Tag Archives: Jack Kornfield

If this… then…

First of all Happy New Year! I love this time of year. I know, I know, it’s only a calendar date, it has nothing to do with the seasons, the equinoxes, it’s all made up… But still, somehow… It’s New, isn’t it? And there’s something almost irrepressibly optimistic about something New.

I disappeared for a while. That’s kind of symbolic, I think. Various technical complications meant that this site was unreachable for a spell, then reappeared in some bizarre form, and today I have found it again. Funnily enough, I rather feel like I’ve found me again recently, too.

Last year, the year behind me, became rather unfocused towards the end. Or perhaps mono-focused is a better way of putting it. Too much was overlooked and fell by the wayside. I say this without guilt or rancour because it was very positive, if exhausting, and because I don’t believe in regrets, but in lessons learned. This Christmas season has brought a fabulous refocusing.

The mot du jour is balance. And it is I this I shall endeavour to hold onto into 2014.

There we have it – my rather over-worded Resolution. Because, you know, I don’t think it does any of us any harm at all to refocus on a fairly regular basis. Stop, take stock, whittle away what doesn’t make your soul sing, nourish what does…

I was listening to Jack Kornfield today. Again, somewhat by accident, I appear to have managed to sign up for Google Play and I haven’t the faintest idea how to unsubscribe, so I’m making the most of it πŸ˜‰ And I was very pleasantly surprised to find one of my gurus there.

And the part that stopped me mid-mushroom chopping was breathtakingly simple.

It always is, isn’t it?

And then, when you try to explain it to somebody, you’re in danger of being considered a simpleton yourself.

I’ll give it a shot anyway.

He said this:

If this…. then that.

If not this… then not that.

And, he said, that’s life.

It is a simple string of actions and consequences.

But the problems (and I’m no longer paraphrasing Mr Kornfield here) begin the moment we start to personalise those actions – your actions, my actions, his actions – we get into hot water. Forget all that, it mires you in anguish, anger, guilt, the desire for vengeance. And the only thing any of that will do is keep you locked in that time.

In that past.

In that last year.

Why not try:

If I let it go, then I can move on.

See, I said it was simple. And I’m not convinced I’ve conveyed it the way it makes sense in my head. I mean, I hope it’s obvious that if your actions were detrimental to another, you make amends, you make your peace, you take your lesson and you move on a better person. Or that if you were the person ‘wronged’, you can forgive, whether it is desired by the other person or not, take your lesson and move on a stronger person… Those parts, I hope, don’t need saying.

After all, as wonderful Jack says:

“In the end, just three things matter:

How well we have lived
How well we have loved
How well we have learned to let go”

 

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A life’s work. A gradual dawning. Acceptance.

He bit someone today.

She loves him. But he bit her. Not out of spite or malice. But because she was trying to get him to follow the rules. Rules that he, in his little autistic world, didn’t want to follow. Rules that, if he broke them, would cause anarchy in the nursery school. So she carried him away from the wet, slippery, tyre playground. And he bit her.

Broke the skin on her arm and bruised it.

Even as she told me, as she showed me her arm, she told me how well he is doing, how brilliantly he is adapting to nursery school, how fond she is of him…

Being given an autistic child is, without a doubt, the toughest challenge yet. I’ve been through divorce, estrangement from my family of origin, house moves to different parts of the country… All processed and accepted.

But this is all new.

It is unconditional love at its purest and simplest. I don’t know what he thinks, how he feels, what he can process, what will set him off. I can guess at all these things, but I don’t know. Any given moment could be a ‘good’ one or a ‘bad’ one. He may throw his arms around me for a ‘big cuddle!’, or kick out at me, pull my hair and knock my glasses off.

He struggled as I strapped him in the car, kicked. Lunged for my hair. Reached for my glasses.

I drove home weeping. The sadness threatened to overwhelm me.

I parked the car, turned on my phone, found this:

“The 9th principle of Buddhist psychology in The Wise Heart: Wisdom knows what feelings are present without being lost in them.

From the perspective of Buddhist psychology, each sight, sound, taste, touch, smell or thought will have either a pleasant, painful or neutral quality – one of the primary feeling tones. Then, born out of this simple feeling tone, there arises a whole array of “secondary feelings” – all the emotions we are familiar with, from joy and anger to fear and delight. It can be quite a lot!

