Going home

Pond at arboretum-2347

‘Going home is like turning down the volume, so I can hear myself again.’

Steve Jampijinpa, from the documentary ‘Milpirri, Winds of Change’

Where is the place you can ‘come home to’, where the noisy volume of your everyday life is muted so you can become more grounded, gather your thoughts, hear yourself? When people meditate, they often describe a sense of coming back to themselves. Life is still busy, the demands which others make of them haven’t decreased, but there is a greater sense of living out of their centre rather than simply being buffeted about by life.

Home can be a physical place where we feel comfortable, at ease, not having to prove ourselves or be someone special. We can also cultivate a sense of going home through rituals, reflection, taking time out. It is where we can reconnect with our deepest values, with what really matters to us. Yet it’s possible to rush along for months or years without ever touching base with this sense of returning home. Continue reading “Going home” »

The Daffodils

daffodils

‘For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.’

William Wordsworth

 

 

How many of us lie on the couch in a ‘vacant or in pensive mood’, let alone ‘oft’? William Wordsworth, one of England’s most esteemed poets, knew the importance of mental downtime for creativity and productivity. Recent research has confirmed what highly creative people seem to know instinctively – that the best ideas can often come during breaks from work, such as while going for a walk or having a bath. As well as being good for creativity, regular mental breaks can improve attention, increase our productivity, strengthen our memories and embed newly learnt material. Continue reading “The Daffodils” »

Simplicity

Fuchsia

‘The simple life is best.’

Popular saying

If the simple life really is the best, then how come so few of us want to live it? I remember a documentary about a group of Mongolian nomads, and the excitement when they bought their first TV and installed it in their yurt. From then on, every evening, they were transfixed by the TV. No more story-telling around the stove, no more playing games or singing songs. The TV now ruled their leisure time, as it does in so many households around the world.

It seems we’re hard-wired to seek out stimulation and complexity. In fact it takes considerable discipline to choose a life of simplicity, and perhaps for that reason, a life of true simplicity can often become quite rigid. The simple life can also lean towards being simplistic rather than simple. To pretend there are simple solutions to our complex problems is usually naïve – though appealing. Short, punchy three word slogans by our leaders make good evening news, and can assure the viewer the problem is being taken care of. Later we usually find out that, somewhere behind the scenes, the ‘simple’ solution turned out to be anything but, and often caused more problems which the next generation is now having to deal with.

Yet many of us do yearn for greater simplicity. A retreat environment offers us the opportunity to simplify our lives for a few days by removing many of the common distractions. Instead, we focus on being present in the here and now. Depending on the nature of the retreat, there may be no talking, no reading, certainly no checking Facebook or emails. The structure of the retreat makes it clear where our attention should be – meditation, eating, walking, cleaning the bathroom. At the end of retreats, people often talk about a deep sense of contentment, of feeling gratitude for simple things like the trees outside the window, the ducklings they watched during a break, the gentle efforts of the cooks. Over time, if we attend regular retreats and meditate every day, some of that contentment and gratitude does tend to seep into our daily lives.

For example, instead of driving while listening to music I’m not even paying much attention to and worrying what that message on my phone I just heard might be and wondering whether I need to pull over and check it or if it can wait till I get home and ruminating about the real estate agent who still hasn’t got back to me and being anxious about the traffic at the upcoming railway crossing, I might just simply drive my car home from work. Stopping, starting, going with the flow of the traffic, feeling relaxed but attentive. That’s all I need to do right now. We enjoy complexity, and don’t want to deprive ourselves of that which makes life interesting and enjoyable. Yet, quite often, it is possible to simplify our approach to a task we’re engaged in, and to feel a greater sense of ease and contentment as a result.

 

Weekly practice idea:

During the week, try ‘just driving’, ‘just eating’, ‘just walking’, and so on. Notice any difference this might make to your day.

Anja Tanhane

 

 

Appreciation

Yellow flowers

Karoshi, the Japanese word for death from overwork, is legally recognised in Japan and can be used in law-suits and compensation claims. In Australia, working hours are generally less extreme, but nonetheless, according to the ABS, almost 40% of us report feeling always or frequently rushed and pressed for time. People often come to mindfulness training with a sense of being so busy racing from one task to the next, they are hardly aware of their own lives. After a weekend retreat, or during the eight week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course, many report an increased sense of appreciation. The more we can appreciate what we already have, the less we need to feel driven to constantly achieve more and acquire more things. Appreciation is also a powerful antidote to feeling empty and disconnected from life. Yet sadly, the saying ‘you don’t appreciate what you’ve got till it’s gone’ is often only too true. Continue reading “Appreciation” »