Free From Suffering

I’m continuing my meditation course with Alistair Appleton, and this time around it’s having a profound effect. It’s in large measure because he’s someone I look up to – the example he offers as an explorer of life and its riches is now impossible for me to ignore. And as I’ve been extremely cautious with my photography in starting off by taking baby steps to get where I want to go, and concentrating on getting the bare basics just right (with mentors like Sophie), I’ve realised the same is true about exploration here. This is at the core of where I want to go. It’s as good as futile to say I want to give myself over to being an explorer of life, without having the core tools in place to be able to do so. Having dismissed those core tools got me in serious trouble this year, and that’s now slowly changing.

This week we concentrated on mindfulness and the importance of listening. Now I’ve done active listening in counselling work in the past, but this isn’t the same thing. This was keeping my mind alert to not categorising, planning, flying off into sluggish random thinking. It meant switching off that muscle which is always processing input, always taking a position on everything, and just giving myself over to change – change being at the core of things. He brought out just how fundamental change is – not in terms of say relationships being fleeting, but literally in terms of even your bloodflow not standing still – core stuff, just like I said. Last night in practice it was really taking it as it came – a new train coming past here, with all the changes in that sound, to the creaks in the room to the rhythm of the heating system or other peoples’ breathing. My mind is always chattering – in the morning it’s usually screaming – and switching this grabbing, simplistic, planning muscle off was like sheer bliss. My mind wasn’t rushing to unnecessary, short-term solutions, it actually gave itself over to taking the world on in a way which was fundamentally nurturing. Just by listening.

It’s scary in a way, knowing that something clicked into place last night. Whereas I’d given up entirely on ways of being such as ‘unconditional positive regard’ – at the core of person centred counselling – after so very many disappointments and contradictions, this makes complete sense. It isn’t dependent on what I think about other people, merely myself, and is about developing a skilful mind to make life happier, more enriching and better.

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