Reflecting on the seven day retreat I attended a couple of weeks ago, what comes to mind, and sticks the most, is a sense of understanding that what we need in order to be happy, is always at our disposal. Looking inward, while sitting or walking mindfully and quietly, we can observe the contents and landscape of our minds. The stories we create in our thinking minds sometimes mislead us and distort reality. When we see our experience clearly we can note what is true, we can be released from our self-centered view and have more ease and peace of mind.
It is the way in which we hold the circumstances of our lives that creates our difficulties. It is helpful to remember that we are not alone and that we can befriend ourselves and our experience, including all the confusion and all the fear and anxiety that we carry.
This should not be news to a teacher of mindfulness programs, and in particular, Mindful Self – Compassion, but it did drop into my mind and body in a more accessible way on this retreat. My understanding of this work we are all doing was deepened partly by practice and partly due to the excellence of the teachers, Christina Feldman, John Peacock and Chris Cullen. Each one of them in their own way reminded us to keep our attention below the neck.
One morning I was feeling uncomfortable and confused about something. I was telling myself a story about a friendship. I kept replaying my story over and over again. Finally, when I realized this, I took a breath and I moved my attention to my feet on the ground. I was doing walking meditation in the snow and when I brought my attention out of my head and into my feet, in that moment, the freshly fallen snow and the sparkly diamonds from the sunshine on the surface were all I could see. I could delight in the sound of the packed down snow crunching with each step. It was a lesson in being present. Then I looked up and noticed the white clouds against the blue sky ..and that was all there was. I was able, then, to let go of the story and to realize that it simply was not true. The discomfort around it evaporated.
If we pay attention, if we practice paying attention every day, we can have more of these peaceful moments in our lives. I had a friend once who used to call them “holy” moments. If we pay attention, we always have a choice as to where we are going to rest our awareness.
To all who are reading this blog on this page right now I wish you peace and ease. I hope that, if you’re in the northeast, the snow is not an obstacle to your happiness, but instead, an opportunity to be present with what is miraculous.
Note: The talks given by the 3 teachers can be accessed by going to Dharmaseed.org and looking up the talks by the teacher’s names. The retreat dates were January 24-31,2015