People often ask, ‘What is Mindfulness?’ and a good answer would be the lyrics of the Noah and the Whale song ‘Now is exactly the time’. I was listening to this yesterday as it is on my running play list. I am on holiday and aspiring to continue and reinforce a good habit; I have been visiting the gym regularly with my daughter and her friend.
As I have said before, I often get great insights when I run/walk after my morning practice and this was no different. Holidays with family are a great way to explore my habitual reactivity, as it is often a time when my buttons get pushed.
I have been pleased this holiday that I have stuck to my practice, as often on holiday I don’t practice as regularly as when I am at home.
I get up before everyone else and find a space to practice in the living room, facing the open patio doors, and a couple of times when it was warmer, I practiced outside. Either way I felt a connection to the outdoors – bird song, sunshine, vast sky – that supports my morning practice nicely.
And this routine of practice and gym have really helped me to see clearly the happiness that comes from an aspiration to facilitate a great holiday for all the family – and not just myself – and to see clearly where I am blocked in this aspiration.
So back to Noah and the Whale – the lyric that caught me was the first line ‘If you can, you should try and learn to forgive yourself’. It was really helpful as I was giving myself a hard time about some of the petty meanness I was seeing in myself. This line was also echoed by my teacher Lama Yeshe Rinpoche telling me – many times – how important it is to teach forgiveness as part of mindfulness training. The lyric from the song came to mind ‘I could spend a lifetime searching for someone to blame’ – I experienced a welling up of tears and a felt sense of how my behaviour was based in my own fear and insecurity, as were others – there was no one to blame – and in that moment, forgiveness for all concerned arose spontaneously along with a felt sense of goodwill and a renewed aspiration to be kind and curious.
Knowing these times on holiday can be tricky, I have my mindfulness bell app on my phone set to ding randomly five times an hour (which my family are used to now) to remind me to check in knowing that ‘Now is exactly the time to turn my head from the past’. My past conditioning clouds my present. Unless I can be present with kind curiosity, I can’t see the situation afresh. I can sometimes see the conditioning for what it is – habit – and sometimes I can choose to refrain from buying in to the past. And then some more skilful response emerges, all by itself. This is the counterintuitive element of mindfulness – that the change happens by itself if we can create the space by refraining from habitual reactions. I can only do this in the present moment because as the song says ‘Now is exactly the time’ – this seems to me the crux of what mindfulness is all about.
Even our habits of worrying about the future are based in conditioning from our past. The more we have worried in the past, the more likely we are to worry now. I see this habit also in me, based on a desire to control, a desire to know what will happen – a completely unrealistic desire because the future hasn’t happened yet and is governed by countless causes and conditions over which I have little or no control. The desire for control is triggered in me on holiday due to the unfamiliar surroundings and situations.
How bizarre is this evolved human mind with which we are endowed!
To listen to the song:
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