I have had a bit of a rocky patch over the last several months. Full of self-doubt and fear. But the good news is that I have had an insight or indeed two insights.
Last week I was with the first years of the University of Aberdeen’s MSc in Studies in Mindfulness at their five day year end retreat on Holy Isle. As always on these retreats, I did a lot of practice. Over the week a quiet insight unfolded itself within my being. That insight was that I am as safe as any human can be in this world. And all my fear melted away. And I mean, at least at the moment, ALL my fear seems to have gone. I feel very relieved, unburdened and joyful.
This last weekend I had a beautiful space to process this insight at the Courage to Teach weekend at Samye Ling led by my dear friend Barbara Reid. A combination of poetry, deep reflection and mindful sharing allowed this insight to be thoroughly absorbed. Along with it came another insight. It was a growing cognitive dissonance between my perception of myself as not being good enough and the feedback I was receiving all around me from my students and my life about my good qualities and level of success. The insight is that actually I am good enough, whatever that means. I feel very happy!
I am truly grateful to everyone who is or who has been on this journey with me. I am grateful to those who have been my friends and supporters and those who have challenged and triggered some of my deepest and most painful habitual patterns, expectations and assumptions. Thank you all!
Looking back, a few things have really helped me through the mud. The first is those wonderful family members, friends and teachers who offer me their unconditional love and support. They needed to believe in me first, before I could believe in myself. The second is my gratitude, compassion and insight practice, that have enabled me to stand in a perspective other than ‘poor me’. The third is my intention and motivation for my practice and for my life within which my values are embedded.
When I have found myself stuck in the mud, caught up in a story about poor me my practice has enabled me to recognise this. Once I recognise there is a choice. A choice to refrain from self-pity. I can than engage in something beneficial, such as just being, self-compassion or gratitude.
Sometimes this happens by itself and ‘the seeing is the doing’. By this I mean that I recognise the engagement in an unskilful habit patterns and the refraining happens by itself, giving space for something else more skilful to unfold by itself.
Sometimes I have to be more disciplined. I observe the engagement, refrain, but have to intentionally focus somewhere else. I make a choice to follow my predetermined intention. That may be to remind myself in the face of fear that I am as safe as any human can be. It may be to remind myself in the face of self-pity that I believe myself to be one of the most fortunate people on this planet.
This choosing to focus somewhere else must not be a method of suppressing the original habit. The pain and confusion of the original habit must first be fully experienced and allowed unconditionally. I do not try to ‘get rid of’ any thought or feeling. The original thought and feeling needs to have its own space to arise and display what it needs to of itself. Then if left alone it will dissolve. This takes long practice.
Choden and I were talking about this. Often we emphasise the ‘being with’ the difficulty, rather than the ‘making a different choice’ once the refraining has happened. My teacher Lama Yeshe Rinpoche really helped me to see this in his advice regarding a recent difficulty. He told me to repeatedly tell myself that I would not allow myself to be treated in a particular way. With his belief in me, my practice and reflection and journaling around this issue and repeatedly embedding this new value by telling it to myself, I am now free of this difficulty.
Now I am travelling to MAHQ, where I have got myself some outside help in dealing with a work challenge. I have let go of some of the work that I thought I had to do for the sake of duty. I have a strong intention to delegate more to those who know what they are doing. I don’t have to do it all. If someone thinks one of these jobs I am letting go of is important, they can step in! Instead I am focussing on the work that is most in alignment with my intention and motivation. The work which makes my heart sing!
My heart sang this week on retreat hearing from the MSc students how the course had transformed their lives. Many repeatedly commented on the authenticity and mutual support of the group and how rare this was in life. They shared the many ways in which they were freed to live more authentically as themselves in their lives and how liberating this was. If you want to join us next year, here is the link!.
We ended the retreat with an evening of shared talents: Poetry, singing, jokes, an impression of woody woodpecker and a wonderful dance lesson. Here is a link to one of the songs from the evening, with words adapted to our retreat experience!
When I work in a joyful state of mind there is no limit to what I can get done. I can get it done with ease. As it says on a notice in the Holy Isle gardens ‘Joyfully, Effortlessly’. I am back there tomorrow for the second year MSc retreat. I do feel truly fortunate!
Let’s see how long this will last!