This stream of feelings is always with us, and yet we sometimes have the mistaken notion that life is not supposed to be this way… When a painful experience arises we might think we have done something wrong, and we try to get rid of it by ignoring or changing it.

As we become wiser we realize that fixing the flow of feelings doesn’t work. Primary feelings are simply feelings, and every day consists of thousands of pleasant, painful and neutral moments, for you, Condoleezza Rice, the Dalai Lama, Mick Jagger and the Buddha alike. These feelings are not wrong or bad. They are the stream of life.

Jack Kornfield

The low gives meaning to the high. The sad to the happy. The ‘bad’ to the ‘good’.

And vice versa.

So often I repeat these words to friends: this too shall pass.

This time, I say it for me: This Too Shall Pass.

I am grateful.

I am grateful for the love she showed my beloved son even through the necessity of showing me what he, through no fault of his own, had done. I am grateful for his ‘big cuddles’ and for his love.

I am grateful for the unlocking of my heart that loving him is giving me. For having him in my life.

And today. Today, I am sad.

But, with the help of Jack Kornfield’s timely reminder, I will not get lost in it.


Wisdom

 

Synchronicities abound once again.

I hear something.

I like it.

Maybe I make a note of it.

I move on.

It snags my attention elsewhere, in a new guise.

And I smile to myself, grateful for the signpost. πŸ™‚

wisdom

So, (you might be forgiven for thinking you’ve read this sentence before) I was listening to Wayne Dyer: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life. At times of increased stress / distress, I find his gentle voice and helpful interpretations of Lao Tzu’s Tao Teh Ching have the power to ground and balance me more quickly and efficiently than I can manage alone.

He quoted Henry David Thoreau, including the line from the photograph above, and it got me thinking.

It’s all about worry, really, isn’t it?

And, like all ‘spiritual tenets’, voicing it aloud puts you in danger of being thought naive. But I’ve long given up caring about others’ opinions of me – that one is a lesson well learned (remember our mantra? “What you think of me is none of my business“) πŸ˜‰

While you are forming in the womb, after you are born, in your early months as a baby, you don’t worry. You’re not concerned where your next meal is coming from, or if it’s coming at all. You don’t lie awake at night hoping you’ll still have a roof over your bed the following night. Frankly (and sadly) even if you are born into a horrendous situation, you just accept. You expect your next meal to arrive when you’re hungry and, for the majority of us reading this post (and the person writing it), it does.

If you translate that to your life now, the vast majority of us, again, have made it – we’re still here; nothing we spent hours, days, weeks, months or even years worrying about actually killed us. We wake up to embrace, fight, love, struggle, soar, work through another day. The things we wasted so much now worrying about, have become a then we can barely even remember.

worry

But there is more to it even than that.

When you’re a baby, and your hunger is being alleviated through the next meal that didn’t fail to arrive, and your tummy is full, you turn your head away. You don’t stockpile your food in case the next meal doesn’t come. You don’t demand more, regardless of those around you who are also hungry, simply because you believe that your needs are greater than anyone else’s.

And then a friend posted this (click to read it):

greed2I love this guy’s intensity. πŸ™‚

He’s right of course. We all need just what we need to survive, in comfort is nice but not necessary; in luxury is fortunate, but not necessary. The pressure we put on ourselves in desperate pursuit of the ‘more’ that we feel we need can only lead to suffering. We lose sleep. Our health – both physical and mental – suffers. Our relationships fail.

Is it worth it?

I remember listening to another of my favourites – Jack Kornfield – some time ago. He told this story (cut very short here):

Two friends attend the funeral of a wealthy man.

One whispers to the other:

“How much did he leave?”

His friend, visibly surprised, replies:

“Why, everything of course!”

Follow your path, keep your integrity, work steadily towards your goal, and you will be okay.

Finally, for today, this too is one of my favourites (there is some debate about who this quote should actually be attributed to, but I struggle to care about that either – it’s the meaning that is important after all):

the-endPeace out πŸ˜‰ x


Alchemy?

I’m constantly amazed by the way life works.

In awe, really.

