I have had a happy weekend at Samye Ling with our year 2 MSc students who happen to be beginning their Insight module.
Coming back together after the summer break feels like a reunion of old and valued friends that are a bit more chilled and happy than when we first met together one year ago. We revisited our ground-rules, one of which was ‘Have Fun’, which I think we complied with!
In this weekend, we introduce different models of mind as a way of understanding our experience of practice, including Rob Nairn’s observer and undercurrent model and his model of the subliminal mind and how thought becomes thinking. We also recognise how many elements of the Insight training can be found in different historical, philosophical and spiritual traditions and explore the meaning of Secular versus Buddhist Mindfulness. So lots to think about!
We had a fun session working in groups to make up 140 character tweets about the different elements taught on the weekend, which resulted in hilarious bouts of contagious giggling.
Our main focus, as always, is practice: resting in the midst of our unfolding experience; reflection & mindful enquiry.
One of the main themes that emerged over the weekend was the importance of a community of practitioners supporting each other along our Mindfulness journey. The MSc groups are some of the most close and supportive that I work with, which creates wonderful conditions of safeness within which to experience and share our difficulties, with some tears and much appreciation and joy.
The other main theme that emerged was how so many of us are control freaks: desperately planning and ruminating to find the answer to life’s complex problems. Here we can uncover two underlying assumptions:
- That there is an answer; and
- That we can be in control.
In relation to point 1, we can recognise that life is complex and often there are no simple answers. Looking for answers causes us to go over problems repeatedly, which causes us stress and upset. Also, we can consider when in our lives do we experience clarity in relation to life’s problems: Is it when we are ruminating or do we have our ah-ha moments at times when we give the mind more space?
In relation to point 2, we can recognise how thoughts pop into the mind by themselves, they are involuntary and we aren’t in control of them. Sit and do nothing for 5 minutes and look at the mind to see the random selection of thoughts that come to mind- do we choose to have these thoughts or do they come by themselves?
Then, our habit is to compulsively engage these thoughts and get lost in thinking. This is how we are driven by conditioned habits of thought, emotion and behaviour. As it is our thinking activity that created these crazy monkey minds we experience, more thinking isn’t going to solve anything.
So where is our control? If we are Mindful, then sometimes we can create space in the mind to discern what is happening and then make a choice.
So the answer is being present with our thoughts, emotions, and sensations without interfering and then the mind unwinds itself, settles and we experience insight that then results in us living more skilfully and wisely.
So, if you are interested in joining us on these explorations, you might like to join the next cohort of MSc students or to follow one of our non-MSc Mindfulness trainings.
For more information, please see http://www.mindfulnessassociation.net/Home.aspx
-Heather Regan Addis