When one is able to overcome the romantic and emotional attitude, one discovers truth even in the kitchen sink.
This morning, with my bare feet planted onto the kitchen floor, flat and smooth, my small brown earthenware coffee cup warms my hands as I look into the windswept garden. It’s really blustery outside. We have been sitting looking into this garden for what feels like weeks with no wind, stillness, slow indiscernible change, which gives a sense of everything staying the same. Autumn makes change more visible. We talk about the changes in the world since we were young, how quickly society evolves, technology, the new news which is the same over and over in one way, timeless. There’s a timeless feeling of seasons changing, time moving on on the planet. Something changes and something stays the same. In the same way I am still me whether I am 7, 27 or 87.
I hear water drip dripping erratically from a drainpipe into a puddle, accompanied by my hollow bamboo woodchimes which provide another soundtrack – another meeting of worlds – man made, yet worked by the wild and unruly wind. When the rain stops the birds sing again. Is that actually a thrush, its song so intricate and distinct? The rain returns with more gusts of wind, and the trees look agitated. Or is that me thinking I need to get on with things? Recently I don’t feel I’ve had time to practice – the truth is I haven’t made the time. Stress creates a timewarp in my head accompaied by an illusion that there isn’t enough time. At times like this I just accept that’s what happens; I bring to mind Ani Lhamo at Samye Ling who I spoke to when I was finding it impossible to practice when my children were toddlers. She said to me when you are up against it like that – to just make my whole day my practice. This gives me permission and space to just get on with my day without being hard on myself. Same story today.
I watch as the garden surrenders itself to the thrashing rain; its summer glory now pounded and to my eyes looking slightly beaten. I think of its ‘former glory’ and how it looks now compared to then. I am able to hold both views in my mind in order to make that comparison – and in that moment of mindful contemplation I see that those two gardens I have created in my mind are not separate, not two things, they are one, and it is this garden, here and now that holds the essence of itself in all its forms.
The trees are at times deadly still, like they are holding their breath, waiting for a breath to help them dance, today they are lively. I consider their roots are always still and rooted no matter what is going on above the ground. I consider how ‘grounding’ in Mindfulness practice helps to root me to this deep rooted sense of being- that fundamentally all is OK, no matter what the emotional weather is – it can all be OK if I can open up to seeing it that way, to accepting whatever it is that’s there in its fullness.
The garden at first looked to be a bit sad, but when I realized the garden is beautiful in all its forms at all times in every moment from spring budding to bright optimistic shoots to full bloom to autumnal turning of colour and fading full of dark drying seedheads and dying back into itself – I fully felt the beauty of all of that and it didn’t feel sad at all. This garden has beauty in every moment – and if I can’t see that it is because my mind is preventing me from seeing that – perhaps by projecting my own feelings on to it. This garden has it all in every moment and I felt the oneness with the essence of the garden.
I wondered – inquired of myself in that moment – if I was happy or sad.
Insight comes from who knows where. Settling the mind and opening to contemplative sitting while drinking coffee in my kitchen is a wonder of Mindfulness training and I am flooded with gratitude and emotion for the teachings. This might sound dramatic, well, because when it happens, it is.
So you feel at one with the garden do you? So are you happy or are you sad? It is asking me – showing me – that the thinking mind makes it this: am I this or am I that.
Insight asks me and shows me at the same time. Are you Happy or Sad, or is it possible you might you be both at the same time, and neither?
Last week I was in bed awake in the night feeling really sad, alone, lonely, empty dejected apropos nothing and everything. I was able to observe this poor-me mentality with mindful awareness, which brought a distance between me and those thoughts and feelings passing through. They felt quite strong, but they didn’t have the grip on me that they might have done before mindfulness practice – that is, this time, I saw them but didn’t believe them. (Thank goodness!). Ah! There’s the poor me feeling sorry for myself. I offer that part some comfort by acknowledging the feelings and soothing myself with some self compassion. I listened to a yoga nidra to soothe me back to sleep as I feel into my body and felt into how these thoughts manifest as feelings which cretae more thoughts.
Possibly the next day, I caught myself saying out loud to someone the declaration, “yes I am really happy” and my mind immediately flagged it up “uh-uh? last night you weren’t so happy, is that really TRUE? “you are so happy?” and the deep feeling of sadness made itself apparent to me by way of a reminder, it was still alive and kicking directly beneath the “I am so happy” declaration. I caught myself in now this oh-so-true storyline which, when in it, feels so real, concrete and everlasting, and separate. I am this or I am that. I am identifying with the feeling and thinking it is me.
The memory of those ‘bad’ thoughts and feelings, remind me and brings the issue into the light of day, as I look into the garden.
I see how I cling to this: “I am so happy” or this: “I am so sad”.
“The garden was beautiful and now it looks a mess”.
I hope I have explained this in a way that means something, it is hard to find the words.
Mindfulness works as a process which allows us to see the deeper layers of attitudes, beliefs and subtle feelings that are operating just beneath the conscious mind. For me I see metaphor in the world around me. For you it may be music or movement that opens the door to the unconscious mind and we catch a glimpse of something just out of view. (Kristine’s Christmas Practice Day is about just this Catching a Glimpse of something deeper or bigger).
I am struck here by the garden metaphor helping me to see that in essence happy and sad are words that express feelings not solid states – they pass though my mind and body which is in a state of constant flux. The essence of Me, the aware knowing part of myself is not affected by these fluctuations of emotional weather.
By ‘seeing’ the essence of the garden’s beauty in all weathers and through time I connect with my own essence.
It is one essence.
Weekly Challenge – Kitchen Table MIndfulness
This week I invite you to listen to your emotional stories – what is your inner voice telling you? Can you settle your mind long enough to hear it report your feelings to you? Maybe bring this into your practice. Ask yourself how am I feeling in this moment and listen for the answer. Keep asking, drop the question in like a pebble, three times, really wait and listen. If you can do this maybe three times at different times in the day ( each time you sit at the kitchen table?) you may be surprised at the different answers you will hear about how you are feeling. How does that make you feel? We love hearing from you. Let us know if anything comes to mind for you. Can you fell this and that? How does that feel? You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope you have a great week whatever the weather. Warm wishes to you,
- We are still running our free guided daily meditations each and every day which are free to all and provide a meeting place for community meditation practice. Find more details HERE.
- Our Level One foundational training can be revisited as many times as you like. It’s how we cultivate a strong Mindfulness practice. We have a new course starting on the 2nd November on a Tuesday evening with Alan Hughes. Alan also teaches on our MSc Masters course and is trained in Compassion. Alan will be accompanied by James Milford. There will be a taster session for this course on Wednesday 20th October at 7pm. You can join with the daily sit link HERE.
- Kristine’s midwinter Practice Day Glimpsing Goodness is one of our series of 4 Christmas practice days to help you though what can be a stressful time for some. They cost only £30 and they will offer you Mindfulness support good company from 10am-4pm.