Simplicity of life
29th November 2018
While in Glasgow facilitating a retreat some months ago, Suryacitta asked me to write a blog for him and I said yes, having no idea at the time what on earth I would write about but figured an idea would come at some point! Lots of ideas did come- and then they went– my story from going on Suryacitta’s eight weeks beginners’ course to becoming a teacher myself; how Mindfulness helps me be more of the parent I want to be to my two daughters; writing about The Wee Retreat (the Community Interest Company I set up which organises meditation and wellbeing events in Glasgow)… none of them really struck a chord. It was when I was sitting on the veranda on the first morning of the retreat in Spain this summer that I knew what I would write about- meditation.
This is what I had come to Spain to do, this is what I do every day (well, almost) and this is what has made the difference in me as a person and subsequently, my life.
Decision made. So, I take a closer look at mindfulness meditation for the rest of the day and this is what I see… I see that meditation can appear to be full of contradictions.
It is simple to meditate yet it can be extremely difficult; meditation can create whirlwinds in us and at the same time calm us; when we meditate we can be passive and let things come to our awareness , while we need to be active in our curiosity…. I think that the list could go on but that is enough for me to be exploring over the next few days of the retreat; besides, Suryacitta has rung the bell for the next sesshin! - (Silent meditation retreat)
The next time I have to ponder this idea of contradictions I am reminded of a period when my meditation practice felt very difficult- it was when the voice in my head would say ‘really, again?’ when I went to meditate and I’d reply, ‘Yep, again’ and talk myself into sitting. Again and again and again… it almost felt like a prison sentence.
It was after some time that I became aware of what was making my practice so difficult- the word ‘meditating’ had become a ‘doing’ word- I had to meditate every day, I had to try to meditate, I had to do my meditation. I had forgotten to be kind to myself- I could just sit every day. I had been ‘trying’ too hard. Once I began to simply sit with my breath in my practice, the difficult aspect didn’t seem so difficult anymore.
Pondering the idea of contradictions a bit more when sitting after our evening meal, my thinking mind is immediately confused at how something can be both active and passive. Reflecting on my practice, I see how it works. When meditating, are you directing the show or watching it unfold before you? When we are directing the show, it is the ego guiding the meditation for us- “I am controlling my thoughts; I am making myself breathe; look at me, I am meditating!”
The passive side will allow you to observe things as they come into your awareness which you can then be curious about, engaging the active side of the process. Meditating without being curious is a bit like hearing a neighbour’s burglar alarm go off and turning the TV up louder. We have to actively engage with what is present, gently, patiently.
With dinner over, I take myself for a wee walk and am surrounded by reminders of how simple life. I take myself back to my first beginners’ course with Suryacitta.
As I have found over the years, it always comes back to the basics- the simplicity of mindfulness. Whenever life seems difficult or I am struggling with my practice I have learnt to ask myself, ‘what is it I have forgotten?’ -patience, awareness, kindness, compassion, curiosity? And then usually I get my answer.
Seven years on from that first beginners’ course, I have learnt that meditation is a practice and a discipline. It is about starting with a clean slate every time you sit. It is about being open to the possibility of learning, feeling and becoming aware of something new when you meditate. I have also learnt that it is ok to forget these things as you go! Keeping in touch with Suryacitta, teaching the beginners course, going on retreats and meditating with others all give me the chance to remind myself of these fundamental aspects of meditation, again and again.
With this comforting thought, I put aside thinking about meditation and the contradictions within the practice for the rest of the retreat and go back to doing what it was I came to do- simply meditate.
By Vicky Kakos
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