I have no idea why, but the same word keeps popping into my mind of its own accord. Does that happen to you? The word is ‘propensity’.
It’s not that I have heard or seen the word recently, so it seems quite an odd thing. I have looked up the true definition in the Cambridge Dictionary. It says, “a tendency to behave in a particular way”.
Last week I noticed I had been causing myself to get lost in a vortex of desire and negative thinking. From the insights that arose from my practice, I became aware of my tendencies to behave and think, in a particular way. And it was this particular way which was causing me to suffer.
My mindfulness, compassion and insight training and practice helped me to start focussing and appreciating the joy in my life rather than the negative things. I realised I can’t control my life to be perfect and so allowed some joy to sit side by side with the things that aren’t so good. Furthermore, as part of this practice, I revisited my gratitude practice and am becoming more curious about my mind and actions. So, this word propensity, suddenly seems very relevant. I am using my mindfulness practice to change my behaviours and thinking… to change my propensity.
This week I am staying in a lovely house in the beautiful countryside of Dumfriesshire. The weather is stunning – with blue skies, warm sunshine and a cool breeze. There is a river running past the house and there is an abundance of wildlife. Spring is turning into Summer and there is a richness of vibrant green trees and fields all around. It’s a place which is perfect to just sit and be and rest my mind on all the sounds and sensations.
My 5-year-old grandson is with me. Spending longer periods of time with him has enlightened me to his propensity. At the moment he has a propensity to be curious. His curiosity is also accompanied by gratitude. There are chickens in the garden. He is very curious about them and spends significant amounts of time watching them. He wants to know where they sleep, where they feed, what they like to eat and what they do. The owner of the house we are staying in gave him 2 eggs, which, with his Mum’s help, he cooked and ate straight away. Immediately afterwards, without a word, he ran into the garden and thanked the chickens for the eggs. His curiosity and gratitude are instantaneous.
I notice that he doesn’t ruminate or sit worrying about anything that is wrong. He fell heavily in a bed of nettles near the house and whilst he cried because it hurt, that was it! Once the discomfort of the sting started to subside, he just said it was all ok and continued to play as he had before.
My grandson is giving me a lesson in curiosity. He comes into my bedroom at the house in the mornings and opens the window wide so we can listen to the birds. He then lays on the bed with me and we listen together to all the different birds we can hear. The range is vast. We cannot identify all of them, but I feel appreciation for hearing the songs from birds that I don’t hear at my home where I live. We can hear a cuckoo calling, the delightful sound of a curlew, which makes me smile every time. There’s the sound of the chickens clucking away and the rooster calling as he struts his stuff.
The curiosity continues. We are asked, amongst a hundred other questions, ‘Why do bubbles float’ and ‘why do bubbles have rainbows?’. By looking and really seeing as if for the first time, the world seems to open up with a sense of wonder and magic when I look through the eyes of this 5-year-old boy.
I bring this sense of curiosity and wonder into a walk in the countryside. I can smell fresh grass and manure. There’s the light smell of bluebells under the trees. I can hear the birdsong, lambs and sheep bleating and the sound of hooves of white horses in a field. There is a foal, so young it can barely stand. There’s the sound of cows mooing but I can’t see them. Butterflies flutter along the hedgerows. The sun is very warm on my skin and yet there’s a faint breeze cooling it at the same time. The sights, sounds, sensations and smells are so rich that they completely take over and I notice my mind is quiet. Being curious and allowing has settled my mind. I notice I am filled with gratitude for being able to be here and enjoy this week away and all it brings.
The things in my life I would wish to change, that I can’t change, are still there. But by allowing them to be there whilst noticing the pleasant things that are present creates a sense of balance. This allows me to be happier and not dwell on the negative.
In the Mindfulness Level 1 – Being Present training, we look at how pleasant events and unpleasant events make us feel. I have found that thinking and even dwelling on pleasant and unpleasant memories has the same effect. And yet I can be sitting here in this lovely place thinking of something that I don’t like and completely miss the moment of joy that is there for me.
Therefore, it is now my intention to change my propensity to one of creating balance. Allowing the difficulties to be there whilst being grateful for all the good in my life.
I invite you to consider your own propensity. Are you able to gradually change this using your mindfulness, compassion and insight practice towards a propensity of being happier and more joyous in your life?
You can deepen your practice with the Mindfulness Association through a pathway of courses starting with Level 1 Being Present, which can be undertaken online or in weekend workshops. If you have already done a mindfulness course, then Level 2 – Responding with Compassion and Level 3 – Seeing Deeply will help set up a practice for life and enable you to reset your intentions.
I wish you all a joyous week ahead, noticing the pleasant things in life, no matter how small, with the curiosity and joy of a child.