Nature inside, nature outside
Mindfulness is not just something we practise for an hour.
It’s a way of being.
And being is our nature. We are human beings.
What does it mean, this ‘being’?
Maybe take a moment for yourself. Tune into your own being, perhaps closing your eyes, or gazing downwards. Drop any idea of doing or trying and tune into your being.
Rest there for a few moments and notice how that feels.
How is it, to be?
To me, it feels very present and very simple, but magical.
Listening deeply, everyday things become gifts.
Gifts of sensations, sounds, smells, and as I open my eyes, the gift of sight.
My attention is in my body, my being. I am aware of my steady breathing and how my feet feel, on the earth. Sounds coming and going.
Resting in presence like this feels peaceful and caring. No need to add or do anything. There is a restful, timeless quality to being.
Thoughts and feelings arise, like cloud formations, taking on shapes, then shifting; changing.
This being feels very alive, to me. To sense the nature inside us and outside us, dancing, ebbing, changing, alive.
So, if ‘being’ is so natural, so intrinsic to being human, why do we have to practise it at all?
Actually we don’t. If we can simply be, with whatever arises, we don’t need any instructions.
But we often get so busy, so caught up in doing and achieving that we forget how to be —though we knew how to do this as children.
Meditation is one way we remind ourselves of how to be, present and at peace.
This quality of being is what we enjoy about our hobbies or holidays.
Isn’t it a welcome relief to abandon the to-do list? We need this break from go-go-go, and mindfulness offers us a way to cultivate the power of pausing, letting go and just being.
So mindfulness does not invite us to do anything that we do not already deeply, intrinsically know how to do, as humans.
But what mindfulness does offer us is a path, and practical exercises to help us remember how to be.
Listening deeply invites us to use our senses, to feel alive, to notice the world around us. To enjoy nature, and to acknowledge what we feel and think.
Listening deeply is also an act of love. Imagine listening deeply to a good friend. How would you do that?
With attention, and care, right?
When we really listen, without a hidden agenda, we hold a space of caring presence, in which another can feel known and understood.
Listening deeply in this way cultivates love and compassion… skills we cultivate in our meditation, and all natural things for human beings to do.
We can learn to listen to our own nature with the same care and patience we’d give to a good friend.
And because listening leads to understanding, this is also a path to wisdom.
When we are simply being, we allow learning to arise naturally, from within.
We gather data from what we see and hear, from what we think and feel. The more information we gather, the more patterns we notice.
“Ah wow, that bird is flitting around, dancing for a much more dull-coloured bird, who is still and maybe watching?” From previous data, I know that in birds, it’s often the male who dances in courtship for the female.
From waiting, watching, listening deeply, I’m learning something about the nature of birds.
“Ah wow, when I see the sun set, I love the rich colours. I feel relaxed and contented and connect easily with an inner sense of presence and peace.”
I’m learning something here about my own nature. About my own patterns and habits. About what benefits me.
Listening deeply, letting these patterns and understanding emerge, benefits our lives, our work, our relationships, our communities and our earth.
And listening deeply to ourselves, in the same way we would to a good friend, helps us feel confident, centred and calm.
Then we can really be present to others, and more able to notice and care for their needs.
Imagine a whole family, a whole community committed to attending to each other like this. When our environment is caring, we feel safe, connected, happy.
In this way, meditation, the art of listening deeply to the nature around us and inside us, serves the awareness and understanding that are fundamental to wellbeing, to healthy relationships and to a society that is awake, kind and harmonious.