Week 3a: A Mindful Week

by | Sep 28, 2018

Last week I took part (one of 200) in “The Way of Awareness” with Jon and Will Kabat Zinn at the Omega Center, outside Rhinebeck in Upstate New York. It is a wonderful, peaceful setting and the autumn colours were just commencing, the leaves begining to fall and create blankets on the earth. The landscape was beautiful, with the birds and squirrels (or were they chipmunks?) scampering around and many flowers blooming. The meals were fantastic- I was spoilt for choice in this vegetarian (almost totally with generally only one of more than 20 dishes containing meat) heaven! There was a wonderful book shop – fortunately I have little spare space in my luggage so I resisted buying, except for T shirt, as the temperatures in the US have been much warmer than I had anticipated.

We started at 6am each day with 90 minutes of meditation and this was followed by two x 3 hour sessions and a 2 hr evening session of mostly meditation and some teaching mainly through question and answer (or should I say people reflecting on their experience and then Jon and wil reflecting on the reflections.)

Forty-two hours of meditation over 5 days has to have an impact. For some is was a WOW experience, for some quite transformational. For me more a rumination or chewing of the cud that I suspect will continue well into the future. While Jon developed MBSR in totally secular terms, their presentations offered some links to the Buddhist teachings from which they draw. However, for me I was aware that I was missing the deeper spiritual connections and probably the opportunity to connect with the Christian story. I sensed that Jon carries some Christian baggage. Over the week I met some lovely people although with much time in silence, it was only a few. It was wonderful being able to let go of needing to make any travel arrangements, or navigate unknown cities. Just left to navigate my internal landscape!

I suspect I am not and never will be a “true contemplative” whatever that may mean. Yes, I ponder deeply and am content dwelling in silence and stillness, but I can only withdraw within for so long. I found the long periods of sitting meditation challenging, the walking meditation was easier. I really valued the deep sense of awareness with the process of walking, of delighting in nature, of savouring food etc. We were instructed not to read, write or engage in other spiritual practices, particularly during the 36 hours of total silence. I know that for me, journaling and drawing, help me deepen the experience of silence and contemplation and plum its depths. Otherwise I just tend to skim along the surface as my mind ricochets around. So, in true Liz fashion, I did what I felt called to do, even if that involved “breaking the rules.”

 

Reflection on “Being Cold” following an early morning period of meditation.

Here we go again, another half hour of sitting meditation
in breath, out breath
gee, I’m cold
in breath, out breath
gee, I’m cold!
in breath, out breath
i don’t have a blanket
damn those people who have three
in breath, out breath
why didn’t I dress more warmly?
in breath, out breath
gee, I’m envious
they have what I want!
in breath, out breath
what does cold feel like?
where to I feel it in my body?
my chest is cold
in breath, out breath
can I wrap myself up in a yoga mat?
in breath, out breath
why should they have so many blankets?
in breath, out breath
yes, a cushion on my chest helps
in breath, out breath
the homeless men I work with must feel this way
in breath, out breath
do they feel the cold in their bones?
in their chest?
in breath, out breath
this cold is horrible
in breath, out breath
when will this meditation end
in breath, out breath
the homeless must surely ask…
when will this ever end
in breath, out breath
the bell rings
mindful walking begins
i mindfully and quickly walk back to my room
a jacket, a scarf
i have the luxury of such choices
the homeless don’t
mindfully stepping step by step
do I ever really walk in their shoes?
maybe not
mindfully stepping step by step
but maybe, just maybe
i come alongside with a little bit more compassion
mindfully stepping step by step
as I walk this sacred ground.

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