This last weekend, I have been teaching with Choden on the insight module of the Masters in Mindfulness. The material we presented was a bit different from usual, as the two of us are half way through writing a book with Rob Nairn on this subject. We covered the same themes: the key insight practices of Resting, Reflection, HIFAWIF (how I feel about what I’m feeling) and Backtracking as well as the detailed stages of how thought becomes thinking. However, this year because of our work on the book, we were able to contextualise this within the Buddhist theory of the twelve links of dependent origination as well as theories from cognitive psychology and neuroscience. As always, we took an experiential approach with practical exercises to get in touch with some of the subtle mind processes, such as the edginess of the default mode network that is always on the look- out for threats. There was also a stronger emphasis on bringing acceptance to what is arising in our experience and bringing compassion to the one who is experiencing.
The group were wonderful and we know each other well after the first year of the MSc, so it had the feeling of a reunion and it is always a delight to teach with Choden and also Liz from the University of Aberdeen.
One of the practices we did regularly, when resting in the midst of our experience, was to go ‘off duty’ for a while, or letting go of trying to meditate and opening to the senses and just looking around the room. Then we would go ‘on duty’ again and once more practice resting. This is a great way of revealing the subtle ‘doing’ that happens when we are ‘trying’ to rest and do nothing! This is useful for us all to have a go at from time to time.
This subtle ‘trying’ to do insight practice driven by a desire to manifest a perfect or desired experience comes with a sense of this moment and this version of me in this moment just not being quite good enough. This was brought home to me this week when I was listening to my favourite Stereophonics song ‘Maybe Tomorrow’. The key lyric is ‘Maybe tomorrow I’ll find my way home’. I had a lightbulb moment – not intellectual, but in my bones. When we strive in our practice for something different we are preventing ourselves from coming home to ourselves as we are – now.
Interestingly this song was inspired by a TV program I loved as a child called ‘The Littlest Hobo’. The show is about a stray dog that wandered the US, from place to place, each week making a new friend and selflessly helping them to solve a serious personal problem in that week’s adventure.
The point is that each moment that we are present with ourselves and our experience as it is, we are home, regardless of external or internal circumstances. Home can be here and now, any time we let go of thinking and just be. It is so simple and yet so difficult to do.
I love dogs and have three of my own. They always seem present and generally curious and cheerful. Perhaps this is why the last line in the theme tune for the TV program is ‘Until tomorrow, the whole world is my home.’
So come home as often as you remember.
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