Happy Holidays (or a Journey Through Four Fields)

Now

I’m beginning to wonder whether you can pick and choose from systems of thought. Heidegger no doubt would say it’s impossible – that in order for the ‘toolkit’ to work, it must be part of a ‘world’ too. I’ve thought I could just take the lessons of the meditation course and be done with it, but now I’m not sure. The lessons belong to a living and developing system of thought, underpinning a whole way of being. I’m cautious of going back to the days of ‘all or nothing’, but I don’t think that would be the case here. Also the older I get the more I acknowledge and am coming to accept my lack of uniqueness – that the one thing I’ve kept protected, almost to the point of isolation, was itself illusory. Who I am is comprised of shapings by friends, family and colleagues – my path isn’t new, isn’t unique and depends entirely on others.

Do I investigate Buddhism itself?

Two Weeks Ago

I hit my ‘disinterest wall’ – my favourite music was dull, favourite pastimes no longer interesting, the path I’m on no longer valid, I was even tempted to skip my morning’s meditation as it too felt like a waste of time; the way I’d imagined myself for years had come back. But I did meditate and followed Alistair’s suggestion of doing the ‘four fields of mindfulness’ off the cushion, and did so on the way to work.

And when I came to thoughts and the thinking mind, I remembered a big conclusion from the course – we are not our thinking minds, the narratives we place on our lives are just thoughts. This was the easiest point to believe my thoughts and ignore my feelings, but the realisation of what was happening in my ‘big’ mind from exposing it, put things rapidly back in perspective. What was accelerating into a depression was halted in its tracks.

All that happened was a change in the ‘weather’, which would only ever be transitory anyway. I was actually physically tired and felt defensive -qualities which were representative of me, when the thoughts were not.

Last week

It’s so easy for me to take myself very seriously still. Sometimes it’s just the ticket to have a sense of humour about myself – even about serious or difficult stuff.

Two weeks ago

You may still wonder what ‘happy holidays’ was about. Well it was part of an exercise Alistair used to prove how easily the thinking mind’s dictatorial control can be broken. We spend fifteen minutes looking skilfully at where our thoughts randomly go, at which point Alistair merely said ‘happy holidays’. The effect was profound – images and positive associated feelings flooded in on their own, merely by dropping in an external suggestion.

Last week

Since then I’ve used this learning to overcome self hatred (a habitual thought introduced by others & never challenged by me) and self-doubt (I still underplay my achievement in gaining a second degree three years ago). I’ve also realised just how necessary a lightness of touch really is. Doing this too seriously and taking myself too seriously makes keeping a spirit of curiosity and exploration that much harder.

Today

This morning my mind went back to grasping, grasping, and it scared the life out of me. Sure the ‘weather’ had changed but what was this reverse shift about? Using the ‘four fields’ found the answer and it was both simple and unexpected: the good of the weekend had had a counterintuitive unhelpful effect. The long sleeping, the lovely dinners and even more lovely desserts were all enjoyable, but there was no meditation, no running, no training and so this morning with merely not enough sleep (which seems to be a recurring problem – above) and some moderate emotional pressure, the old, failed coping mechanism resurfaced in my mind. This weekend at home with Dad was about how the family did things and coped, not how I do things; there’s a lot of practice and learning yet to go until I think I’ll be integrating them both together comfortably. It was a weekend governed only by an unskilled mind and so it’s hardly surprising this morning’s mind was also unskilled. It’s a lesson to remember (I hope) in the coming week, and the next time joint relaxing or celebrating is to be done!

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