Guided Mindfulness Practice
Listen to Andy Metcalf’s Guide to Mindfulness Practice
Nick’s Reflections for May
Doing, being, and peace
We are living in challenging times. For many of us the situation can feel quite surreal unless we are infected by the virus ourselves or someone close to us is infected. The threat is invisible but the consequences of infection are not.
Our anxiety is experienced collectively, reinforced as it is by the news, radio programmes and social media, as well as in almost every conversation we have with friends and family. Familiar patterns and routines have been disrupted. When our external environment becomes unsettling and more threatening, we become more aware of our vulnerability.
So, where do we look for respite? Usually it is in activities that take our mind off the situation such as entertainment, reading perhaps, taking up new hobbies or watching box sets.
Doing is obviously necessary to provide for the necessities of staying alive such as food, shelter, clothing and medicines and in managing our affairs and relationships.
But often our desire for pleasure makes us go beyond what is good for us. Or, when reacting to fear we end up getting so caught up in our doing that we lose sight of a bigger context.
Mindfulness is the great antidote. It helps put things in perspective. By pausing, slowing down and stopping we notice more of what we are experiencing. Moving into a being mode enables us to observe and reflect.
Becoming more aware in being, we accommodate more ‘data’, thus gaining a fuller picture. Sitting with the ups and downs of our emotions, being fully aware, in other words being mindful, allows us to gradually disengage from habitual patterns of speculative thinking and feeling. And this enables change and growth.
Personal growth does not come free though, it involves giving up what we are attached to. The process of letting go of an emotion we seem not to be able to let go of, a feeling of anger at aninjustice perhaps, or a feeling of deep sadness at having been ignored by someone we
considered ourselves to be close to.
We learn that freeing oneself from attachment is not a passive process. It is an engaged process which eventually allows the mind to settle, As the mind settles in the present, we begin to experience deeper state of calm.
Developing a state of calm is a part of mindfulness practice. In a state of calm we are more objective when observing the changing nature of our inner flow of experiences. We develop a more spacious understanding of where we find ourselves in life. Our hurts and resentments are seen more clearly for what they are, an ever-changing landscape of actions and reactions. As they are seen and understood more clearly, we find there is more acceptance of what we have experienced.
We can recognise that fear is a natural state of mind driven by the instinct of survival. We learn that through mindfulness we are better able to contextualise the threat and have a more realistic perspective. Fear is a great ‘driver ‘ whereas the calmness that comes with present moment awareness in being is the antidote that prevents imagination and fear from flooding us.
Being puts us in touch with the peace that lies behind the ups and downs and flow of all experience. It improves our ability to be less reactive. Whereas much of living in the world is about doing, mindfulness practice develops our innate ability to rest better in being. Being less reactive allows for an integration of doing, and being that enables us to live life more wisely, skillfully and with a greater sense of inner peace.
So, in the light of these reflections we can ask ourselves a few questions, made so pertinent by the immediacy of current events.
As I live my life and practise mindfulness, what am I learning about my mind in all that is happening around me and in me? What are my priorities? Where do I seek peace? What do I need to change?
Hopefully these reflections will help us pay attention to what is really important in our lives: the finding of peace in the present moment, irrespective of circumstances.
Insight Timer is a free app which you can download to guide your own mindfulness practice.
The Amaravati Buddhist Monastery is offering regular video recordings of talks you may find helpful. Simply email email@example.com to receive their regular newsletter.
If you would like to take some of Nick’s reflections further, you may like to read Don’t Take Your Life Personally by Ajahn Sumedho (2010).br>