I hope that you are all faring well as we settle into our fifth week of lockdown. I am curious about how adaptable we humans are and how many of us have now settled into a new more limited routine of life, with its pleasures and hardships.
I have had many unexpected lessons in impermanence in the last twelve months and finally they are sinking in. No use planning too much – my strongest habit. No use trying to control what is going to happen – another addictive behaviour of mine – this idea of control is a delusion. I am stopping the constant scrabbling for control and am just letting things be. I will share these words, which I read each morning at the start of my practice – I am very happy that these words are now moving from my head to my heart.
“Rejoice in what I have and be OK to lose it – this is in accordance with the reality of impermanence.”
“Recognise I cannot control the future – I just have to let it unfold and act skilfully within that unfolding. This is in accordance with the reality of impermanence and interdependence.”
It is after all common sense. The causes and conditions that have happened in my life, have been many and wide ranging, were not chosen by me and were way beyond my control. I can spare myself the worry and trust that I have the skills to navigate what unfolds. Such a relief!
What helps, always, is being present and here are some ideas for our times!
This new life has new guidelines of washing our hands for twenty seconds on a regular basis and of not touching our faces. Regular hand washing can become an annoying task to rush through, or it can become an opportunity for practicing mindfulness in daily life. It is interesting to note our attitude to the mundane tasks of life and if there is irritation, boredom or distraction, we can notice this and choose a different attitude.
For hand washing we can feel our feet on the floor, take a deep relaxing breath and then rejoice that there is water in the tap, as we wet our hands. Feel the slipperiness and smoothness of the soap as we move through the different hand washing actions advocated by our NHS. Sensing from the inside how the hands feel as they move. Wondering at their dexterity and sensitivity and the complex movements they effortlessly navigate. Then feeling again the water as we rinse our hands and the roughness or softness of the towel as we dry our hands. Then feel the feet on the floor, take another relaxing breath and move with presence into the next part of our day.
I have been using my mindfulness practice to not touch my face, with limited success so far. But I am keeping going so as to cultivate a new habit. Sometimes, my hand gets to shoulder level and I notice and the hand lowers back down, like a naughty child caught in the act. At other times I notice when I am already touching my face, to scratch an itch, rub my eyes or brush my hair off my face. When I remember I set an intention not to touch my face. I reinforce my intention by reminding myself of the health reasons for not touching my face. It is good to practice now so as to develop a new habit of not touching my face for after the lockdown is lifted and for next winter and future years. I think to myself that it’s best not to catch any cold or flu. When I have an itchy face, I pay attention for a while and if the itch persists I scratch my face through my sleeve or via a tissue – hoping that that is allowed!
I have joined craze for the ‘grow your own’ and have planted four tubs of potatoes. I have two more to plant. I have herb, spinach, kale and broccoli seedlings growing in the window. My ex-partner used to do all the gardening and so I am a complete novice. Googling each step for advice as I go. I did enjoy harvesting fresh kale, spinach and broccoli from the garden last year and so decided to have a go myself, in the face of the threat of limited fresh vegetables. Today I am going the pick the nettles that have started to grow in front of my house and have a go at making nettle soup. I was going to weed the nettles to get rid of them, but remember the recommendation of nettle soup from Lama Yeshe Rinpoche and so am having a go. I will let you know the outcome.
May you surf the waves of your life with grace this week.
Heather will be teaching online on the Introduction to Compassion Course starting 12th May. This course is perfect for those who already practice Mindfulness and wish to continue their training with compassion.
You can also join Heather on a Course in Compassion – Our Level 2 – Responding with Compassion, at Samye Ling starting 31st July.