I’ll start as I so often do: a few things have been tumbling around my head lately πŸ™‚

I suppose what it really is is an amalgamation, a sort of alchemical process by which several truisms, so often bandied about, posted on facebook (guilty as charged) and generally thrown casually into conversation that they have become cliches, have all become one big ole realisation somewhere deep down. Like dried yeast in warm water, it has bubbled up and popped on the surface of my awareness just in the last day or two, and I’ve been trying to find a way to express it.

Putting it into words is tricky – it’s much more a feeling, or… not even that… a kind of new part of what I have come to know, I suppose. Eek, you see? I’m already tripping over myself! I guess I’ll start by listing the four main components of this one new whole:

1) Orange Juice

This is the patently obvious truth that if you squeeze an orange, the only thing you’re going to get out of it is orange juice. You can’t squeeze it and expect a sparkling Pinot Grigio, or a glass of milk. In just the same way, if someone squeezes you, you can only react with something that is already inside you. Or, put another way, you can’t give something you haven’t got.

2) Hatred and Love

“Hatred cannot cease by hatred, but by love alone is healed.” Originating from the Buddha and used by such noble fellow beings as Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

3) Fear

Fear paralyses. Fear of the future (and what is a ‘What if…?’ if not fear of a future calamity?) is a waste of the present, leads to negative, defensive and angry pre-emptive behaviour, escalates animosity, perpetuates hatred… And the rest!

4) Boundaries

Accept no abuse. Value yourself more than that. You would not sit by and watch someone you loved being abused, so why allow it for yourself?

In some way or another all of these lessons have been kneaded and melted and moulded and shaped into a single way of being, of looking at myself and the world of my fellow human-beings.

First off, eliminate the fear and hatred, both of which we are all too easily seduced by. Like pretty much everyone else I have known the paralysis of fear, and I can categorically say it served no purpose whatever, neither in preparing me for what I had to face, nor in helping through it. We live through what we live through. We take the lessons from those situations that they had to teach us. And we carry them into the next.

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

– Helen Keller

Or indeed:

“I’ll tell you a secret about fear: it’s an absolutist. With fear, it’s all or nothing. Either, like any bullying tyrant, it rules your life with a stupid blinding omnipotence, or else you overthrow it, and its power vanishes in a puff of smoke. And another secret: the revolution against fear, the engendering of that tawdry despot’s fall, has more or less nothing to do with ‘courage’. It is driven by something much more straightforward: the simple need to get on with your life.”

– Salman Rushdie

The point I am trying to get across is this: if you can drive fear and hatred out of your heart (and I am not suggesting for a moment that a) this is easy or b) I have cracked it), then when you are squeezed they cannot come out. And if they cannot come out, there is more chance of healing both at a personal and a universal level. But this, too, is an affirmation of healthy boundaries. Because if there is no longer fear and hatred inside you, and you are squeezed (abuse is attempted), and a compassionate response has no discernible good effect, you can walk away with your boundaries intact and your inner life undisturbed. Nor, happily, are you likely to have made the situation worse. We cannot control others or their reactions, after all: only ourselves.

It’s all part of the process, and there are no shortcuts, but each milestone is an enormous liberation, containing enough lightness to propel you to the next. I’ve listened to a few of my favourite gurus today: Dr Wayne Dyer and Jack Kornfield being two of the most influential in the help with shaping my thoughts. Jack Kornfield described his return from years away, meditating and practising as a Buddhist monk. His mind was trained, he was an unflappable spiritual being… Until he came back to the States and discovered that he was really rubbish at relating with his fellow human beings. So his message must be that it’s all well and good understanding what this Practice is, what these lessons are, the path of least suffering, and it’s pretty easy to get a hold of, excel at even, when you are alone in a room, or meditating, or…

But using it in everyday life – there’s the challenge!

 


A few more thoughts on forgiveness.

Today, I have been listening to the dulcet tones of Jack Kornfield. He has the most soothing and calming voice, which helps a lot, but it is the content of his talks that is the most enlightening. For anyone who hasn’t heard of him, he is the author of such excellent books as “A Path with Heart” and runs the Spirit Rock Meditation Centre in California.

I was pottering about my kitchen, everyone else in the family occupied, listening to his guided meditations. Possibly not the best way of meditating, but better than not at all, to my mind anyway πŸ™‚

And, in his inimitable fashion, he fed me some gentle food for thought.

