I met a spiritual friend in Zoom today. He has been 'admin' and 'holding' the mindfulness zoom community in my absence.
He, in his own bedroom in Hertfordshire and
me in my ‘therapy room’ at Bowden House, Totnes, Devon.
Somehow it has become possible that we can 'really meet’ – and really feel
and sense each other- without leaving our own home since COVID.
As my teacher says:
“...with the experience of (going through) greater difficulties comes (we can cultivate) greater ease!”
We talked about our Zoom ‘mindfulness based trust’ group and
how it had continued beyond the COVID lockdown period.
We talked about how the weekly meetings of the group have continued
since late Summer 2022 without me needing to be the guide or teach the practices of mindfulness,
the teachings of compassionate awareness.
In fact the group has continued without me needing to be there anymore!
We talked about the practices of mindfulness and mindful speech continuing in the group,
continuing to be held by the group.
We talked about how many of the group members would still like me to return and continue sharing the work.
We talked about the overlapping communities that had become the 'mindfulness based trust’:
the mindfulness students and adepts
from numerous 8 week MBCT and MBSR courses in Hertfordshire,
the mindfulness practitioners from Sacred Arts Camps’ and ‘Community Camps’ from around the UK
and also other parts of Continental Europe.
For my part, Ive been working through a life transition of
divorce and new beginnings since Summer 2022,
of moving over 200 miles away to live in a new relationship and in a new community.
I’ve realised great joy in this new life and also in knowing that the weekly, online group continued:
this way of gathering’, of remembering Being, of cultivating such strong connections, continuing..
That it was strong enough to continue without the need for my guidance and sharing.
Such a great privilege!
A group meeting weekly, no matter how disparate and irregular:
it is never the same group and, yet, always the same group,
it is like a being in itself’; it is a Sangha.
The continuities of such a group are ones of values not of specific individuals.
The continuities are values of presence and of mindfulness practice,
values of compassionate sharing
and of not fixing or bypassing.
So the group still meets two or three times a week and,
once a week there are sittings being guided by recordings of
meditations and teachings that I gave over the lockdown period.
I, for my part, have recently been exploring my role in this group through dialogue with a mentor.
Should I return?
Is it an ego thing?
I explored how, for instance, being away from it, I had started to see this ‘role’ in a fixed way,
as if, somehow, having a role as a 'teacher' was
responding to feelings of ‘duty’ or of beneficence.
In other words a position of power..
However, through the excellent guidance of my mentor
I was able to remember the actual reality of
meeting in the group weekly, how it was always different.
I remembered the experienced of great learning (for me too) and
I remembered remembering the Tibetan bhuddist teachings of non dual awareness, of Mahamudra,
and how, somehow, through this, participants were able to catch this experience’
as I was remembering it, teaching it and ‘Languaging it’.
I remembered how this was aided by the 'pointing out’
of assumptions and generalisations through the guided discovery element of 'dialogue after the meditations’
but, also more importantly for me, how I was somehow not stuck
'being the teacher’or 'being the therapist’
but how the group, somehow, kept me
alive and vulnerable modelling the experience of
change and impermanence as it happened.
For me and for others.
The ‘Bhuddist teachings of impermanence’ have
facilitated me through many radical life transitions
but the danger for me has always been how the cultural lens
through which the Western appropriation or transmission
of Bhuddism had occurred, particularly the ideas of 'living in the present’.
For us Westerners this can often mean 'living without a past’ or 'living without a future’.
The teachings can become distorted to mean
individualism and uniqueness and not
the shared experiences of pain, of difficulties, of relationships,
of 'change as a given’ and of commonality.
No mindfulness app or YT video can give us that.
In fact no Solitary practice can give us that without the regular practice of
being with others 'doing this work together’,
of 'sharing with others doing this work’ and -yes I'll say it again:
'doing this work’ together'.
The jewel of Sangha.
I became resolved. I need to come back.
I remembered that the teaching paths of Contextual Behaviourism,
of Mindfulness based psychology, of Bhuddism, of Continental philosophy
are all part of the mix I bring to this work but, most importantly,
it is the experience of ‘being with others’
in a holding space of kindly awareness that is the gift of this group.
I am opening this 'blog’ out to the wider communities
that have been involved in this work with me over the 18 years or so
as I have been teaching it.
This means the group will be open to anyone who has
completed an 8 week mindfulness course (MBCT or MBSR)
or has practised in a tradition under a teacher.
The reason we are limiting entry like this is because we wish to continue to hold the compassionate intimacy
that occurs through being with people that are prepared to experience surprises
accompanied by be awarenesses and new vulnerabilities
that come with change.
I am resolved to continue offering this on a Dhana basis.
I intend to look into using Patreon as,
(having just done my tax return), entering each ‘donation’ into my text ledger is no small task!
Dhana means wealth and - in this context of Darma teaching- it means trusting that there is enoiugh wealth to go round.
I do not charge but- if people feel a sense of the reciprocity of different kinds of abundances offered then
they may donate and support this work
It is a gift economy and you are welcome to join in!
I am awaiting a new camera and I now have a 'good enough’ internet
in the community where I live in in Devon.
I would like to thank my teachers:
Akong Rinpoche &
Saadi Neil Douglas-Klotz
for the abundance and generosities that they are passing on.
I look forward to meeting you.
“All Real Living is Meeting”
Martin Buber 1923
“Come, Come Whoever You Are”
Sarmad Chisti Daren Messenger