Don’t recall / Let go of what has passed
Don’t imagine / Let go of what may come
Don’t think / Let go of what is happening now
Don’t examine / Don’t try to figure anything out
Don’t control / Don’t try to make anything happen
Rest / Relax right now and rest
“Six Words of Advice” from Tilopa
Yesterday I experienced a conversation with my whole mind/body. I don’t mean I was talking to my body, more like I was in conversation with my partner, when I realized my body was also listening and responding – in a way that I had never experienced before. I had an experience of this is how things are – like a veil had been lifted between me and my actual experience.
The Gardener, as I like to call him, doesn’t sit on cushions gazing into nothingness; he gets his connection to stillness and peace from having his hands in the earth, growing onions, feeding the birds, watching the wind and banging nails into things. I like this. He is Mr Zen, he watches the birds and the world through his green eyes which are full of peace and tranquility and tenderness. Me? I have to work at it.
He knows I am a mindfulness practitioner and in the past has taken the opportunity to test me by saying things like “well that’s not very mindful”. This is funny, now. Might have irritated me a tad before, and I would imagine maybe pouring his tea on his head (mindfully). But now – I am ready for the obstacles – in whatever form – snarky comments, direct challenges, subtle rejections….I am with it all (as best I can be). Of course lots of it, ok well, let’s be honest… all of it, the angst of it all, originates in my mind. Seeing this as true… is what Pema Chodron calls this ‘the wisdom of no escape” ! (It’s a book – I recommend it!)
The Gardener and I muddle through and without actually talking about mindfulness all the time (that would drive him nuts) – this balance of keeping it inside me with a commitment to be mindful as much as possible has been good to keep me in the practice zone rather than the blether zone. What’s beginning to happen.., is that now he – is beginning to initiate conversations about ‘being present’ and being ‘in the moment’ and has even gone as far as watching Eckharte Tolle on the subject.
This week I happen to be on “Week 5” delivering the Mindfulness Based Living Course (MBLC) for the first time to my first ever group of willing participants, after passing my mindfulness teacher training in July- so far – it seems to be going really well. The teacher training is intensive and prepares us well. I was slightly apprehensive about my talk on the undercurrent and observer as a model to help us to understand which part of the mind we can train and which part we can’t. So I had been reading around this, and had been practising the practice of observing the undercurrent – the endless flow of thoughts, images, and objects arising, passing and dissolving and with a soft detection of any attitudes and judgements that come on along with them…just under the surface…(this was very helpful for my group – it really helped them to think of thoughts form this different perspective. And, it helped me too, to revisit the practice in such depth.)
The next night I was relaxed in my knitting chair, with The Gardener opposite engaged in a conversation in which a difficult memory had been rekindled for him. I had a fully embodied experience of mind and body, which unfolded as we spoke; I was first speaking with, listening, and thinking, then I felt I was assimilating this interaction with him and noticing this, and this and…now this.. I had slipped into a broader awareness. I noticed I was trying to manipulate the conversation to make a point instead of listening. Pulling it around away from its source and yanking it off over here. His reaction was to speak a bit louder, to frown at me this made me feel ashamed in my belly. I let go immediately.
He was rapt in the story of the past traumatic event, which had been triggered by an imagined future event – the death of a family member. I could feel he was reliving it in his mind and perhaps (a guess here) projecting the same thing into the future and I could feel the tension and anger build up again in the body which now my body was reflecting too – my body felt covered in armour – restricted – fearful – I didn’t like it – I noticed I didn’t like it – I wanted the feeling to go away – very strongly – but I saw this too. I wanted the words to stop and the reliving of this thing to stop, but he needed to speak it again. Which meant feeling it again, and for me too. The energy was becoming fractious and uncomfortable, palpable, it was alive again.
Let go of what has passed. Let go of what may come.
The feeling was tense, hot, ripping. I floundered a bit with what direction the words were going to go as I had just slipped out from under a veil – I had literally just come out of being lost in the river, in the undercurrent – and found myself dripping and observing from the riverbank – which involved an immediate shift in the place where the language was coming from – a letting go of needing to direct the conversation – or say what I thought – just a seeing feeling compassion for this painful reliving. It is not compassionate to stop someone in a full flow of feeling like this, I thought. But I am feeling this tension too in a way experiencing it but it is a mere reflection. I breathed deep into my body bursting with sensations and listened deeply to his words with embodied presence as they tumbled out. Seeing the futility in wanting it to stop I surrendered to whatever was there. I melted back into soft body – I felt fully present with my partner and able to be fully with him, which was really all he needed.
Let go of what is happening now. Don’t try to figure anything out.
Don’t try to make anything happen.
Mindfulness with embedded compassion at its heart gently opens up our awareness with a comfort blanket inside our heart space making way for whatever we may encounter. We can’t fix each other, we are not broken. We can open to How Things Are and without judgement – that is our training – let’s have it – however messy, hot, repugnant, sticky, uncomfortable. Let’s be open to it all with a compassionate heart and rest here.
Relax, right now, and rest.
Formal mindfulness meditation practice is a keystone, a touchstone even, for finding the gold in amongst our difficulties. In order for Mindfulness to begin to manifest and grow in our daily lives, there is no way round it – we need to make a real effort to practice.
This week let’s set an intention to bring Tilopa’s 6 words of advice into our practice this week, one at a time. Decide how long to commit to – a length of time that you can comfortably fit in to your schedule. Reminding ourselves of our motivation to practise can help us maintain our practice over time – it gives our intention energy. Using Tilopa’s advice, let’s choose one tip each day as contemplative focus for our practice. How does this unfold for you?
I’ll do this too – of course!
Please do let us know how you get on with this – we love to hear from you.
In the meantime, rest, now, ‘everything happens by itself’.