Do you also have enough of this grey winter weather and the cold?
At the beginning of the year I was in Northern Germany on a retreat. Silence, meditation in sitting, walking and eating and in movement. Imagine a movie apparatus projecting a movie onto a bunch of people, standing in a group and talking. There will not be much to recognize, as there are too many forms, colours, movement, sounds. If the same movie is played onto a white wall, then you will start to see the content. This is exactly what happens in a retreat: no television or smartphones, no alcohol, no books and no talking – „silence as the real teacher" (Jake Dartington). External distractions and routines are reduced to a minimum, so that one can see the inner processes (= the storyline of the film) more clearly.
On one of the mindful walks, my attention turned to the landscape: grey and muddy, withered branches, well-kept but flowerless gardens, dirty horses in the pasture, everywhere puddles and rotten leaves. The houses were beautiful and you could see that the people here take great care to keep everything in order.
The mind is always working
Nevertheless, I was able to catch the following thought, which appeared again and again: „How beautiful will this look, once everything blooms!" In my imagination I saw laughing children in summer dresses on the swings, flowering hedges, the pond full of plants and the house "Am Rosengarten" (rose garden) in all its glory. The mind is always on, thinking and planning, dreaming and worrying. Just like in this situation, where I could literally follow the brain's functioning: external impressions (here: seeing) à judging as not good enough or simply not right à imagination and ideas: „what if ..." or „I think it‘s more beautiful like this...". Everything, but not the non-judgmental perception of the present moment: Right now it is like this.
Well, there is nothing wrong with the thinking mind. The mind thinks, just as our lungs breathe and our hearts beat. This is our human body, our human condition. And what wonders and creative art have we reached as a species with our extraordinary brains! We need this super computer on top of our body.
Life is happening now
However, it becomes a bit problematic when we are never satisfied. Our judging mind can make us feel very unhappy and frustrated, always wishing for something else to be here (sun, warmth) or for something to disappear (headache, cold). If we automatically believe every thought our mind is producing, we will never be happy. After all, there is always something not quite right, isn't it?
The practice of mindfulness does not consist in judging and criticizing these trains of thought. It‘s about recognizing how we humans function and learning to relate differently to reality. And thereby realizing that
- we want to change things and situations that we do not like – even if only in our imagination.
- we judge everything and everywhere.
- we are nearly always working towards a goal, or waiting for something or trying to fix a "problem".
- this moment in its supposedly imperfection is life.
- there are so many beautiful and exciting things to experience right now: the nice cup of tea, the clear air, the voice of the body (feeling cold!), the connection with other people, nature in all its wet green and brown colouring.
Right now it is like this, and there is actually nothing missing. With this insight, we can stop waiting, and just live our lives.
With this mindful intention of living in the present moment – recognizing that the mind wants something else and not following this thought – we can be here for our morning chat with the colleague at work. We can be fully present when our child needs a compassionate ear. We can really enjoy our morning coffee or evening television show without planning the day or regretting our actions.
This is life, constantly evolving and changing – so why not be the star of your own film, becoming aware of how it is put together?