AT FIRST YOU WILL FIND
Before you start, it's important to know that as you move through the programme there will be countless occasions when you feel you have failed. Your mind will refuse to settle. It will race off like a greyhound after a hare. No matter what you try, within seconds your mind will become a cauldron of bubbling thoughts. It may feel like you are wrestling a snake. You may even want to put your head in your hands in despair at ever achieving a calm state of mind. Or you may feel sleepy, and a deep drowsiness will begin undermining your intention to stay awake. You may find yourself thinking, nothing is working for me.
But these moments are not signs of failure. They are profoundly important. Like trying something new, whether it's learning to paint or to dance, it can be frustrating when the results do not correspond to the picture you have in your mind. In these moments, it pays to persist with commitment and kindness towards yourself. Apparent 'failures' are when you will learn the most. The act of 'seeing' that your mind has raced off, or that you are restless or drowsy, is a moment of great learning. You are coming to understand a profound truth: that your mind has a mind of its own and that a body has needs that many of us ignore for too long. You will gradually come to learn that your thoughts are not you – you do not have to take them so personally. You can simply watch these states of mind as they arise, stay a while, and then dissolve. It's tremendously liberating to realise that your thoughts are not 'real' or 'reality'. They are simply mental events. They are not 'you'.
At the very moment when you realise this, the patterns of thoughts and feelings that gripped you may suddenly lose momentum and allow the mind to settle. A deep feeling of contentment may fill your body. But very soon your mind will race off again. After a while, you will once again become aware that you are thinking, comparing and judging. You may now feel disappointed. You might think: I thought I really had it then – now I've lost it . . .Once again, you will realise your mind is like the sea. It is never still. Its waves rise up and down. Your mind may then once again settle . . . at least for a while. Gradually the periods of calm tranquility will lengthen and the time it takes for you to realise that your mind has raced off will shorten. Even the disappointment can be recognised as another state of mind. Here now, then gone . . .
. . . until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then. Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, and meetings and material assistance, which no one could have dreamt would have come their way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets: (German playwright & thinker)
'Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it,'
W.H. Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition, 1951
Throughout the following eight-week course, it may sometimes feel as if the essence of what we are trying to convey is shrouded in mist. You may feel that you're not 'getting it'. This is because many of the concepts and much of the wisdom to be gained from meditation is simply inexpressible in any language. You simple have to do the practices and learn for yourself. If you do, then every now and again, you will have an 'Aha' moment – a flicker of insight that is profoundly calming and enlightening. You will understand what other practitioners have been learning for thousands of years: that worries, stresses and anxieties can be held in a larger space, in which they emerge and dissolve, leaving you to rest in awareness itself – it's a sense of being complete and whole that is independent of your preconceptions. At the end of the eight-week programme, many people report knowing, deep within themselves, that this feeling of profound stillness, of being happy, content and free, is always available to them – it is only ever a breath away.
Welcome, may I wish you well as you journey along this pathway.