Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Getting Grounded: One Step at a Time

Being in surroundings outside of my home environment, and adopting a routine unrecognisable to my ordinary week, stirs things up.  Grist for the mill in abundance, in fact.  I realise very quickly my attachment to the known, and to the familiar, and to that over which I have some control.  Joining a group most of whom I do not know, who have come together with the sole purpose of being on a silent retreat is a strange scenario indeed.  There is something profoundly artificial about our circumstances.  Out there, in the real world, none of us pass our days and evenings in quiet contemplation.  We get on with being busy.  So here, the slowing down is more like applying the brakes hard.

The first 3 days of a retreat is said to be the hardest.  We begin to come face to face with all that we have brought with us, in addition to our bags.  As it is allowed room to surface, we are able to see with clarity that which frightens us, that which we dislike and that with which we are struggling.  Our hopes, and our fears are all brighter.  Perhaps rather too bright to begin with.  The practices offer metaphorical sunglasses, to ease the glare.  The aim is to remain in the sunshine, rather than immediately seek shade.
Meditation practice, particularly in a retreat context, is not easy.  Sitting on a cushion, wiling away the minutes and hours, can be.  But to be truly present and awake to all that we encounter requires a dedicated intention which may need be renewed along the way.  I find the walking practices have been the much needed parasol, providing comfort when things have begun to feel overwhelming.  Carefully placing one foot in front of another with the sole intention of familiarising myself with the full sensation as I do so, quite literally grounds me.  Moving up and down a short walkway that I map out for myself, over ten metres or so, enables me to experience the transitory nature of my experience moment by moment, step by step.  Thoughts come, and then go.  Feelings come, and then go.  I need not engage with anything that arises.  I pause to acknowledge and then re-engage with my practice.  I walk and I walk and I walk.          

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