One of the big themes in the MBSR courses is Automatic Pilot and its opposite counterpart Being in the Present Moment.
For newcomers it is entertaining to gradually realise that we are very rarely present – just doing what you’re doing, being where you are. Doesn’t seem like a big deal and yet we spend so much of our lives time-travelling – rehearshing the future, rehashing the past. How often have you finished a cup of tea and the only evidence of having drunk it is that the cup is nearly empty, just a dreg of cold tea in the bottom! Nobody else was in the room, so you must have drunk it! Like I say, this kind of realisation is amusing for beginners and humbling of the more experienced – yes, no matter how long we practice mindfulness, yoga and meditation, most of us find that we still have frequent and long lapses in our awareness.Nobody – I’ll guarantee – is mindful 100% of the time!
The other morning I had a ‘eureka’ moment getting out of the shower – is there something about water that leads to realisations?
As I stepped out a little voice asked ‘How was your shower?’ You know what – I hadn’t a clue! I was wet all over, so was the shower, but I hadn’t really been there at all. I hadn’t enjoyed the gush of warm (expensive!) water – I hadn’t smelt the gorgeous shower gel my sister had given for recent birthday, nor did I feel the ‘rich luxurious foam’ of carefully chosen shampoo. I hoped that I had washed all the important bits and hadn’t used body wash on my hair. Most likely I hadn’t – I guess most days I shower on automatic pilot – very skilled at washing myself while I sort out the big issues of my life, or more likely lose myself in daily trivia!
So, the little voice was a wake up call. While the long-term aim is to be with our experience while it is happening – wake up and smell the coffee, shower gel or whatever – sometimes it’s easier to do it in retrospect. Try tuning into a recent experience… For example as you get up from the table ask yourself ‘How was your lunch?’ Perhaps like me getting out of the shower, you haven’t a clue. But you know, the more we ask ourselves, ‘How was your drive?’ of ‘How was your cake’, ‘How was your walk?’ the more our attention might just perk up and begin to notice more and more of this wonderful life as it is actually happening!
With wonderfully good intentions I started this blog, but afraid I am disappointing myself by hardly ever making an entry! I could use the excuse that I am overwhelmed by the response to the 8-week Mindfulness programmes I started to offer in April… I have been amazed by the response – so many people looking for ways to reduce stress and live with greater ease and enjoyment – but I can’t blame that.It’s really just my usual pattern of loving to start things and finding it a bit more tricky to follow through – sound familiar?
S0, just in case anyone is following (and hopefully there might soon be something to follow) I resolved today to post something at least once a week. A good place to start might be to share something of what goes on during the 8 weeks of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Courses….
Without further waffle I will offer a few words on one of the very first themes THE AUTOMATIC PILOT….
THE AUTOMATIC PILOT is pretty self explanatory. It is the wonderful human capacity to do routine things without thinking about them. Wouldn’t it be terrible if we had to work it all out every time we tied a shoelace, or got into the car everyday and had to seach for where the ignition key should go…and then what to do next? Yes, it is wonderful that you can drive to work and rehearse your new strategy for dealing with a difficult colleague; you can eat lunch while mentally totting up your current account balance; you can go for an evening walk and relive in minute detail the near-triumph you had over the difficult work colleague – regretting slightly that you missed delivering the barbed comment that is now so obvious – hopefully you can use it tomoorw!
But is all this so wonderful? Who is actually here? Who is living your life? Who is tasting your lunch… who is driving your car….who is enjoying a peaceful evening walk??? No one it seems!
I think the message is clear. Jon Kabat-Zinn (who pioneered the original Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction courses) talks of an empty feeling that many of us experience – a sense that there is something missing in our lives. That ‘something missing’ he suggests might be YOU!
Think about it. Without going into long detailed instructions (I could give you those also, but don’t think they’re necessary), might I suggest that for the next couple of days you experiment of just being where you are, doing what your’re doing….like when you drive, so what it’s like to just drive; when brushing your teeth, see what it’s like to just brush your teeth; when you’re eating your lunch see what it’s like to just eat your lunch.
‘Easy peasy!’ you might think. ‘ What has this got to do with meditation?’ you might ask.
Maybe not as easy as you think! But give it a try –
Who knows, to actually be present in your life might gradually seem like very good idea!
More next week….
Great day – met lots of lovely people, great energy, lots of good will. Even for a non-business person like me t’ was a very pleasant way to spend Saturday!
My own input went down well – the room was full – then why should I be surprised (I was very surprised!) Mindfulness just seems to draw a crowd! And a very nice crowd it was – folks were really receptive and engaged whole-heartedly in the short practice we did. We didn’t actually do the Breathing Space as I had planned – just a 10 minute sit with Mindfulness of Breath.
I did refer to a couple of websites and books and rather regretted that I didn’t have a couple of slides to flag up these references. So here they are:
www.mindfulnet.org – Enormous amount of resources about Mindfulness in different areas: health, education, business etc
www.breathworks-mindfulness.org.uk – use of Mindfulness for chronic pain
‘Buddha’s Brain’ by Rick Hanson – great introduction to the neuroscience of meditation
‘Search Inside Yourself’ by Chade-Meng Tan – light-hearted intooduction to Google’s programme for Mindfulness-Based Emotional Intelligence programme.
And of course if you just google ‘Mindfulness’ you’ll find tons more!
I’m off now to France to spend a week doing a Yoga workshop with my teacher Peter Hersnack and 12 good friends from Ireland and UK – it’s a hard life!
You may remember last year we had some important visitors around this time…
Both Queen Elizabeth and Barack Obama created a very positive buzz – most would agree that they lifted our hearts in a time when positivity was in short supply.
This Spring again we are priviledged by two important leaders – not political leaders, not figures of power on the world stage, but leaders of hearts, and inspirational figures for humanity’s inner journey….
MARTINE BATCHELOR ….. a delightfully humourous, skillful and compassionate meditation teacher with whom I did a 7-day retreat in Devon last summer, is leading a 2-day retreat in Oscailt, Ballsbridge on 26 and 27 May.
Details at www.oscailt.com
THICH NHAT HANH…..world famous Vietnamese Zen Master (author of ‘Miracle of Mindfulness) is giving an evening talk in Dublin Convention Centre April 11 and a 4-day retreat in Killarney April 12 -15
Details at www.mindfulnessireland.org
Check them out. If you want your heart to be lifted in a different way this spring. If you are looking for some inspiration/ encouragement to keep your inner life on track, they may be just what you need. But even if you don’t get there in person, I am sure their presence and the practice they lead will have a ripple effect on all of us!
When the Buddha was travelling around teaching, he was once asked ‘Why are your followers so radiant?’
He answered ‘Because they don’t dwell in the past, nor do they hanker after the future. Those who dwell in the past or hanker after the future are like green leaves cut down and left in the sun – they dry up and wither’
So in meditation, we’re invited to really be here in this very moment, and look to this moment as the source of our vitality and radiance. Not just when we’re sitting on the meditation but when we’re eating our breakfast, driving to work, walking the dog, taking a shower, drinking a cup of tea, chatting with a friend.
Why not experiment – whatever you are doing right now – can you allow this moment to nourish you…..