I love British weather – it is cool – literally it stays within the extremes of very hot and very cold, being generally cool and livable. It is also lovely and damp, with plenty of rain giving rise to lush and sparkly green vegetation.
I am reminded of this as I struggle through 39 degrees of Italian sunshine without air conditioning, struggling to sleep and jumping in the shower to cool down several times a day and at night.
I am reminded of the books by M.M. Kaye that I read as a teenager about colonial India. In particular, how the British women in their crinoline, corseted dresses, struggled and sometimes died in the heat of the Indian planes. The mind loves a story!
I am not conditioned to live in this heat, I am conditioned for the cool damp. I find it astonishing that some of my Italian friends reach for a shawl, as all I can think of is how many clothes I can decently do without when leading a retreat!
And then there is the Mosquitos, who love the taste of my blood, so I am coating any exposed areas of flesh, while awake or asleep with jungle juice insect repellent three times a day. So far it is working!
As the week progresses I notice a rising paranoid obsession with how my body feels. Thinking happens about how intolerably hot I feel and how dreadful this is and how relentless. Any time I feel a prickle on my skin or see a bug flying past, thinking happens about insects crawling and biting and the effectiveness of repellent. I dwell longingly in the biting insect free cool rain at home.
I can notice all this thinking activity, which is good. I also notice that when I am busy teaching, eating or talking to someone, I forget the heat. This makes me realise how much of this discomfort is elaboration within my own mind.
So today I will practice being with my experience as it is – in Italian – cosi comme – words I love to hear when they are translated for me – as it is. And I will be curious about the elaboration, that move my experience within a cascade of thinking from mildly unpleasant to intolerable. I will also be curious about the aspects of my experience that feel OK within this heat and in this way perhaps I will find a balance, with less suffering and more equanimity. Perhaps not?
Then I will also take care of myself – jumping in the shower – standing in front of the wonderful fan that arrived in my room yesterday – delighting in a cool breeze in the shade.
Mainly, I am enjoying myself here with lovely Italian friends leading a Compassion & Insight retreat for Inner Sight (click here), our franchisee in Italy.
Today we have been exploring the spacious and open ‘mere I’ that flows with experience and how this can contract into a solid ‘reified I’ when ego-centric concerns are triggered. This contraction is mediated by the stories we tell ourselves about me and mine and this causes us to suffer.
We made a natural mandala collecting bits and pieces during our walking practice. Such a beautiful co-creation!
The retreat is in a Catholic monastery and last night there was a jazz band playing outside my window all evening and tonight there is a big party! So interesting where we find ourselves and we can choose to go with it or to fight against it.
As Akong Rinpoche used to say: First there is me; then there is mine; and then there is trouble!
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