Having just attended the funeral of my dear friend, being in the process of changing my life quite drastically and talking with Heather about the huge changes in her life, I find myself on a train to London feeling rather reflective.
At the weekend I was also stunned by the news of the sudden death of Stephen Russell, The Barefoot Doctor. Whilst he was sometimes controversial, I followed his mindful posts about qigong and meditation, which I found useful in my own tai chi and qigong practice and meditation. One thing in particular he used to reinforce was a sense of sitting in the back of the body with awareness of what the front of your body was doing.
This practice is similar to our mindfulness practice of resting in the body with awareness of everything going on without engaging in it. In the Level 1 Mindfulness Training we learn how to notice the undercurrent of thoughts, images and emotions passing through the mind, whilst resting with a support and not engaging in the undercurrent.
I become aware of the current undercurrent and notice that I am processing all these changes in my mind. I allow myself to indulge in how this all feels.
It seems strange when people die that they are suddenly, just gone. It feels strange that my friend has suddenly vanished. I frequently think of him. There are times when I think about visiting him or taking him out, then I check myself with the reality that he is no longer there. I think of Heather’s sudden drastic change in life in relation to my own similar, but slower pace of change. I feel the frustration of not having sold my house yet and the anticipation of a new life which awaits me.
I look impermanence up in the dictionary. It says, ‘the state of not lasting for ever or not lasting for a long-time’ and ‘transitory’.
Yes, transitory, that resonates with how I feel. Ephemeral even. I cannot anticipate how my life will feel when all the changes I am going through are in place. It somehow all feels dreamlike.
Just as the late Barefoot Doctor prescribed, I am aware of sitting in the back of my body just watching everything unfold. I drop back into my practice to notice how I feel about all the change and how it is affecting me. The practice which follows noticing the undercurrent in our training, is noticing the attitude of the observer of the undercurrent. The observer feels a bit scared and yet I notice some acceptance of what is. After all, it is more painful to resist inevitable change than to gracefully accept it, with full awareness
My reflections allow my mind to twist and turn through constant change. How I look in the mirror and the face staring back at me isn’t the one I saw last year, or the year before and so on. I notice my preference for how I used to look when I was younger. I relax back into my body of awareness and realise that I have to allow and accept that I am changing, ageing, all the time.
When I was shopping for clothes this week, I realised the style of clothes are completely different to the ones I used to buy when I was a power dressing executive of a large global company. Now I go for warmth, and comfort. Far less glamourous. The thought made me smile at myself.
Also this week, I took my grandson to the zoo. The same zoo I took my daughters to some 30 years ago. It occurred to me how all the animals looked the same as before, even though they aren’t. And yet I don’t look the same. I’m not the same – I’ve changed in many ways. Here I am with a grandson instead of daughters.
I’ve fallen into a contemplation of change. Just letting it fall in my awareness without getting lost in it or attached to it.
I realise how grateful I am for my mindfulness training and practice. How it allows me to flow with change over recent years, whatever is going on, through the ups and downs. Sometimes I get caught up in it all, sometimes I don’t.
Through all change I recognise that compassion is so important. I have learned to be very compassionate toward myself. The first time I was led through a self-compassion practice I couldn’t do it. The second time I could, and tears just flowed and flowed with compassion for everything I have been through in life. Especially so, for the person I was then who was going through so many difficulties without any mindfulness or compassion training to support me.
I can feel this reflective mood continuing and I am curious as to the insights which may arise. My intention is to go back to basics and revisit noticing the undercurrent and attitude of the observer practices for however long this mood lasts.
I invite you to reflect on a change in your life which has happened to you recently or is happening now. Become aware of how this is making you feel in your body and any relating thoughts and emotions which arise. If you can do the ‘noticing the undercurrent’ and ‘attitude of the observer’ practices on our Mindfulness Based Living Course App and see how your mind is relating to what’s going on. I’d be delighted to receive your comments after this post or by personal email to firstname.lastname@example.org
I wish you well through all the changes in your life.
Jacky will be co-teaching Level 1 – Being Present with Alan Hughes at Samye Ling 13 – 15 March 2020 and on the Level 2 – Responding with Compassion with Heather Regan-Addis at Samye Ling Summer 2020.
We’d love to see you there.
Jacky has contributed a chapter to the Mindful Heroes Book entitled “Turning Empathic Distress into Compassion – A Hero’s Journey for Family Carers”. You can hear an extract from the chapter where she talks about the results of her MSc Studies in Mindfulness on Compassion & Family Carers. You can download a free sample of Jacky’s chapter here.