March 2019 meeting

Farewell Kymin

This was our final meeting at the Kymin. So we used the time for practice, reflection - and planning the group's future.

We began with 5 minutes silent practice, using the time to set an intention for ourselves for the session - for this practice - for this moment ... for example, perhaps to become as fully present as is possible, or to be kind to ourselves, or perhaps to listen more intentionally.

A poem by Alice Oswald - 'A Short Story of Falling' (from ‘Falling Awake’ ) was read. Here’s an extract:

'if only I a passerby could pass

as clear as water through a plume of grass

to find the sunlight hidden at the tip

turning to seed a kind of lifting rain drip

then I might known like water how to balance 

the weight of hope against the light of patience'

So a story of impermanence - something we frequently don't factor into our lives, no matter how much we 'know' it. The ending of the Kymin group is another reminder that nothing lasts. That is not to deny any sadness we feel.

For reflection, group members shared some of their current practices. There was a common theme of, over time, integrating practice into everyday life and situations. Longer practices - sitting, body scan etc, are returned to, but sometimes shorter, focusing 'practices' such as sitting with a photo, reading a poem, being mindful in an everyday activity such as climbing the stairs are incorporated into life to help 'bridge' us across to our 'felt' selves, cutting through the endless 'auto-narratives' of our lives. A group member described how practice has helped with that inner 'critical voice' - allowing a shift in perspective, letting humour and self-compassion in, softening the usual harsh mental and visceral experience. Over time, perhaps 'following our gut' in terms of what  we need, in terms of being aware of what we are feeling, especially in times of difficulty, can bring us closer to approaching that which we fear so much, helping us stay with our experience  - and paradoxically, easing our relationship with it.

On impermanence. We then listened to an extract from Pema Chödrön's audible retreat 'Embracing the Unknown'(chapter 13) where she describes three zones - comfort, challenge and high risk - and how we can be tempted to try to stay in the comfort zone  - but this just narrows us down and makes us less able to cope with the challenge zone when it hits us (through loss, change ..) but the challenge zone is where we can learn and possibly even relax with what happens to us. The high risk zone, on the other hand, is just too much - we cannot learn if we are too challenged - so we literally 'zone out'. This is a telling, funny insight into working with impermanence

Our second practice was taken from Sam Harris' 'Waking Up' course - a secular 10 minute introductory mindfulness sitting practice. 

The group then discussed future plans for Mindfulness Connect:  WATCH THIS SPACE..

We concluded this, our final Kymin session, with a self-compassion practice, 'Making a Vow, taken from Germer's 'The Mindful path to Self-Compassion' (p 266). Germer writes, 'The subtext of this book is "intention, intention, intention," and making a vow can strengthen our core intentions ... It's a touchstone to which we return again and again, for the joy of it, as we might return to the breath in meditation. A vow turns life into meditation.'

So loving-kindness phrases double up as a vow, and can be used, for example, as a waking up reminder of intention  - e.g. 'May all beings be happy. May all beings be free'.

Germer continues, 'A vow shapes how we conduct the activities of our lives. It can apply equally to major tasks, such as raising children, and to minor tasks, like brushing our teeth ...As we progress on the path of self-compassion, the distinction between our own suffering and the suffering of others begins to blur. That is, as we stop fighting against personal pain, our attention naturally shifts to others. Compassion itself becomes the vow.’