I often say in the mindfulness classes that I teach, that just because you’ve had a deep and profound insight as a result of your practice, it doesn’t mean that you’ve “cracked” mindfulness for life, that you’ll never find anything stressful again and that your work is now done.
Life is our mindfulness practice
It turns out (as every single mindfulness student discovers) that life is our practice. The stresses keep on coming which means life gives us so many chances/opportunities/times to practise living what we cultivate when we sit and meditate, whether that’s patience, compassion, non-attachment, equanimity and a myriad of other things too.
As I type this, I’m on a train to Bangor for my next weekend of study for my Master’s degree in Mindfulness Based Approaches. I spend more time on the train than I do in the “lecture room” (I am using inverted commas as it’s not your typical method of studying). This peeves me. I uncover resentment every time I travel. It appears as heated annoyance in my chest and tension in my forehead. On the journey, I often have to remind myself of how much I am gaining from doing this degree.
In addition to this familiar peeved-ness, (this is my 13th trip in 2.5 years), this particular time, the reservation system isn’t working (again) and the carriages are all in reverse. So when I headed for the Quiet Carriage (my preferred place) I realised I was at the wrong end of the train and so I just took the first vacant seat that I could, in a carriage that was noisier than I would like. It was all fine up until Crewe (“Paddington” is a surprisingly funny film – who knew??!) and then a horde of ten people who had clearly been drinking for a while boarded the train. They were so LOUD….!! I felt myself tense all over my body and self-righteous indignation emerged along with thoughts such as “How rude! How inconsiderate!” I exchanged peeved glances with a few previous existing passengers and plugged my headphones in. This was a sheer avoidance strategy and I knew it. MY peace had been destroyed and I was sulking. I picked up my phone and started scrolling through Facebook, in a numbing out, zombifying way that perhaps is familiar to you.
How compassion changes the way you feel
And then, a photo posted by Jack Kornfield (a popular Buddhist teacher) made its way to the top of my feed, reminding me of the need for compassion. And bam! All the self-righteousness indignation fell away. I was able to smile at myself. I noticed all the tension inside me and I invited ease. I tuned into my breath – goodness, it was so constricted in my belly. I invited more ease. Yes these drunken revellers are loud and inconsiderate, but in that moment of being reminded, I found I was able to smile and to remember when I have had a good time when I was younger (I turn 40 soon, no doubt I shall be posting about that and my reflections on impermanence, attachment, letting go and other such things soon enough). I was most likely obnoxious and merry at the expense of others’ peace. Goodness, what’s this? I’m feeling CONNECTION with these loud, singing, happily drunken people.
We are all humans seeking happiness. Thank you Jack Kornfield for giving me the reminder I needed. All of life is practice. Even though I teach mindfulness, I am forever a student as well.