back home…

…and everything seems translucent.

We think of our worlds as solid, but spending a week in a completely different culture reminds me of how provisional all of this is. The things we lean on are ghosts that we take to be real.

what have I learnt in India?

It’s late, but something is keeping me awake. Could be the small can of Coca Cola that I drank earlier, with CONTAINS CAFFINE stamped on the side? It’s possible, I’ve been off caffine for long enough that a regular cup of tea gives me a sleepless night.

The Coca Cola was given to me in the house of an old friend of Sahisnu’s; Rana Gupta. Their house was above a shop and was one of the nicest that I have been into in any of my trips to Delhi. I know there are much nicer houses that this one, but I’m used to living in the slums and this felt like a place in comparison. Marble floors, the biggest TV I have seen in a long time, and wallpaper – something I’ve never seen in an Indian home before.

I’m wondering what I have learnt about myself since I have been here.

I learn about myself in specific moments. This morning I thought I was being invited to talk at a school and my first response was resentment. I had got used to the idea that my last two days would be quieter and was even looking forward to that quite space (despite being frustrated earlier this week, in the spaces where there was less to do). It didn’t take long for me to convince myself that I could enjoy giving a talk, the school was an hour away and they wanted something on basic Buddhism… I could provide that, I thought, and it would be a good thing to do, dharmic work, even if it’s not directly supporting the Amida Buddhists here.

Of course once I was looking forward to it I realised that I hadn’t been invited at all. Suvidya had simply been telling me about something he would be doing in a few week’s time, once I have gone.

These specific moments give rise to more general learning. This one takes me back to the dream I had before coming out here: let go of your expectations.

I have learnt that I only feel competent in so many ways in the UK because I am embedded in systems which I understand and which support me. Here in India freed from those systems I sometimes feel under resourced and suddenly grateful for everything that holds my competence at home.

And of course, I am reminded of how provisional the life I have is. That if a just one or two conditions had been slightly different I might be living in poverty or in a society that is organised along completely different lines and with completely different assumptions to the one I usually call home.

 

i’m not self sufficient

After a fitful night’s sleep, with a couple of trips to the fridge for ice cold water, I woke up at seven am local time. It feels hotter than yesterday. It might not be at all, it may just be that I am simply feeling it is still too warm and thinking it’s hotter than ever is one way of processing that.

In the time of the British Empire, the British would retreat to the cooler hills. I can understand the sense in that, although I think there may have been a myth around that native Delhites could withstand the heat more easily, which I don’t think is true. No one here likes it this hot either.

It’s supposed to be monsoon season, but it has only rained three times this month, and the forecast is for more dry weather.

On the theme of expectations, Suvidya is supposed to be coming over this morning. That’s a reasonably easy expectation to hold lightly, as I still have five full days here to do what I came to do, which shouldn’t take all of that time.

A more difficult expectation to let go of is that it is possible for me to be self-sufficient here, or that I should be able to, and that it’s okay to ask for help when I need it. Not wanting to ask for help does come out of wanting people to see me in a particular way – or perhaps in wanting them not to see particular parts of me at all.

This was tested this morning as I struggled to close the tap on the water filter, having filled the kettle, a water bottle and then having a jug on the floor to catch the water as I struggled to close the tap I knew it was time to ask for help. And it wasn’t a problem at all.

All the evidence is that people are happy to help and I am more than looked after, so I know my fears are to do with my own bonbu nature, rather than any reality.

Even if it does become a problem to ask for help, in other people’s eyes, I’m not sure that’s a good enough reason not to ask anyway. Part of the practice of letting go of expectations is being able to be with whatever reaction occurs…

arriving in Delhi

It’s Friday evening and I am in the first floor flat on the edge of a small town near Delhi. The flat is above the house of Prakash, one of our lay Order members, and I’m here to visit the local Amida group and give some training.

The last time I was in India was just over four years ago. I stayed for six weeks, in spring time and just as I left the temperature was tipping forty degrees. Now, at the tail end of August the temperature is the same.

I have never enjoyed pouring cool water over myself so much as I did earlier this afternoon. Within a few minutes of drying myself of I was too hot again. They say it’s the humidity that gets you and not the heat. There’s plenty of each here.

I’m immensely grateful for the cold water in the fridge just outside my door, and to Prakash, for looking after me so well.