The way it works for me is this:
I’m washing up, listening, drifting away, my mind snags on something. I stop what I’m doing and focus better. This is what snagged me:

“Stand up for yourself.
Tell the Truth.
It will be okay”

Which was just what I needed to hear at that moment. (Another fabulous way this universe works).

But he went on to do a lovingkindness meditation, which led me down the forgiveness route again.

I often write about the same theme many times. Sometimes I worry about that. About repeating myself. But here’s the thing:
These themes are things that we, as human beings, can struggle with our entire lives. I can’t write about it once and just ‘get it’, like flicking a light switch. It is tidal. The tide comes in and you have it. It ebbs away again and you struggle to hold onto it . But the difference here is that it never goes out quite as far as it did the first time, and eventually, instead of a turbulent and stormy ocean, you find the water has stopped at the shoreline, and you have a still, peaceful lake.

You have it.

So, forgiveness.

Forgiveness is vital to the healing process.

But it isn’t a sticking plaster. You can’t paper over the hurt with it. You can’t force it, even. And this is important.

You cannot force yourself to forgive.

It is a process.

And there are many stages to this process, not dissimilar to the stages of grief. For those unfamiliar with the five stages of grief, the Kubler-Ross model is this:
1) Denial
2) Anger
3) Bargaining
4) Depression
5) Acceptance

And anybody who has been badly hurt will experience most if not all of these stages. My understanding of it, though, is that it is not until you get to the Acceptance stage of the process that you are able to forgive; it is not until you have worked through it all, and truly understood and assimilated, that you are able to let go.

I have said before that we have this perception that forgiveness lets your aggressor ‘off the hook’. In fact, the person being let off the hook is you. You no longer have to dwell in that world of holding on with hate, of clinging desperately to your injustices., of being locked into a cycle of vicim consciousness, which is disempowering to say the least. You are free to move on, unshackled from the ball and chain you’ve been dragging behind you for too long, empowered and in charge of your own life, responsible for your own happiness, no longer at the mercy of someone else’s responsibility for your unhappiness. From victim to conqueror!

Many victims of abuse become angry at the suggestion that they must forgive in order to move on. It has often taken such an enormous effort of will to stand up for themselves in the first place, that they fear that forgiving will set them back into a vulnerable position, that they will have to go through this all over again. And at that stage you are not ready. Your anger fortifies you, stiffens your resolve not to allow such things to happen to you again. It is natural, healthy and in the order of things that you feel it. But it is not a place you can live healthily in forever. The time has to come when you have strengthened yourself enough there to shed the anger and move on with your life, the lesson learned, the boundary strengthened, your happiness lying ahead, and not behind.

Anger, hatred, all those negative emotions are a chain around your heart. They may be protecting it from past (or present) abuse, but they are also preventing you from letting love in, from future happiness, from freedom.

So, when the time is right – and only when the time is right – cut the chain and let your heart fly free.

You cannot lose.

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Day 14: Fear

β€œNothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”
― Marie Curie

It would appear that no sooner has one insight come and punched you in the nose than another, while your hands are cupped around your face, swipes you around the back of the head… I speak, mostly, with my tongue in my cheek.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been pretty anxious for as long as I can remember. Anxiety takes so many forms, there are so many things we are afraid of in our daily lives, but today it was put to me that it is pretty much the biggest obstacle to peace and happiness (along with forgiveness, of course, as previously discussed).

What are you afraid of?

Disapproval?
Rejection?
Running out of money?
Ill health?
Death?
Hidden costs?
Your children’s safety?
Being hurt?
The unknown?

Every day, every minute of every day, there lurks potential fear. What if you did run out of money? What if you do meet disapproval? I mean, really, what if? Won’t you just find a way through it? Clearly some fears are of things far more beyond our control than others, and we have to face them anyway. But so much is just a ‘what if’?

Jack Kornfield (yes, I’m still with him, though I’m onto his “Your Buddha Nature” talks just now) made this following very good point. I sat stunned. Literally. Well… you know.. no one actually hit me over the head, but they might just as well have done.

