First of all, I would really like to say: Welcome to my blog and thank you for taking your time to click on this link!
I have been absolutely swamped with PhD work over the last few weeks, so my blog posts have been coming with less and less regular intervals. But I did realise that being busy has taught me many things about myself and about my practice (which I have more or less maintained during this time). In fact, being busy has even given me inspiration for what to write about!
So here is the first post in my blog series on “Mindfulness Teachers”. And I don’t mean teachers in the conventional sense of the word. Everyone (and everything) can be a teacher within your practice. Even being busy. Let’s consider the following scenarios.
Imagine that you are feeling angry at someone who has wronged you. You are a human being so anger is a valid emotion and you should not judge yourself for feeling angry. In fact, you can learn from this experience instead.
Try to learn from the person who made you angry: What did they do to make you angry? What did you discover about yourself from that person’s actions? Why do they have power over your emotions? Why did they do what they did? And then learn from the anger itself: How does this emotion present itself in your body? Do you lose your appetite? Do you start shaking? Do you lose sleep? Are you in control over this emotion? Can you react differently next time? Meditate on the anger, observe it, learn from it, and then let it go.
Now imagine that someone who hasn’t practiced mindfulness for as long as you, or who has never meditated before, is either telling you how to meditate, or that meditation doesn’t work.
In the first example, you may feel annoyed that someone who has practiced less than you is trying to tell you how you should meditate. But, according to Shunryū Suzuki, this person may in fact be the ideal teacher because they approach their mindfulness and meditation practice with an open mind, a beginner’s mind. Listen to what they have to say, and show gratitude to them for taking their time to share their experience with you.
In the second example, you may feel tempted to convince the person who is telling you that meditation doesn’t work about all the benefits of meditating and practicing mindfulness. Here, you can learn two things. The first is whether you actually understand your own practice or not. We may think that we know something, but when we try to explain it to someone else, we discover that we cannot find the words to describe it. The second thing we can learn from this (and perhaps a more subtle sign of whether or not we truly understand our practice) is our humility and detachment in such a situation. It is not our job to convince others to meditate. It is not our job to sell mindfulness and meditation. If we appear to have benefited from our practice, others will notice anyway. All we can do is practice.
Writing about experiences, emotions, and situations that have helped my practice would be an endless task, because everything (when observed and considered mindfully) can help us develop our practice and teach us valuable lessons about the journey we are on. Yet people are part of most experiences, from people we know well to complete strangers, and even people that we have never met. So with this in mind, I would like to dedicate my next three posts to the people who have been my teachers throughout my mindfulness and meditation practice over the last year.
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“Mindfulness Teachers” blog series: