August 2019 meeting - Insole Court

We began with a 'Pausing for presence' practice drawn from Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach's 'Mindfulness Daily' (Sounds True). This practice explores the first step necessary in mindfulness practice, pausing in order to become present. Really, this sums it all up, wherever we are, whatever we are doing, thinking or feeling. It's about coming to, becoming grounded, remembering ourselves. Pema Chodron often talks of the 'Pause practice' and the familiar '3-minute breathing space' is another version of this simple 'first step' practice.

We listened to the poem - 'Two Voices' by Alice Oswald (Falling Awake, 2016) - a finely and quirkily observed description of two very different creatures greeting the dawn. There's an abundance of curiosity and wonder at the natural world - something we can easily lose in our fast, hi-tech existences.

Our longer practice was around developing spaciousness - again from 'Mindfulness daily' (Sounds True)- this time Tara Brach's 'Spacious awareness'. This sort of practice can be helpful to open up, allow more space for a mind that has become rather closed down, troubled, confined. Maybe helpful in especially challenging times.

The practice starts with settling the mind and body through a focus on the breath/breath in the body. Then setting a personal intention - as best one can, to bring awareness into the present moment, to bring kindness to the practice .. whatever resonates. Then moving to exploring spacious awareness through sound, with sounds passing across our awareness like clouds or like bubbles, eventually vanishing without trace. Then to thoughts, images - coming and going, holding these while present in clear, open space. And on to bodily sensations and emotions - allowing these to come and pass or change, held in a vast open sky of awareness. Finally, deliberately bringing a dimension of love and compassion to this spacious awareness.

The practice was followed by enquiry. Our times have brought forth very strong emotions, such as anger, in many of us. This has to be acknowledged. What one does with the emotion becomes a choice, but the seeing it for what it is is an important early step. It's harder when witnessed and felt in others. But we still and always need to pay attention to our own need for love and compassion - again as an early step. Pema Chödrön has this to say about loving-kindness in her book, 'The wisdom of no escape':

'Meditation practice isn't about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It's about befriending who we already are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are. That's the ground, that's what we study, that's what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest. ... The path of meditation and the path of our lives altogether has to do with curiosity, inquisitiveness. The ground is ourselves; we're here to study ourselves and to get to know ourselves now, not later ... Inquisitiveness or curiosity involves being gentle, precise, and open - actually being able to let go and open. Gentleness is a sense of goodheartedness toward ourselves. Precision is being able to see very clearly, not being afraid to see what's really there, just as a scientist is not afraid to look into the microscope. Openness is being able to let go and open.' (pp 4 -5).

We closed with a short grounding practice.