It’s that time of year when we need to face winter square on. As time has passed I am getting better at preparing for my least favourite season. I realised a few years ago being in denial about winter is not helpful and creates more suffering. So instead these days I embrace winter – I dig out my winter coat and start wearing warm clothes as I know it will help me accept that it’s here – those dark long (frequently grey and wet) British winter months are part of my life, just like summer is and so I need to celebrate the arrival of winter as best I can.
At my allotment after a bumper crop of apples, middling crop of pumpkins and disappointing crop of spuds I have now cleared the decks ready for winter. My moto during a busy term this autumn has been to visit the plot little and often. I have been rocking up to the plot at 4pm on a Sunday sometimes – clearly in denial that, since the clocks went back, I will only get half an hour at best but actually quite enjoying this.
By making it so time limited I get to keep on top of things but not miss out on family life (no one else can be tempted to accompany me now the weather has turned). And today I finished weeding one last raised bed and then got the satisfaction of covering three raised beds in readiness for spring. All cleared of weeds, I covered it in thick black membrane, so each bed is now tucked up away from the cold, like an animal hibernating until the weather gets better.
There are two active beds still – for garlic and broad beans (yet to be planted) and a few odd jobs that mainly involve lopping (the apple tree and the fruit bushes) but aside from that I feel like I have cleared out for winter. This morning as I thought of that line I was reminded of a Rumi poem we use when teaching mindfulness that I had read the day before at a silent practice session and the lines about ‘clearing you out for some new delight’ resonated as I cleared the decks for winter, knowing this act means I am also, in a way, preparing for new life and spring.
The Guest House
Translated by Coleman Barks
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
This is the time of year when we reflect on the year that’s just passed and plan for the year to come. It’s tempting, as I’ve written before, to attempt to rip up the old me and bring in a fresh new, improved version of ourselves. But as Jon Kabat-Zinn so wisely wrote: Wherever you go, there you are!
Often there isn’t really a need to create a new year, new me. Instead we can just work on who we already are and get more in touch with what will truly make us happy.
In that wilderness week in between Christmas and new year, when those of us lucky to be at rest might easily forget the day of the week, it can be tempting to reflect on the year that has just passed. And I found myself doing just this when people asked me for me highlights of 2017.
For This Mindful Life CIC the highlights were as follows:
- This Mindful Life CIC was successfully and officially formed as a not-for-profit company committed to delivering quality mindfulness training to diverse communities.
- This Mindful Life delivered more courses in partnership with The Everyone Project, who’s aims of widening the reach of mindfulness sit well with This Mindful Life CIC.
- This Mindful Life CIC successfully opened an ethical CIC bank account with the co-op which was a lot more challenging than it sounds!
For me personally as a mindfulness teacher, highlights of 2017 were:
- Being accepted onto and included in The Mindfulness Network’s list of recognised Mindfulness teachers UKMN_2017_18_MAY
- Attending the Mindfulness Association’s annual conference which included trans-formative workshops with Sharon Saltzberg and Vidyamala Burch and getting to meet my supervisor in the flesh after two years of working together.
- Attending a day of practice and CPD session with the God father of secular mindfulness: Jon Kabat-Zinn. Truly inspiring to hear him guide meditations but also to see him lead an inquiry after each practice.
- Realising the direction I would like to go in as a teacher – working with client groups who have experienced trauma and/or addiction alongside mainstream teaching work.
- Completing a course on addiction and the impact this has on the brain as the first step in this journey.
- Signing up to train in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) as the next tentative step in this journey.
For me personally as a human being the highlights of 2017 were some golden moments with much loved family and friends. While on retreat thismindfullife.net/…7/12/21/retreating-3 I realised that while teaching, training and day job stuff are all very important to me, it would also be useful not to take on too much in order to ensure there are further plentiful golden moments with loved ones in 2018.
Today’s Total Practice Time: 1 hour (mostly movement and a short bodyscan)
I know, it’s Tuesday already but still tips for beating the blues, Monday or otherwise, can sometimes help at this time of year. If winter is getting a bit too wintry these things often help me.
- Get out for a walk even on cold days, it can really lift the spirits. Look at the sky as you walk, be aware of where you are and what you are doing.
- Reward yourself when you get back from your walk with a mindful cup of tea or a hot chocolate.
- Be kind to yourself if you have broken your NY resolutions – many of us pile too much expectation on ourselves at this time of year. In future it might be better to try breaking resolutions down into manageable chunks and change your routine to support this.
- Make time for yourself. Next time thoughts are overwhelming sit down, breath and observe the breath for three minutes. It’s possible to feel greater clarity after only three minutes.