You’re walking in the woods and you’re afraid of being chased by a bear (the fear is not of walking in the woods, so your fear is not realised now)
You’re being chased by a bear and you’re afraid it’ll catch you (the fear is not of being chased, but of being caught, so your fear is not realised now)
The bear has caught you and you’re afraid of being mauled (the fear is not of being caught, but of being mauled, so your fear is not realised now)…

… you see the point? The fear is never in the moment, it is always based on a potential future reality…

But more than that – the things we fear sometimes do come to pass (though they often don’t), and we fear them until they happen, until they are the now, at which point we survive them, and somewhere the other side of them, we’re fine. It’s still now. And, ironically, we have found something new to fear.

So, as radical as it may seem, what about giving up fear?

I’ve lived through some experiences I would never have imagined possible. But it’s now. Right now, and here I sit writing this with nothing to fear. I know I could give you a long list of things I could fear, but what’s the point? If now is all we have, if the future is a total unknown, why waste now fearing then?

What if we just made the most of now?

β€œI learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
― Nelson Mandela

Or, I suppose, feel the fear and do it anyway?


Day 12: Shoulder-Shaking

Forgiveness seems to be the order of the day.

I can’t escape it.

Everywhere I turn, everything I listen to, every book I pick up, every unbidden thought: all keep coming back to the same thing…

It’s Sunday. I have five boys enjoying a day of rest, of watching movies, eating home-cooked food, playing with their toys, and together, and on their computers. It’s a chilling-at-home kind of day.

So it’s not very quiet either.

And I resorted to listening to Jack again.

Guess what?

Yup.

Forgiveness meditation.

Two prisoners of war, talking.

Prisoner 1: “Have you forgiven your captors yet?”
Prisoner 2: “No! Never!”
Prisoner 1: “Then they still have you in prison, don’t they?”

This is what I was trying to get at the other day. This is the problem with the idea of forgiveness.

Do you suppose that either of those prisoners will be seeking out their captors? Will they be looking to find them, to tell them they forgive them, to try to be ‘friends’? I mean, I am aware that Nelson Mandela did, but… he’s kind of an exceptional case, isn’t he?

This is it! This is where I have, in the past, so very often come unstuck. If I have been hurt by somebody, baffled by their actions, and I want to move on… the first port of call is: “I must forgive them”. Because forgiveness means letting go of the pain, the anger, the resentment, the hurt, that keep you tied to the past. But what has always kept me teetering on the brink of this idea, of achieving this forgiveness, is the assumption that forgiveness means allowing those people back into my life in some way.

But today I learned something different.

As Mr Kornfield says:

Forgiveness does not in any way justify or condone harmful actions…
Forgiveness does not mean you have to seek out or speak to those who’ve caused you harm. You may choose never to see them again…
You can do whatever is necessary to prevent further harm.

And suddenly, the whole idea of forgiveness becomes a release, doesn’t it? I can let go of the hurt, the resentment, the grief. I can move forward. But, crucially, I can learn from it, too. I can choose not to put myself back in the firing line. I can remove myself from the situation without anger or judgement. I can replace those negative feelings with a universal love for my fellow human beings. And I can move on.

Hatred, he says, never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed.

Put simply, and as implausible as it may at first appear, I can love my aggressors from a safe distance. Because when the realisation is fully absorbed that we all make mistakes, that we are all flawed human beings, that we all hurt, that we can learn from both the hurting and the being hurt, that from all these experiences we can grow… where is there room for hatred? How are we different? Simply through our choices. Through how we choose to act or react. Whether we choose to remain locked into the negative and growth-inhibiting cycle of blame, recrimination, victimhood and hurt, or to face it head on, feel it in its awful, amazing, painful, essential entirety; learn

… and grow.

;


Day 8: The Game of Life

Following on from yesterday’s discussion on forgiveness, today (after tea and before bathtime) I delved a little deeper into lovingkindness meditation (with Jack Kornfield again).

There is a formula. It isn’t just a case of sitting there and feeling fuzzy πŸ˜‰ And as with so many great perspective-shifting practices, you start small and work your way up.

I remember a couple of years ago listening to Reverend Kusala talking about the Five Precepts – the Buddhist ‘Code of Ethics’, if you like – and he started, logically, with the first: I will not take life. He was speaking, I believe, at a university and he suggested to his students that they should start with the easy stuff.

