes who we are, it becomes part of our identity. When we do this we only increase our suffering as it envelopes us, blotting out what is good.
It is my belief that grief, sorrow, pain, fear, anger, hate, and suffering need not have the last word in our lives or the world’s. We may call it ‘taking in the good’ or ‘gratitude’ or ‘thanksgiving, but our daily practice is to reach for the pie slice, to recognise within our lives both the difficulty but also the blessing. We must make a point of seeing the sunset or sunrise, make a point of hearing the birds sing, listening to the rain. It is making a point of being with friends and remembering together the joy of good company and good times now and in the past. It is making a point of gathering daily or each week with others to reinforce our practice of gratitude or thanksgiving.
Filled with good things we can find we nourish ourselves, and may then have enough good to offer to others. Filled with good things we can be generous in heart and mind, we can find joy in the small things in the midst of suffering, and show kindness to others suffering, or simply doing their best. Life with the pie slicer can bring joy to oneself and others!
And so our first step today, right now, is to get out the slicer and cut up the pie of our day, savouring and giving thanks for all the good things we have, filling ourselves up with all that is good. Filled with good things we face our humanity with courage.
Friends, May you be happy, May you have joy without needing a cause, may you be filled with fun and laughter, generosity and awe, May you know the deep peace of acceptance and be content.