The part of the trip I was most worried about – making sure I got here – is done, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought. There was a moment, when Prakash didn’t answer his phone the first time I called, when I worried that I had somehow got hold of the wrong phone number. The driver of the taxi I had taken was anxious to leave me and get to his next job. I knew we were close to Prakash’s house. I suspected it was just a short walk away – but I wasn’t convinced I’d make it without a guide.

Prakash answered his phone and everything was fine. I probably shouldn’t have been worried though, even if he’d been unavailable for some reason most of the people here are so eager to help travellers like me that I’m sure I would have been safely delivered.

In the middle of last week, a few days before travelling, I had a powerful dream. I won’t go into the specifics here, except to say that it had a visionary quality to it and my teacher, Dharmavidya, appeared and told me to, “Let go of your expectations.”

Pertinent advice when I feel like I am reorienting my life around my ministry. I have a feeling the expectations referred to were about how I would like others to see me. That wasn’t explicit in the dream though, and letting go of expectations is good advice generally.

I was thinking about this advice yesterday. The Trust have given me some quite specific jobs to do while I am here, they are going to be financially supporting the group here more formally and have some things they’d like putting in place.

How do I let go of expectations and at the same time carry the expectations of the work I have been asked to do?

It’s about the difference between intention and expectation I think. The practice before me is to be clear about my intentions, without holding on to tightly to any specific ideas of how other people might respond to those intentions.

Step one: Relax

The facts are always friendly, every bit of evidence one can acquire, in any area, leads one that much closer to what is true. ~ Carl R. Rogers


Early this morning I was sitting in the garden under grey skies, watching a couple of solitary bees buzzing to and from the bee box I had installed earlier in the year, and thinking about a conversation I’d had the night before.

A friend had been worrying about something in their own life and I was encouraging them to see the bigger picture. The more I tried to do this the more their worry increased; this was the exact opposite of what I’d intended.

In the quote above Carl Rogers encourages us to pay attention to all the evidence we can. It is this that will lead to understanding and acceptance, to moving on or to making changes. I thought that’s what I was encouraging my friend to do last night. I thought that I could see some of the facts that they were missing, but I was missing a more important fact: my friend’s anxiety.

We are not rational beings who can impassionately gather up the objective external clues and come to a neat conclusion. The facts we gather can produce emotional reactions as they remind us of something that happened long ago, or plug in to an irrational fear. When this happens we can feel derailed, and fact-collecting on its own is probably not enough to get us back on track.

It often seems to me that the central function of therapy is to support the client in relaxing – as simple as that. When we can relax, the change that needs to happen occurs of its own accord. When we are in a state of tension, it doesn’t matter how much we understand our stuckness – we still stay stuck. ~ Nick Totton

I should have listened to my friend’s anxiety last night, and given them some space to unwind and relax. They’re not stupid and they would have figured out the facts, the big picture, for themselves. In was also doing the same thing this morning as I reflected on our conversation.
I picked up a pair of secateurs and smiled to myself as I started to dead-head the sweet-peas. I had allowed myself to relax in the garden, and seen that I’d been unskillful in the conversation the night before. It was the combination of collecting evidence and of being relaxed that allowed me to come to the truth and to accept my own unskillful behaviour.

I wanted to rush my friend out of their anxiety for my own sake, and not for theirs. With clients this doesn’t really happen. We meet for an hour once a week and I’m happy for them to work at their own pace – but perhaps I need to keep an eye out for rushing my friends.

Book an initial session now: Email kaspa@thebuddhisttherapist.com to book a session, or call 07946 715 730 or 01684 572 444.

We are all made of stories

How we feel, how we act and who we are in each moment is affected by many different things: how we felt a second ago, what is happening in our bodies, and our immediate surroundings.

One of the most powerful things that affect us is the stories we tell about ourselves and the world, consciously and unconsciously.

Some of these stories can be helpful, but many of them get in the way of seeing the world and ourselves clearly. If we can’t see the world clearly, we can’t see new ways of moving forward or ways of being that will be more satisfying and bring us more happiness.

Whilst these stories will have served some purpose in the past, they often outlive their usefulness. It can sometimes feel like they take on a life of their own and want to stay alive even when we are ready to let them go.

Imagine a young woman called Kim. She has a story about her own worthlessness and everything she sees in the world supports that story. Where might such a story have come from? Perhaps her Father had his own story about being the best at everything and couldn’t stand other people to have value of their own. Kim’s story that she is worthless protected her from her Father’s anger when she was young.