“Today,” he said “Just today. Make the decision to try not to kill any lions, tigers or bears”…

Naturally, he got a laugh. But you get the point. Start with the easy stuff.

Well, the idea with lovingkindness is that you start with yourself. If you can’t love yourself, you will really struggle to love anyone else properly.

Okay, on second thoughts, maybe that’s not so ‘easy’. Loving yourself, for some of us, is no mean feat. But it is something we can all do. And why wouldn’t you? Why are you worse (or better, for that matter) than anyone else? Why should they deserve your love and not you? So… if that’s where you come unstuck, then that’s something to work on, isn’t it? Examine, honestly, why you struggle to love you. And work on accepting yourself. And then on loving yourself. Just as you are. Perfect and imperfect, all at once. A fabulous paradox.

It could take time. It could take moments. But it won’t happen at all if you don’t try.

In your sitting position, you repeat these phrases:

“May I be filled with lovingkindness
May I be well in body, and in mind
May I be safe from inner and outer dangers
May I be truly happy. And free.”

All great (and achievable) aspirations. And while you are repeating these mantras, focus on the heart. Picture, and feel, it opening. Letting you in. Looking after and loving you.

Then, you move on to the people you love. People who are positive and happy influences in your everyday life. And, with them in your mind, you begin your mantra again:

“May you be filled with lovingkindness
May you be well in body, and in mind
May you be safe from inner and outer dangers
May you be truly happy. And free.”

The circle of influence moves ever wider as you then encompass all those around you, to include them in your lovingkindness. And the words, of course, can be adapted to sit more comfortably with you. As long as they are loving!

But then… Oh, then! Then… you hit the tricky stuff. Which is where Day 7 comes in. Then, you extend your lovingkindness to your ‘enemies’. And, I guess, the trick is to keep your heart open when you think of them, to keep it open as you repeat your mantra, to keep it open without allowing it to close up in self-protection, as it is instinctively inclined to do… And if you have truly forgiven, it isn’t so difficult. And if you haven’t, then forgiveness meditation is next πŸ™‚

Forgiveness is letting go, after all, isn’t it? Don’t let the hurt snag you any longer. Don’t let the anger hold you back. Look forward, because that is the direction you are headed.

Bertie made me laugh today. He put into innocent five-year old words what, at forty-one, I struggle to articulate adequately.

“It’s like a game, isn’t it mum?
I control my arms and my legs and my mouth.
I point the way I’m going.
But I can’t see my face!”

This body is borrowed for the duration of the game.

And at the end of this level, points accrued or lost, you’ll get a new one.

As Bertie would say: How cool is that?!


Day 6: Apple Crumble and LovingKindness

Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I’d rather see you in better living conditions.

~ Hafiz

Oooh, but Day 6 started with an uphill battle…

It was a little after 5am when my bedroom door was pushed open. I have a suspicion that mothers are born with in-built springs that contract, even in sleep, at the slightest sound from their offspring. I was up and out of the door before I realised I’d been woken up.

Fortunately, it wasn’t an emergency. Just a bleary-eyed five-year old who thought it was ‘too dark’ to go to the bathroom alone. I mumbled an “Off we go, then” and kept him company till he was safely tucked up again.

Trouble is, it’s tricky getting back to sleep at that time of the morning, isn’t it? I’m guessing that this is one of those times that learning to meditate is its own reward. Because before you’ve mastered it (and I surely haven’t yet), this is the time of the night when your mind decides to take the driving seat. Everything you are worrying about; worrying about happening, worrying about forgetting, worrying about not happening; jostles for position at the forefront of your mind, even while your mind itself is, to no avail, shouting at them all to STOP! I need to SLEEP!

So it’s a tired day. But, to put it in context, not nearly as tired as, say, the weeks (or months) it takes until your newborn decides to sleep through the night. You know… perspective!

But tired days are often days filled with mini-frustrations, too. You know, you slave over a hot stove and produce a delicious homemade risotto and your little one refuses point blank to eat it, even though porridge is his favourite food, and it’s not so very different, right? And then he completely wolfs the apple crumble his daddy made. Harumph! πŸ˜‰

Fortunately, though, the threatening rumbles of distant thunder stayed distant, and after the children’s tea (which seems to be the ideal time) and before their bedtime, while they were winding down (or winding each other up, in some cases), I carried myself off for today’s meditation.

I leaned on Jack again. And today he was talking me through Lovingkindness Meditation. It’s hard to explain this, but although really all I did was listen to the theory of lovingkindness meditation, there is just something about the way he talks that opens your heart in preparation, calms you, steadies you. I came away as though I had had half an hour of complete, uninterrupted, focused meditative peace.

Truly, it was more food for thought, too. He explained that lovingkindness meditation is taught as an ‘antidote to fear, and anger, and confusion. And a closed heart.’

And that makes sense to me. Fear, anger and confusion… they constrict your heart, don’t they? If you close your eyes and think about the physical reactions brought about by those emotions, doesn’t it actually feel as though your heart is being squeezed, just a little? If you live your life in fear – which could just as easily be called anxiety – then you won’t allow love in. And people are afraid of so much, from the smallest things that appear utterly insignificant to their fellow human beings, to the biggest which, I suppose, is death. And that’s pretty significant too. You worry till you die? Doesn’t that seem to you a crazy way to ‘endure’ this life we’ve been gifted?

So, if the antidote to that kind of fear-laden doom is love, what do we have to lose? Which is pretty much verbatim what I said to a doom-laden son this afternoon. He had a list as long as your arm of perceived injustices. It’s so hard, at that tender age, to understand how easy it would be just to let them go. So I settled for
“Just try to be kind… I mean, what have you got to lose?”

In the meantime, my head and heart are full of Jack Kornfield’s words. In his soft, gentle, loving voice, he said:

The evocation of lovingkindness is what matters..
…and in the end of our life, when we look back, what matters is very simple:
“Did I love well?”


Day 5: Gingernuts and Righteous Indignation

Day 5: Sunday

I’m sure I must already have mentioned how much I like Sunday. In our house, it’s a real family day. We all pootle about, meeting over a big brunch, watching films, making things, and occasionally sorting out a quarrel or two… πŸ˜‰

Today was no different. A few weekends ago, our Saturday adventure took us to Craster to visit Dunstanburgh Castle. But it is also, of course, home of the world-renowned Craster Kipper, and we didn’t pass up the opportunity of getting a few for Sunday breakfasts. Sadly, the last of them was consumed with poached eggs last Sunday, but we still had some of their home-cured bacon, so today was different, but equally delicious.

When the youngest of us needed to go down for his nap, the second youngest had got over his bout of righteous indignation, involving a few minutes on the stairs ‘to have a little think about it’, the laundry (including millions of school uniforms) had been hung, rather last-minute, to dry, and the other boys settled down in front of a Sunday film, my opportunity arose. My eldest son had decided to try another recipe (a new and delightful interest of his – last weekend he made churros with chilli chocolate) and was assembling the ingredients for gingernuts. Since my even looking at what he is doing constitutes helping and he is utterly determined to do it alone, taking myself off to meditate seemed like the perfect solution to the urge to stick my nose in and make sure he was okay.

I’m tired today. The end of the week usually takes me that way. And I was concerned I might not be able to make the most of it. But I stumbled across something on my MP3 player that I must have downloaded a long time ago: Jack Kornfield’s Guided Meditation and I decided to give it a go. I have been a fan of Jack Kornfield’s for a long time. His gentle approach is a breath of fresh air, there is nothing in his voice for your mind to snag on, and he talks you through the idea in the simplest terms until you find you have been meditating without actually realising you’d begun…

I’m still tired. But I feel rested and peaceful. And that can’t be a bad thing.

Today has also included a conversation attempting to explain to a child who proclaims not to want affection, though you know very well he does, that resisting it will give people the message that you genuinely don’t want it. And they will stop trying. And then you will wonder why it seems that no one loves you, or gives you affection any more, without realising your central part in it.

It was a much simpler version of the concept that we teach people how to treat us. If they get away with pushing us around, we teach them that it’s okay to push us around. That doesn’t, of course, mean that our protests are guaranteed to be heard or that they will stop trying, but if you don’t want to be pushed around, you need to register the fact. Calmly, without evaluation and without judgment.

Equally, if you want love, don’t push it away.

Self-examination is the only way to determine the role you are playing in your own drama…

…and who needs drama? x