Simple family exchanges are where I exercise my Mindfuness practice. Isn’t that just exactly where it’s all happening? Mindfulness has helped me so much with this unravelling which is a truly messy affair and takes a while, well, like forever, and I am deeply committed to that. The more I practice, the more I go down into things the more my mindfulness reveals to me the underlying truth which lies beneath my perceived experience. How wonderful! Never-ending practice as more and more of my own neuroses are revealed as I take it on the chin over and over again.
Having been practising and training in Mindfulness, Compassion and Insight (and personally inspired and fuelled by Buddhist teachings over the years) I can say that the MA training has fully helped me to welcome everything that arises as treasure, no matter how bad it feels at the time.
I live like a bit of a hermit, with my partner and one of my adult sons (pet name: Child#3) and with daily calls with my grown-up daughter (I have three children and two grandchildren) so it is not surprising that our ‘exchanges’ will feature large in my Weekly Challenge blogs and unravelling practice. My mission is pure and simple: to relate mindfully and with compassion with my family members in order that we may find peaceful and beneficial resolutions to difficulties that may arise no matter what they are – real or imagined. This is what I want more than anything. Win-win. Notice what’s happening while its happening without preference (I always say ‘noticing my preference’) with the motivation fuelled by a heart of compassion.
Today’s blog begins with a lovely peaceful garden scene, about to sit down for a well earned cup of tea after a frantic morning cleaning, everything done, nothing to do nowhere to go. Then I suddenly remembered something I had forgotten to do that needed doing – so I asked a question to “The Gardener” (my partner) about whether this thing had been done without me noticing, or did it still need doing?
It was a straightforward question – I was ready to quickly jump up to do it, if the answer was no, as it needed to be done before people arrived.
There was no agenda here, however one was perceived by The Gardener, so my question wasn’t answered directly with a yes or no – instead I got a slightly obtuse answer. Which did irritate me, and lead to me just asking again, calmy, mindful of the potential for explosion here, in this moment. I’m just asking whether you did that, so I can do it if you didn’t.
You’ve got such an attitude today! He said as I lowered myself into my new garden chair, confused and annoyed now.
I let this spear of words pin me to it. I immediately notice my stiff, silent, internal rebuttal. Here we go. Engage mindfulness!
I consciously let each vertebra slowly and carefully make contact with the back of the chair as the words ring in my ears. I drink in the beauty of the whole buzzing garden taking deep conscious breaths and felt into the warm air on my skin, allowing the atmosphere of a late summer-scented garden permeate my being; the chair’s comfortable seat, angled perfectly for the ultimate cup-of-tea-in-the-garden experience. With all this as my support I let the uncomfortable attitude accusation penetrate my being and drop down into me as I lower myself onto the comfortable chair.
The sharp accusation makes me uncomfortable in my mind, like when you have an acute pain in the body and no comfortable position can be found. I also felt a little irritated, bewildered, and at once curious as my mindful awareness comes to the fore alerted to a ‘moment of interest’ and equally – in self-compassion terms – a ‘moment of difficulty’. I’ve been here before I think – like coming back to the same roundabout every day on a commute – a sense of having gone round the block and come back to the same place, caught in a timeless loop. So many memes tell me this is what happens and will continue to happen until I learn the lesson.
Attitude. I let this accusation land more deeply.
You’ve got such an attitude today!
Let Go! Let Go! Let Go! Was my little mantra to myself as I watched the bees gently drift from flower to flower. A bit of me wanted so much to let go and float with the bees but the other bit of me was ready for a battle right now in the garden, to defend my…. what? Innocence? ego? Why am I so annoyed at this accusation?
I can’t just let it go, but I need to let it go. I need him to understand there was no attitude. This brings me to wonder what we are supposed to actually DO in a situation like this, what is the wise course of action here? I really feel the need to clarify my ‘true’ state of no-attitude. I am now in no-mans land. I say I do not have an attitude, I was merely asking. This immediately sounds like I do have an attitude, which I am defending. (the egoic part of me is mad at him for suggesting that I have an attitude (what about his attitude? Etc.) and wants a fight, the other observing part of me thinks my ego-centric system is hilarious).
As I say these words “I really don’t have an attitude”, I feel an attitude of indignation arise in me and where there was no attitude before now there certainly is one! And even if I really didn’t have an attitude around that question, my fresh & new attitude is shining now, glinting in the afternoon sun – and it’s a little bit sharp. My ego has clamped around this situation and the sharp spear that pierces my equanimity twinges. Tension in the body; braced right to the core.
I am lost to it but then observing it. Choden says in his Mindfulness meditation on Settling the Mind that when training the mind it is a case of – losing it – finding it – losing it – finding it again – I feel myself switch in and out of now awareness & now attitude – this is mind training – this time grappling with awareness of attitude. Slippy characters these attitudes. I don’t want to see my attitude or know about it because it challenges the part of me that thinks I’m a ‘nice person’.
…I see the thinking now do the spin. Entwined with mindfulness I am in contemplation, thinking and feeling what’s going on inside me. Breathing. Feel the chair. Smile. Feel the bigger space of awareness – zoom out – Let go. Can I let go? Yes I can let go. Let it go.
The feeling takes over the body like a tight fist; I can consciously feel into that and release the tension. No right or wrong here. But it feels so real, so important – so urgent to defend my position – to be understood.
Maybe he was right. It didn’t take much for that to surface. This is an opportunity to notice the nature of attitude and how attitude manifests for me, and then affects those around me in my life.
I had been a little impatient earlier in the day not listening properly, a little stressed trying to get things done in a hurry and if I’m honest the habitual underlying attitude of irritation plus unsatisfactoriness (Dhukka) possibly with a sprinkle of resentment…? was fuelling my actions and has a particular voice tone that alerts my family to take cover. So my family can detect the attitude before I can; it’s like I have a warning light flashing on my head only my family can see!
Often when I like to think they have an attitude perhaps it’s because they are responding to mine. I need to take heed of this interaction. I am a work in progress. A tiny mindful moment caught in the garden can crack open a much deeper revelation about habitual patterns. Blaming others as Rob Nairn says, is actually 99% sure to be about us.
I squint at myself – this is painful in so many ways. I don’t know what to do so maybe I don’t need to do anything, – thank god for that piece of wisdom – maybe I just need to just sit with these feelings, really feel into them and actively help them to express and dissipate with the soft and delicate breeze that helps to lift the bees to the next flower.
After writing this, I have decided to actually spend some time back in that garden chair with a fresh cup of tea, have a sit and consultation with myself ‘fessing up’ to my internal smorgasbord of attitudes I think I don’t have, but which I may have allowed to colour my behaviour each day this week. Would you like to join me? I’ll put the kettle on.
Attitudes can be explored in RAIN practice.
Attitudes are so interesting to explore.
What is underneath this attitude? What is fuelling it? Can you catch a glimpse of anything lurking there?
Please do to share any stories or insights – Jacky and I always love to hear from you. What treasure have you found? Have a great week – don’t forget to be kind – to yourself with whatever you find.
Warm UK summer wishes to you wherever you are in the world,