I have this fond memory of the first time I was introduced to the mindfulness exercise called ‘Resting in the Midst of it All’. My colleague Choden was teaching on the MSc: Studies in Mindfulness, where he had all of the students turn towards the window, face the expansive landscape and rest with a mind as open and vast as the horizon. He explained that thoughts, emotions, sensations in the body will come and go, just as the landscape changes; however, if we can just let go of doing anything about it, if we refrain from chewing on every passing story-line, we can come to a place of resting. Resting in the midst of it all. Or as Choden likes to say, ‘sitting like a fool in the midst of it all’.
I remember being awe-struck. There was an ease and joy that spread through my whole body, quenching a thirst that I had no idea was there. It reminded me of the first time I saw the Rocky Mountains- the grandeur and breadth of the landscape took my breath away. As a ‘prairie chick’, it touched in to unexplored possibilities. It was huge. In this same way, the exercise of Resting in the Midst of it All was huge and continues to be so.
This memory of ease and joy and space filled me once again this past weekend while teaching on our Level 1: Being Present course in Ireland. Over a cup of tea and a biscuit, one of the course participants was sharing with me how mindfulness exercises come alive for her. She stared out the window and said ‘my practice of mindfulness has allowed me to get out of my own way, to stop putting myself into every thought, to look up and enjoy the space’. Her practice had cleared the decks so to speak, so that she had the space in her head to notice the views and beauty all around her.
As she shared this little nugget of inspiration, a felt sense of space immediately flushed through me. Yes, space… if we can only get out of the way, release the tight grip of obsessive thinking, space opens up. Space for so much more. Space to touch in with what is here in this moment, space to feel gratitude, space to be creative, space to attend to our needs and not our worries, space for POSSIBILITY. There is no room for possibility in a mind with no space.
My mind can feel ever so crowded so much of the time. I tend to fixate on all the things that can go wrong, all the things that can go right, my health, my children (even when they are away from me living their life), all the things that have been disappointing, all of the unknowns that are looming, over and over and over and over again.
However, when I get out of my own way, when I stop the over and over and over again, when I look up and take in that horizon, the most nourishing and replenishing space opens up. And in this space there is possibility. The possibility to practice, to breathe, to get through my day one task at a time, to slow down, to notice the beauty and vibrancy of the life right in front of me, behind me, over top and beneath me, WITHIN me. The possibility to rest in the midst of it all. And it is in this resting, and in this space that I am sustained.
So this week’s challenge is to get out of your own way, to drop any tendency to obsess, to ruminate, to stop the cycle of over and over and over again and to look up. Find that horizon and the space that fills it.