Group April 6th 2017

As it was a beautiful sunny day we started with a 'Walking with Kindness' practice drawn from 'Mindfulness-Based Compassionate Living' by Erik van den Brink and Frits Koster (p. 124 - 125). This practice combines a traditional walking meditation with its focus on mindfulness of the body from a standing posture to walking with presence and finding a soothing walking rhythm (one that feels comfortable), then once again pause in a standing position, asking the following questions, ' Could I offer myself in this moment a kind wish?.  What would I wholeheartedly grant myself?'. Then to see what arises - possibilities may be peace, trust, courage, strength or space. If nothing particular comes up then one could use a phrase drawn from a loving-kindness practice, something like, 'May I feel safe', 'May I be peaceful', 'May I be kind to myself' 'May I accept myself as I am'. Then once more start walking in a soothing rhythm. As with movement of the breath with sitting meditation, the wishes or phrases can flow with the movement of the body when walking, for example moving one foot with the expression of one wish, the other foot with another, and so on, or whatever pattern or synchronisation seems 'right'. On the other hand, it may be the wishes and the movement of the body just seem to flow independently and that is okay too. As with all practices, if attention wanders from the standing or walking body and the phrases or wishes, the instruction is to notice and gently come back, but there's a lot of space in this practice to experiment with rhythm of movement and rhythm of internal sound and to change and shift this from time to time with kind and compassionate intention. A further possibility is to widen the circle of walking with kindness to include a friend, neutral, difficult others, and further, to all beings, as with traditional loving kindness practice, maybe having them walking side by side with you.

We then had a period of enquiry on the practice. Themes were finding walking stability, changing from wobbly to smooth surfaces, difficulty going uphill, being soothed, grounding through connecting to the earth - all metaphors for life really!

Regarding broader enquiry, there was discussion about bringing mindfulness into everyday life and using the simple breathing space as a wonderful tool to do this. It's a ongoing journey of discovery, peeling back the layers of habituation and unfriendliness towards self and widening the circle of understanding and compassion. 

We looked at the source of the 'oft quoted' Mr Duffy from James Joyce's short story 'A Painful Case' from the Dubliners collection: 'He lived at a little distance from his body, regarding his own acts with doubtful side glances'. As a result of his 'disenbodiment', Mr Duffy doesn't engage with real life and therefore remains a sad case - it's a melancholy acknowledgement of the perils of just going through the motions, averting from the messiness of life, but so missing its joys. Playing safe, feeling constrained and guided by fear can influence our whole lives. However, our fear is a natural protector and so needs to be acknowledged and sometimes, especially in vulnerability, it is important to tread carefully.

We ended with a 'Breathing Space with Kindness', again from Erik van den Brink and Frits Koster (p 49), opening with being present with open awareness, moving to a soothing breathing rhythm and finally expanding awareness with kindness through introducing a kind wish for oneself, possibly combined with the rhythm of the breath.