Maybe at that time developing that story was the best way she could protect herself.  But now that Kim is an adult she doesn’t need that story any more, other people don’t need her to be worthless and as an adult she has other options for protecting herself from her Father’s anger.

The story has become so powerfully embedded in her psyche, it appears to be true. It lives on long after its usefulness and continues affecting her life. Because Kim believes she is worthless she struggles to receive praise, or take opportunities for success. She goes around in circles and isn’t able to move forward.

If she is able to see the story for what it is, just a story about the world, rather than an undeniable truth, she can begin the process of letting go and moving on.

Sometimes just to see and identify the story is enough, and sometimes we need to see the roots of the story to begin the letting go process. When Kim realises the story was created in response to her Father, the idea that the story is her seems less true, and letting go becomes easier.

Kim’s story was a big one, and it coloured her whole life. Many of us do have overarching stories like this and some of them serve us well. A story about being a parent might frame the whole of someone’s life in a helpful way… until their children start to grow up. It is when we cling to such stories beyond their usefulness, or see them as the whole truth, rather than one aspect of the truth, that we run into problems.

We are made up of smaller stories too. We prefer one brand of food over another, because that’s what we’ve always done, or because we have bought into the stories advertisers sell us, rather than making a choice based on what actually tastes better.

How we are in each moment is affected by the stories we carry. Some are running all of the time, like Kim’s story. Others are triggered by meeting particular things in the world, or in particular situations. Some stories just run at work, others at home. Sometimes when we go and visit our parents old stories appear, that we thought we had let go of completely, and we find ourselves behaving in old, unhelpful, ways.

Working with a therapist we can begin to notice our own stories. We begin to see what is affecting us in each moment and what beliefs are keeping us going around in circles. We can let go of old stories and adopt new, more helpful ones, or we can learn to live with the stories we have in more compassionate ways.

It can be difficult from inside the centre of the story to see what is true, and what the stories we carry tell us is true but isn’t really the case. Having another person to listen deeply and reflect with us on our situation can be immensely helpful in untangling reality from myth.

As this untangling begins we can start to make different, more fulfilling choices, and begin to live a more satisfied life.

 

Kaspa Thompson is a Psychotherapist and Buddhist Priest, and sees clients in person in Malvern, Worcestershire, and online via Skype: Book a therapy session now.

Mindfulness and Therapy

People come to therapy for all sorts of reasons. They want to move from stuckness to action, from difficulty to ease, from sorrow to happiness, or they come looking for a more meaningful life.

David Brazier, the author of Zen Therapy, once told me that:

“If you only learn how to do one thing in therapy, learn to ask ‘is this true?’”

In therapy we are trying to become more and more honest; to get a clearer picture of what is true.

If someone comes to therapy because they are struggling with a relationship, the therapist will be interested in what is true in this situation. This will not only mean allowing any difficult emotions to be expressed, but it will also include looking at what each person in the relationship is bringing to the struggle. For example it is likely that both the client and their significant other are carrying old wounds and bringing these to the conflict. As the client sees and accepts more of what is true, they are less likely to turn so quickly to anger. It might be that they start to understand where the strength of their own emotion comes from, or are more able to understand how their partner’s anger is based on their own old wounds.

Sometimes just accepting a newly seen truth is enough to move the situation forward. It may be that when the client sees their partner’s suffering they are able to let go of a layer of blame, or it may be that understanding and accepting what is true can lead to a new conversation between the client and their partner. Either way there is a sense of moving forwards.

Ideally we approach these new truths without judgment; we come with curiosity and interest.  Of course we all fall into judging, but as we begin to understand the reasons for our own (and other people’s) feelings and behaviour it becomes easier to hold these judgments in a lighter way. Our sense of righteousness loses its edge as we begin to understand that suffering, and the ways in which we try to protect ourselves from suffering, is at the heart of all human dysfunction.

Mindfulness is the ancient practice of paying attention to something without judging it. It is formally practiced in meditation sessions where you sit and pay attention to your breath, body, or thoughts, whilst cultivating an interested, non-judgmental attitude.

In the example I described above the therapist is applying this attitude of being interested without being judgemental when they sit with their client, and they are also encouraging the client to develop an attitude of this kind.

If the therapist has a formal mindfulness practice, where they regularly sit in meditation, they can cultivate this state of mind (also known as the ‘curious observer’) and take it into their work with clients.

In their own meditation sessions the therapist might also notice what triggers their own emotional reactions, and where their psychological blind-spots are. They can then be particularly careful in sessions if their client begins to talk about any issues which are triggers for their own material.

In their own meditation the therapist will also get some sense of how their own dysfunctions stem from old wounds, and develop an awareness that this is true for all of us.

When the therapist brings the ‘curious observer’ to their client work, the client will usually come to understand that the therapist is not interested in judging them but just interested in what is true so that it can be accepted or dealt with. In this way the therapist creates a safe space and makes it possible for the client to expose layers of truth which they would usually keep covered.

In time the client will usually start to learn how to do this for themselves. The client experiences the attitude that the therapist brings to their sessions and sees how helpful it is. In time, some of that attitude rubs off on them.

I think this process occurs in all forms of therapy. Even if a therapist doesn’t sit and practice mindfulness meditation, they will be cultivating the kind of attitude described here in their therapy practice, and some of this attitude will be transmitted to the client.

A therapist that understands mindfulness also has the option of using some of the theory and practice more explicitly with clients.

If a client is looking for techniques to help reduce anxiety, the therapist might teach a simple breathing meditation that the client can practice when they notice their anxiety increasing. When the client puts their attention on their breath, they are taking their mind away from whatever is triggering the anxiety and this can bring some immediate relief. If the client is interested in practicing further the therapist might encourage them to develop a more regular mindfulness of breathing practice, where the client can develop some skills in managing their anxiety. If they practice regularly they will also be developing a gentle noticing which will be invaluable in the therapy process. When the client has some experience in this, the therapist might then encourage them to start practicing watching their thoughts – in this way they move towards uncovering the roots of their anxiety.

A mindfulness practice can help all kinds of clients. Learning to be with what is true instead of pushing it away (as we often do) is a crucial part of the therapy process for all clients, and a regular formal practice where the client practices these skills can be a great support to the therapy process.

For people who are already practicing meditation, having a therapist to support this practice can be helpful. When someone sits in meditation and allows their mind to become still, this often reveals un-healed wounds. Perhaps they notice that they are distracted by the same thought over and over again, or a particularly difficult memory keeps drawing their attention, or they are swept away by a wave of feeling that they don’t understand.

We are resistant to change; we don’t want to admit that there is anything wrong with us, or that we might be contributing to our own suffering. We hold onto our anger and grief and stop ourselves from moving forwards. If we are meditating and begin to notice something that is outside our comfort zone – an unpleasant thought, for example – it is tempting to shy away from it, or to push it back underneath the carpet.

Most people have a strong idea of who they are, and anything that challenges this idea is likely to get pushed away. If you believe you are strong you will ignore any sign of weakness in you. If you are lacking in self-belief, you will ignore any hint of evidence of your own power. This process happens almost completely unconsciously, but it is often what stands between us and a more fulfilling life.

Being able to talk to a therapist about what comes up in your meditation practice can be helpful because the therapist will be able to accept those parts of us that we cannot accept ourselves.

In doing this, they show us that those parts of ourselves are true and that we don’t need to push them away. They are acceptable just as they are.

There is something very powerful about being in a space in which another person lends you their attention; it is as if our own ‘curious observer’ leans on the therapist’s ‘curious observer’ and steadies itself.

Together with your therapist you can start to explore what thoughts and feelings are coming up in your meditation, and how that might be affecting your daily life. As you understand and accept what is happening – what is true – you can start to move forwards in your practice and in your life in a more wholehearted way.

 Book a mindfulness one-to-one or  therapy session

Book a session with Kaspa via Skype or in person. Email kaspa@thebuddhisttherapist.com to book a session, or call 07946 715 730 or 01684 572 444, or click on the links below for more information.

Therapy with Kaspa

Mindfulness sessions with Kaspa

Mindfulness and Therapy

People come to therapy for all sorts of reasons. They want to move from stuckness to action, from difficulty to ease, from sorrow to happiness, or they come looking for a more meaningful life.

David Brazier, the author of Zen Therapy, once told me that:

“If you only learn how to do one thing in therapy, learn to ask ‘is this true?’”

In therapy we are trying to become more and more honest; to get a clearer picture of what is true.

If someone comes to therapy because they are struggling with a relationship, the therapist will be interested in what is true in this situation. This will not only mean allowing any difficult emotions to be expressed, but it will also include looking at what each person in the relationship is bringing to the struggle. For example it is likely that both the client and their significant other are carrying old wounds and bringing these to the conflict. As the client sees and accepts more of what is true, they are less likely to turn so quickly to anger. It might be that they start to understand where the strength of their own emotion comes from, or are more able to understand how their partner’s anger is based on their own old wounds.

Sometimes just accepting a newly seen truth is enough to move the situation forward. It may be that when the client sees their partner’s suffering they are able to let go of a layer of blame, or it may be that understanding and accepting what is true can lead to a new conversation between the client and their partner. Either way there is a sense of moving forwards.

Ideally we approach these new truths without judgment; we come with curiosity and interest.  Of course we all fall into judging, but as we begin to understand the reasons for our own (and other people’s) feelings and behaviour it becomes easier to hold these judgments in a lighter way. Our sense of righteousness loses its edge as we begin to understand that suffering, and the ways in which we try to protect ourselves from suffering, is at the heart of all human dysfunction.

Mindfulness is the ancient practice of paying attention to something without judging it. It is formally practiced in meditation sessions where you sit and pay attention to your breath, body, or thoughts, whilst cultivating an interested, non-judgmental attitude.

In the example I described above the therapist is applying this attitude of being interested without being judgemental when they sit with their client, and they are also encouraging the client to develop an attitude of this kind.

If the therapist has a formal mindfulness practice, where they regularly sit in meditation, they can cultivate this state of mind (also known as the ‘curious observer’) and take it into their work with clients.

In their own meditation sessions the therapist might also notice what triggers their own emotional reactions, and where their psychological blind-spots are. They can then be particularly careful in sessions if their client begins to talk about any issues which are triggers for their own material.

In their own meditation the therapist will also get some sense of how their own dysfunctions stem from old wounds, and develop an awareness that this is true for all of us.

When the therapist brings the ‘curious observer’ to their client work, the client will usually come to understand that the therapist is not interested in judging them but just interested in what is true so that it can be accepted or dealt with. In this way the therapist creates a safe space and makes it possible for the client to expose layers of truth which they would usually keep covered.

In time the client will usually start to learn how to do this for themselves. The client experiences the attitude that the therapist brings to their sessions and sees how helpful it is. In time, some of that attitude rubs off on them.

I think this process occurs in all forms of therapy. Even if a therapist doesn’t sit and practice mindfulness meditation, they will be cultivating the kind of attitude described here in their therapy practice, and some of this attitude will be transmitted to the client.

A therapist that understands mindfulness also has the option of using some of the theory and practice more explicitly with clients.

If a client is looking for techniques to help reduce anxiety, the therapist might teach a simple breathing meditation that the client can practice when they notice their anxiety increasing. When the client puts their attention on their breath, they are taking their mind away from whatever is triggering the anxiety and this can bring some immediate relief. If the client is interested in practicing further the therapist might encourage them to develop a more regular mindfulness of breathing practice, where the client can develop some skills in managing their anxiety. If they practice regularly they will also be developing a gentle noticing which will be invaluable in the therapy process. When the client has some experience in this, the therapist might then encourage them to start practicing watching their thoughts – in this way they move towards uncovering the roots of their anxiety.

A mindfulness practice can help all kinds of clients. Learning to be with what is true instead of pushing it away (as we often do) is a crucial part of the therapy process for all clients, and a regular formal practice where the client practices these skills can be a great support to the therapy process.

For people who are already practicing meditation, having a therapist to support this practice can be helpful. When someone sits in meditation and allows their mind to become still, this often reveals un-healed wounds. Perhaps they notice that they are distracted by the same thought over and over again, or a particularly difficult memory keeps drawing their attention, or they are swept away by a wave of feeling that they don’t understand.

We are resistant to change; we don’t want to admit that there is anything wrong with us, or that we might be contributing to our own suffering. We hold onto our anger and grief and stop ourselves from moving forwards. If we are meditating and begin to notice something that is outside our comfort zone – an unpleasant thought, for example – it is tempting to shy away from it, or to push it back underneath the carpet.

Most people have a strong idea of who they are, and anything that challenges this idea is likely to get pushed away. If you believe you are strong you will ignore any sign of weakness in you. If you are lacking in self-belief, you will ignore any hint of evidence of your own power. This process happens almost completely unconsciously, but it is often what stands between us and a more fulfilling life.

