I always worry that I repeat myself here.
Perhaps that’s not surprising when I live and work at home and I don’t really go out much – because of COVID, apart from walking the dog and going to the beach…My days and my mindfulness practice are full of the same old, same old distractions, irritations, discomforts that come up over and over again. The patterning of my relationships, preferences and conditioning continue to bring up resistances and familiar roadblocks even with all the sitting practice I have clocked up over the years (especially intensely during the past two years of the MSc Course days and retreats) and yet still some days I get broadsided by an ‘unexpected item in the bagging area’. (The New MSc Course in Mindfulness & Compassion is now online you can find it HERE). Sometimes when I think I have got to the bottom of something in my practice (with the accompanying upsurge of emotion and recognition and that purging feeling) – whoah! there it pops up again! I thought I had dealt with that! Now.. there’s something other, something more, lurking just a little deeper beneath the surface. So there’s no room for complacency here – and as I work through the old and outmoded depleting habits, there’s a lot of space opening up – and I find that space is making way for humility.
Last week, in the middle of an altercation in my kitchen where me and ‘The Gardener’ (him outdoors) were both getting a bit irritated with each other for different reasons (why do I think this is funny now?) and I was starting to feel actually upset at the ‘stubbornness’ displaying before me – I was so involved in the tricky situation and had begun to get sucked into the storyline and had just started to join in with it all. I hadn’t realized yet that it was a certain type of repeated argument which I inadvertently was triggering and perhaps had been for years. I suddenly saw my reactive Egoic Self, my EPS (Egocentric Preference System) had its sleeves rolled up and was really getting stuck in despite feeling upset; mindfulness was nowhere to be found.
Then in an instant – it was like I was being whisked up by the wind -it pulled me backwards away from the magnetism of the situation; as the mindful presence woke up in me, it yanked me by the scruff of the neck and plonked me down in a place of peaceful spaciousness still in the kitchen and still with a very angry/triggered person in front of me – suddenly I saw it all but now with with the wisdom to desist! So I found myself suddenly fully mindful and at the same time feeling momentarily disorientated with the scenario –I was unable to know what was the wise thing to do or say. I think Lama Yeshe says ‘if you can’t make things better at least don’t make things any worse’! So in that moment of pain, locked into this egoic wrangle –
Ah! wisdom said, – Just Let Go! So I just let go.
Ah-Ha! Love appeared to flow into this awful sticky messy human condition of nonsense! And a deep feeling of compassion for the The Gardener came flooding in – Ah! This is mindfulness in action! I am flooded with compassion & gratitude from my heart at this precious gift of mindfulness…and gratitude also for having had the opportunity to train with such skillful teachers and to know that this too can benefit the lives of others, with gentle and kind responses in difficult situations. The clarity is like a brilliant radiating diamond surfacing from the depths of the earth after eruptions from deep down – formed by a lot of heat and a lot of pressure…
I was able to completely drop the hook. I was able to gently extract myself without asserting anything over the other, I bowed out, and went softly, and wisdom showed me the way for next time; the next time this repeated storyline rears its head I will be ready. It’s amazing how insight shines a light and makes crystal clear what has been shrouded in ignorance up until this moment. I saw how I had contributed to the situation, albeit inadvertently – and how the other was displaying a conditioned response which was not his fault. Loving kindness and wisdom have combined to show me the way through. I felt humble and I have learned about myself in this situation and my tendency to blame the other for being ‘difficult’.
Mindfulness practice has provided me with access to presence of mind at most of these times (but definitely not all!) – mostly I am able to be mindfully quiet and still – I’m learning to be ok with not knowing the best thing to do. I offer myself some self-compassion – an internal comforting hand, even a soothing internal voice tone as suggested by Stephen Porges (worth looking up) Rick Hanson (also worth looking up) & Choden; I acknowledge and Recognise the unfolding difficulty (R) Accept the feeling and that this is difficult (A), and then later, take the issue to the cushion to attend to it with Intimate attention (I), in order for the process of non-identification to occur (N). I have spelled out Tara Brach’s RAIN Practice. I’ve found it so helpful in so many ways. You can find Choden’s RAIN practice HERE
“A moment of self compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.”
Christopher K. Germer
Over time as mindfulness practice strengthens and becomes naturalised, as we move through the compassion practices which prepare us for the deeper work that the insight practices bring – we begin to become aware of the more subtle thinking, feelings, schemas and expectations that have been previously hidden from surface mind. As I hone my sensitivity to what is happening while it is happening (out there in the kitchen as well as in here in my body, in my thinking mind and subtle mind) it seems that I have and maybe we all have a programme running on repeat loop. I am repeating myself of course I am- my behaviour and reactions are habitual but I can see that the learned skill of mindful interception gives me agency over the patterning. The subtle thoughts, sensations, emotions, triggers, and further deeper habitual tendencies to assume, expect, are harder to notice, and impossible to change without the noticing; my practice continually invites me to rest in the moment, doing nothing, with a light touch and an open heart – and in this way, without doing anything the subtle thoughts and attitudes make themselves known to me. I relish my practice and know that I will continue to be surprised at what emerges from the depths. And from deep down in the depths, comes the diamonds.
This week for the Weekly Challenge notice when you feel challenged by somebody and by what they are saying. Notice when you are disagreeing with something someone has said. It might be somebody on the TV or radio. What can you feel in your body? What stories is your mind telling you? Can you try a RAIN practice – there’s one on our APP which you can download here. It’s under compassion practices and is called: