If you're new around these parts, welcome!
This is my first letter after some time off from writing and teaching this winter. I'm still digesting the effects of taking that space. It felt so important to step out of my routine and slow down. I expect I'll write more about the value of intentional time off in the coming weeks.
For today, I have a little story for you.
I was driving my daughter to her swimming class last Saturday morning. Ruth was reading in the back seat while I ruminated on my to-do list for the (relatively) large party I was hosting that evening for a friend's birthday. Having rolled out of bed a little tired and a little late, I was operating in default mode... A.K.A habitual thinking.
"How am I supposed to get this all done?"
"I should really go to the gym."
"I don't have time, there's way too much to do."
"Other people, fitter/thinner/more disciplined people would figure it out."
"I wish I hadn't agreed to this."
"My neck hurts."
"I just want to sit somewhere and have a coffee."
"As if... There's no time to relax."
This went on for quite a while, but then something else came through. A thought that was clearer and more alive than the previous ones. I felt like I was thinking on purpose:
"What are the possibilities here?"
This is what I often refer to as ordinary magic. Suddenly I'm awake and the impenetrable story I've been telling starts to dissolve. My old, habitual beliefs are momentarily brought to the surface and I get to choose how I respond to them.
I've always lived with perfectionism. In this case, it seemed impossible to host a good party without feeling stressed. No stress = Not good enough in the murky depths of my mind.
Imagine my relief when I saw the possibility of relaxing into my day, being kind and generous with myself and ALSO hosting a kick-ass party! A not-perfect party. A heartfelt offering that would be better because I could enjoy it too. Revolutionary.
Sometimes my meditation students ask me how you can tell if practice is making any difference. For me, experiences like the one I just described are like sign-posts. They're so simple, just passing moments like beads on a string, and yet that flash of wakefulness and compassion changed my whole day.
By learning to appreciate the magic of these ordinary moments, we reinforce the spacious quality of mind that has emerged. Tapping into this doesn't guarantee anything specific. We still regularly find ourselves in difficult, painful situations and our habitual responses will stick their toe in the door any chance they get. With practice though, we can learn to welcome our stagnant, stubborn thoughts. Once they're out in the light, we have the freedom to make a better choice.
Learning and teaching this kind of practical, daily mindfulness is a big part of my life and I've been thinking about ways to connect with you more often, so we can practice together.
I will be running another round of my in-person Introduction to Meditation course this April. If you're near rural Ottawa south please join me! People often drive out from the city, it's only 30 minutes. The course is already half full so get in touch soon to book your space.
A new and expanded session of my online Introduction to Meditation will happen later in 2018. Please express interest here.
Finally, I'm excited to announce that I've opened a small number of spaces for students who would like to work with me one on one. I love the time-honoured tradition of working closely with a mentor as I integrate a new skill. This has been a crucial part of my meditation training, along with retreats and personal practice.
These appointments will be held online via zoom. Feel free to reply so we can chat more about this option. Spaces are very limited.
I'm looking forward to connecting in 2018. As always, feel free to drop me a line. I'm here!