Being able to talk to a therapist about what comes up in your meditation practice can be helpful because the therapist will be able to accept those parts of us that we cannot accept ourselves.

In doing this, they show us that those parts of ourselves are true and that we don’t need to push them away. They are acceptable just as they are.

There is something very powerful about being in a space in which another person lends you their attention; it is as if our own ‘curious observer’ leans on the therapist’s ‘curious observer’ and steadies itself.

Together with your therapist you can start to explore what thoughts and feelings are coming up in your meditation, and how that might be affecting your daily life. As you understand and accept what is happening – what is true – you can start to move forwards in your practice and in your life in a more wholehearted way.

 Book a mindfulness one-to-one or  therapy session

Book a session with Kaspa via Skype or in person. Email kaspa@thebuddhisttherapist.com to book a session, or call 07946 715 730 or 01684 572 444, or click on the links below for more information.

Therapy with Kaspa

Mindfulness sessions with Kaspa

The Power of Non-Rejection or Coming to Wholeness

“If I don’t like it, it doesn’t exist.”

One of the most common ways of dealing with anything challenging is to pretend that it doesn’t exist. You come home huffing and puffing but claim to be fine when a friend asks you what’s up. Eventually you start to believe that you are fine. The general sense of dissatisfaction that you carry with you is ‘just how things are’, and nothing will change that.

The alternative would be to acknowledge what really happened to you that day you came home upset, but something in you feels like facing it would be a bad idea.

Or your boss criticises you but you don’t want to stand up for yourself because it feels too much like conflict and you have been burnt in the past. You tell yourself, I’m fine. Your boss keeps walking all over you and that’s ‘just the way things are’.

Or a really great opportunity opens up and part of you really wants to take it but something stops you because you are afraid of success, or afraid of being out of control. You miss the opportunity and say, I’m fine. You live with the sense of having missed out, and in those times when you’re not blaming others, you feel guilty that you didn’t take that great opportunity. You tell everyone you’re fine. It’s ‘just the way things are’.

When we ignore parts of our experience, we are living with one foot in the past.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

One of the benefits of a meditation practice is coming to wholeness. We learn to be with the whole of life: to welcome all experiences, however difficult, so that we can deal with them and move forwards.

When you practice breathing mediation you are asked not to change the way that you breathe, but just to pay attention to your breath. Notice if it’s a short breath or a long breath, a shallow breath or a deep breath. Notice how long you pause for in between breaths.

In this way you are practicing being with what is true. In breathing meditation we’re just choosing to pay attention to one aspect of reality, and as our practice matures we begin to include other aspects too.

As well (or instead of) being aware of how you breathe, you might start to pay attention to the sensations in your body. Which muscles are tense today, and which are relaxed?

You might eventually move on to paying attention to your thoughts. A thought arises and you notice what it is without getting caught by it. You just notice the impulse to fantasise about buying a yacht, instead of following that impulse through and spending ten minutes deciding between different yachts in your mind.

The common thread in all of these practices is non-rejection. Instead of thinking, “Oh no, I’m breathing wrong!” you really pay attention to how you are breathing right now. Instead of thinking about what you are having for dinner in order to take your mind off the cramp in your leg when you are sitting in meditation, you just really notice the cramp in your leg.

Instead of shying away from the unpleasant thoughts in your mind you say, “Oh, that’s what I’m like… interesting.”

Mindfulness meditation gives us a great place to practice this attitude of non-rejecting, but in order to live a completely fulfilling life we must take this attitude off the mediation cushion and into our whole lives.

Instead of cutting off parts of our experience, we give our attention to them. We allow ourselves to notice what it was about that day that upset us so much.

Although ignoring what we don’t like might serve us well in the short term, if we do ignore parts of our experience we’re not really letting go or moving on and we end up living less than fulfilled lives.

When we allow ourselves to just notice what is real, we can start to deal with it.

Instead of pretending that everything is fine, we can say, “Yes, that happened. Now what?”

Seeing what is real in the world can bring up uncomfortable responses in us. We might really feel upset for the first time about that time our boss criticised us, (or guilty that we didn’t respond appropriately at the time). These uncomfortable feelings are natural responses to events and we can apply the same ‘just noticing’ mind to them as in our meditation practices.

As our practice matures, we become more able to experience the whole of the world, and more able to just notice our reactions without getting overwhelmed by them. From this spaciousness, we can then begin to deal with whatever we are presented with.

