This week I have been noticing how easily I am getting distracted. It’s not surprising; I work from home which can sometimes blur the boundary between work and the demands of housekeeping; just going to get myself a cup of tea can send me down a route which involves feeding the cat, walking the dog, checking the rabbits, hanging out the washing, greeting the postman and moving that box that I keep bumping into. It’s exactly like that moment in our meditation when we get engaged with thinking, and we are lost; suddenly and imperceptibly we are in the river of the undercurrent and the mind jumps from one thing to the next as we get drawn into the flow. Level 1 Mindfulness uses the undercurrent and observer practice which helps us to extricate ourselves from this getting lost in thoughts and distractions training us how to stay present.
When I am focused on my work, drawing a detailed map for example, I have the ability to zoom right in and be in the flow of the moment with pure attention on the detail, and there’s no tightness around it, I can observe my thoughts which seem to be fewer on account of the focus…and there’s a freedom in that focus (not like when I’m doing accounts for example, no flow there – only tightness and resistance and lots of negative thoughts!).
I’m a bit over the top with detail on maps but here, paradoxically I find mental freedom and flow. When I think about this, it relates entirely to our basic Mindfulness meditation practice with support on breath, or sound. But I hadn’t really fully made that connection until I started noticing there were some parallels between the mindfulness practices and my art practices as my practice has deepened and naturalized.
My daily life has become effortlessly imbued with mindful awareness, thanks to my regular sitting practice. Using the skillful means to enter a meditative state when creating an artwork opens up the heart and mind and I can connect with the deeper levels of knowing, and the work starts to speak to me from a deeper place. This is new to me. This is the work of the Level 3 Insight module, which has helped me to access my inner knowing, a deeper wisdom element. But this wouldn’t have been accessible to me had I not fully and wholeheartedly engaged with the Compassion practices, which I found enormously challenging at the start, because of my personal resistance to self-compassion. Self compassion has allowed me to open up to vulnerability and being ok with that, and so revisiting mindfulness, compassion and insight on the Msc Mindfulness Studies course has really supported this exploration in to my own practice. Whatever your professional context the Msc guides you through a rich and fruitful journey of discovery.
This week, as I mentioned at the start, I noticed getting distracted is a little pattern I get into before I start a new piece of work, that I’ve never really noticed before. I noticed myself procrastinating; finding odd jobs to do, finding reasons why I couldn’t start it right now. I sat with this in my practice and found fear and the inner critic (I thought I’d dealt with you!) undermining me. Next I found myself moving nearer to and then preparing my workspace; like the way a dog goes round and round before he settles for a nap, almost ritualistic, I find my materials, clean the surface, lay my materials before me and set my intention. (but this might take days!). In his book Dharma Art, Chogyam Trungpa talks of the power of art to awaken and liberate, he speaks of the creation of art from a meditative state has such enormous potential for unselfconsciousness, directness and non-aggression; he says creativity provides opportunity for us to open our senses fully to the phenomenal world. For us in our Western society this is a challenge as, in order to reach that level of pure unadulterated creativity, we have to deal with our societal conditioning, that everything has to be excellent and a masterpiece, we need to be great! nothing less will do so we are set up to ‘fail’ right from the start. We need to learn to let go of ego to achieve this and connect with self-compassion. When we let go of these perfectionist ideas, we can truly open up a channel to deeper knowing.
The challenge this week is to notice in your daily life when you are going around something but not sitting down to do it or facing up to it. Notice how distractions lead you away from your focus. What is going on with the subliminal thinking around that? Notice how it feels when you refocus on what needs to be done, and when you give that 100% of your attention. How does that feel?
I’d love to hear your stories around this.
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