It’s coming on Christmas, they’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on…
(From Joni Mitchell, River)
Joni Mitchell it seems has accompanied me and my ups and downs since I was introduced to her as a teenager.
Her voice is not for everyone (my family for example!) but for me the essence of her lyrics sang to my pain and joy and heartache for the past 30 years – she understood what I was going through, because she was going through it too. Listening to Joni Mitchel can make me cry! In joy or in sadness, Joni connects me to my inner ‘compassionate mess’. Joni has found a way to be with her feelings. We can feel her in her cadence. I feel with her.
I think this is the gift of art. Whether it’s music or painting or poetry it connects us with its sentiment – not sentimentality but sentiment – senses, feelings, we are sentient beings that feel things. And as sentient beings we also pick up on each others feelings and that can be overwhelming, when we don’t even now how to handle our own feelings and can be overwhelmed by them.
So I find myself humming Joni Mitchel as I prepare for the family visitation. The sentiment of her song is stored away now in my subconscious – and here it is popping up by humming itself. Where to these hums come from?
When I realise what I am humming I laugh at myself – at my subconscious which has a great sense of humour I have realised – it’s a dark sense of humour at times.
Oh I feel guilty when I consciously consider the lyrics! I wish I had a river I could skate away on!
It brings me to this edge. The Edge. Hello Edge. The ice skate’s edge – sharp cutting – skating me away. This is the edge of resistance I know so well, and I have come to recognise as a result of my mindfulness practice.
Formal practice goes out of the window at times like this. The grandchildren are sleeping in my meditation station which is also my office/study. I have to live my mindfulness – this is when it comes into play – or doesn’t!
I really feel the tension between wanting not wanting. The tension between staying and running. The tension between this and that. It feels sharp like the skate’s edge. Tense like a drum – my body tension is through the roof. I am highly strung, tight as a drum, twisted to the core of my being like a wrung out dishcloth. The resistance is exhausting! Look what I am doing! I sense that my sympathetic nervous system has detected stress – danger – and it feels like all my fight flight and freeze reactions are all triggered at the same time!
But I can see it and that means I have brought it into conscious awareness and now in this sacred moment of >PAUSE< I can feel into it and see it as my egocentric preference system in full swing, butting up against this new mindfulness-made awareness oasis.
And oasis it is.
The image of the ice really grabbed me. It’s the point where I stopped skating away. I stop and look down at the ice, where I am in this moment. Look at what’s here! If I did not stop to be present I would miss this miracle of what’s right here under my feet. A whole universe of water frozen and full of life. I could never stop looking at this!
Last night I attended week 3 of the Mindfulness Based Living Course with Ani Tsela as I prepare to teach my first MBLC group next week. I continually revisit over and over the basic practices. I like to stay right here, at the beginning, as cultivating a beginner’s mind is enough to be working on! It sounds a bit paradoxical because it is! The simplicity of just being present is not easy, and fluctuates from moment to moment. Even the Lama teachers admit to this. It allows us to be OK with it being messy. It is the nature of mind and we are learning to be with it – not ‘improve’ it or attain anything – just be with it watching, alive and alert like a cat at a mousehole.
Ani Tsela says we are always trying to run away from the present moment. This is so true – I can feel it! and it’s so funny. She says we will never stop running! Unless we train our minds with Mindfulness – we can train our minds to stop running. Ani Tsela spoke of the 8 worldly concerns which trouble us as humans.
I’ll stick with the first two which hit home for me, and helped me write this blog!
- We want what we haven’t got.
- We don’t want what we have got.
When I consider these 2 ‘worldly concerns’ it helps me to see that what I am experiencing is an experience common to all humanity. I need not feel guilty, I need to just be with this feeling and bring warmth and kindness to these feelings. Laugh at how bonkers the mind can be!
My body has been unwinding itself for a few days now, releasing itself from the tension – ooh I’m aching in weird places.
As I mindfully skated the line between running and staying (acceptance) I watched myself and I was able to notice and be curious that there was no anxiety on top of the bodily tension. This is new. I have experienced chronic anxiety in the past and have experienced panic attacks which have landed me in hospital. I was expecting there to be anxiety but there was none. So there was an element of tension as a result of residual fear which was colouring my experience.
There was a feeling of soothing spaciousness in my mind – when I tuned into this feeling I was flooded with a deep joy at the miraculous freedom mindfulness has given me just in this moment – I was free now to be with the making of the gingerbread house, be with the messiness, be with the gift giving, and the unravelling of the day, and watched myself not trying to control everything, I was able more than ever before to let things be, aware of the urge to take over, aware of the urge to control how things unfolded. I realised everything would be just as it should be and even more interesting as a result of me letting go. I became more present with each moment – observed my family and their interactions, watched the shifting moods and emotions in their facial expressions and became so much more fully available to them as I had stepped out of my own way – it was just me standing in between me and the full experience of the present moment.
I don’t want to skate away from my feelings any more. I don’t want to skate away from my family. I want to stay right here in this compassionate mess and be with it, feel it, and see the wonderful intricacies of this moment – If I can be fully present with myself – I can be fully present with my family – and isn’t that the best present we can give anyone – the gift of presence?
Weekly Challenge – Making peace with ourselves.
This week perhaps has been challenging enough for us! I’m not sure we need a challenge this week. Perhaps this week at the end of this year which has been so difficult for so many of us we can just give ourselves a break?
How about we just be with ourselves in the full on messiness that we are and celebrate that we have found Mindfulness is our ally – Mindfulness brings us home to ourselves, and if we can come home to ourselves fully, not stiving to be anything other than we are then we have truly come home. And there is peace there.
In accepting ourselves (which is so difficult to do) we must remember to bring kindness and warmheartedness to our messy bits. We all have them. They will melt our frozen bits.
I wish you all the best for the coming year; be kind, to yourself, and may you and your loved ones live with ease, health and joy in the coming months.
Peace and love!
The 8 Wordly Concerns
- We want what we haven’t got.
- We don’t want what we have got.
- Fear of meeting ‘enemies’.
- Fear of losing loved ones.
- Birth is difficult.
- Getting sick is difficult.
- Getting old is difficult.
- Dying is difficult.
If you would like to make a start in MINDFULNESS in the new year, or start again, because let’s face it every moment is a new beginning!
You might like to join Jacky Seery for a FREE TASTER SESSION on Monday 3 January at 7pm for her Level 1 Mindfulness which is a new course beginning on Wednesday 12th January.
Let’s do this!
I trained on the MBLC MIndfulness Based Living Course teacher training pathway and it deepend my practice.