This is the real gift of mindfulness practice: creating space so that we slowly become comfortable with more and more of our experience. As we become more able to be with our whole experience it becomes easier to be at ease in each moment – to let go of what is holding us back and move forwards wholeheartedly.

Explore your mindfulness practice one-to-one?

Book a session with Kaspa via Skype or in person. Email kaspa@thebuddhisttherapist.com to book a session, or call 07946 715 730 or 01684 572 444.

The power of non-rejection or ‘coming to wholeness’

“If I don’t like it, it doesn’t exist.”

One of the most common ways of dealing with anything challenging is to pretend that it doesn’t exist. You come home huffing and puffing but claim to be fine when a friend asks you what’s up. Eventually you start to believe that you are fine. The general sense of dissatisfaction that you carry with you is ‘just how things are’, and nothing will change that.

The alternative would be to acknowledge what really happened to you that day you came home upset, but something in you feels like facing it would be a bad idea.

Or your boss criticises you but you don’t want to stand up for yourself because it feels too much like conflict and you have been burnt in the past. You tell yourself, I’m fine. Your boss keeps walking all over you and that’s ‘just the way things are’.

Or a really great opportunity opens up and part of you really wants to take it but something stops you because you are afraid of success, or afraid of being out of control. You miss the opportunity and say, I’m fine. You live with the sense of having missed out, and in those times when you’re not blaming others, you feel guilty that you didn’t take that great opportunity. You tell everyone you’re fine. It’s ‘just the way things are’.

When we ignore parts of our experience, we are living with one foot in the past.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

One of the benefits of a meditation practice is coming to wholeness. We learn to be with the whole of life: to welcome all experiences, however difficult, so that we can deal with them and move forwards.

When you practice breathing mediation you are asked not to change the way that you breathe, but just to pay attention to your breath. Notice if it’s a short breath or a long breath, a shallow breath or a deep breath. Notice how long you pause for in between breaths.

In this way you are practicing being with what is true. In breathing meditation we’re just choosing to pay attention to one aspect of reality, and as our practice matures we begin to include other aspects too.

As well (or instead of) being aware of how you breathe, you might start to pay attention to the sensations in your body. Which muscles are tense today, and which are relaxed?

You might eventually move on to paying attention to your thoughts. A thought arises and you notice what it is without getting caught by it. You just notice the impulse to fantasise about buying a yacht, instead of following that impulse through and spending ten minutes deciding between different yachts in your mind.

The common thread in all of these practices is non-rejection. Instead of thinking, “Oh no, I’m breathing wrong!” you really pay attention to how you are breathing right now. Instead of thinking about what you are having for dinner in order to take your mind off the cramp in your leg when you are sitting in meditation, you just really notice the cramp in your leg.

Instead of shying away from the unpleasant thoughts in your mind you say, “Oh, that’s what I’m like… interesting.”

Mindfulness meditation gives us a great place to practice this attitude of non-rejecting, but in order to live a completely fulfilling life we must take this attitude off the mediation cushion and into our whole lives.

Instead of cutting off parts of our experience, we give our attention to them. We allow ourselves to notice what it was about that day that upset us so much.

Although ignoring what we don’t like might serve us well in the short term, if we do ignore parts of our experience we’re not really letting go or moving on and we end up living less than fulfilled lives.

When we allow ourselves to just notice what is real, we can start to deal with it.

Instead of pretending that everything is fine, we can say, “Yes, that happened. Now what?”

Seeing what is real in the world can bring up uncomfortable responses in us. We might really feel upset for the first time about that time our boss criticised us, (or guilty that we didn’t respond appropriately at the time). These uncomfortable feelings are natural responses to events and we can apply the same ‘just noticing’ mind to them as in our meditation practices.

As our practice matures, we become more able to experience the whole of the world, and more able to just notice our reactions without getting overwhelmed by them. From this spaciousness, we can then begin to deal with whatever we are presented with.

This is the real gift of mindfulness practice: creating space so that we slowly become comfortable with more and more of our experience. As we become more able to be with our whole experience it becomes easier to be at ease in each moment – to let go of what is holding us back and move forwards wholeheartedly.

Explore your mindfulness practice one-to-one?

Book a session with Kaspa via Skype or in person. Email kaspa@thebuddhisttherapist.com to book a session, or call 07946 715 730 or 01684 572 444.