Sunday, May 24, 2009

Mellow, sort of

It's been a stormy week but things have begun to calm down a bit today. I'm getting used to the weather here, slowly, and apart from a sort of on-going low level concern as the wind gets up and branches start to fly I'm adapting very well. Our gas lantern won't move from the landing for a couple of days yet, but I'm reassured to know that if the storm blows up again we've got enough milk/bread/baked beans/coffee/chocolate/alcohol to keep us going for a few days! You know, the essentials...

This has been the picture looking back towards the hills for the last 4 days - sadly the camera couldn't record the lashing rain

It's been a good day, though, today. For example, in the aftermath of last night's champagne I slept deeply and woke up voluntarily at about 9:20 this morning, MUCH earlier than normal on a day when I am usually allowed a lie-in! And I have managed to achieve a long bath AND an hour's peace and quiet reading the weekend papers...

While in the bath I was catching up on a couple of chapters in Sarah Napthali's Buddhism for Mothers.

I find myself feeling slightly self-conscious about my continued reading about Buddhism, which probably has to do with a fear of ridicule from my friends and family who might - in my fantasy - look down upon me for being needy and insecure and trying to 'find myself' in some sort of mumbo-jumbo Eastern philosophy when I am a product of the Western world. Or is that how I secretly despise myself? I'm not sure. But you know, the more I read (from the select and very limited little pile of books I've accumulated) the more Buddhist practice seems to relate to my experience of myself and to provide insight and techniques that I am actively finding valuable. I'm not about to shave my head and don a saffron robe (well, I might shave my head if more hair departs it, but that's another story!), but I am trying to learn something about myself through what I'm reading about Buddhism. Perhaps somewhere down the line I'll learn to be a little less apologetic.

Anyway, the end of the chapter Finding Calm was a good one to read this morning, not least because while running my bath I managed accidentally to put my hand on the controls for the water jets, which projected hot soapy water all around the bathroom and everything in it, which included my husband and a selection of previously dry towels. Napthali presents Buddhism as containing an 'uplifting message... that everyone is a Buddha at their core, with a Buddha's love and wisdom - this is our true nature. We are already complete, whole and good, but we obscure this fact with our fears and desires.' It is an attractive contradiction to the Christian tradition in which I was brought up, which emphasised man's essential sin and the need for the redemptive intervention of Christ in our lives in order to become 'whole'.

I notice myself walking around looking outwards. I don't like to look inwards particularly; I caught myself recently imagining myself as a walking 'hole', an emptiness, with the implication that I can't stand what's inside. And I do have enormous difficulty with that, finding it impossible to value myself. It's been the long-standing struggle of every counselling experience I've ever had, and it's a battle with myself that I can't win from the point of view of just somehow magically being able to like myself. The idea that somehow within me is everything I need, is challenging but also incredibly attractive. Napthali says, 'We don't need to travel the world, collect impressive experiences or achieve endless milestones in order to feel complete. What we seek is within us. The answer is to change where we look for it'.

Recently I've found that if I am mindful of myself I can take a breath, consciously relax a bit, and take a few seconds in which to give myself some 'room'. It's like meditation for 30 seconds or a minute, and it's incredibly useful. If I manage it, I experience a moment's clarity and recognise, sometimes, that other choices are available to me in addition to the ones that present themselves from a lifetime's habits of thinking and reacting. 'Buddhist teaching has been summarised with the phrase 'stopping and realising', which among other things refers to the ability to be aware of a negative state of mind and to realise on a deep level that a clearer, more constructive mind is available.' I think it will take years of practice.

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