I’ve been experimenting with some mindfulness meditation which I learned from Mingyur Rinpoche in his free course at www.tergar.org I’ve experimented with using a singing bowl, meditative music and recently an app called H*nest Meditation, which is hilarious if you’re not offended by swearing. The combination of laughter with meditation seems particularly effective for relieving stress bought on by dealing with difficult people. When you quieten your mind to meditate you become aware that you are not merely your thoughts and body. You can observe your thoughts, you can observe your body, therefore there is a you that is deeper than both your body and your thoughts. This, I think, is the location of my secret garden, and meditation I think, is the key to the door. The weeds and overgrowth are going take some work to clear before I can reap the full benefits of the garden, but just being in here already brings hope and peace, despite the mess.
Looking around I realise that I have already been working to clear the weeds and overgrowth on the outside of the garden. Without that, I would never have found the door, or the key to begin with. For me this involved dealing with a massive climbing plant that wasn’t a weed. It started as a beautiful small plant that presented itself as the answer to life’s deepest mysteries and the source of all knowledge on how to live life properly. Situated near the door it allowed easy access into the garden in the early days, albeit with it’s tendrils entwined and slowly distorting everything it touched in the garden. It went on to grow into a monster, with thick branches embracing the entire garden in a stranglehold. A monstrous plant squeezing tightly, like a snake ensuring the life is snuffed out of it’s victim before consuming it. It’s thick foliage blocking out the light and casting a shadow across the whole garden, stopping anything but the hardiest of weeds from growing. The beautiful plants that were directly under it’s canopy had long since rotted away and become food for the plant, spurring on it’s rapid expansion and all-consuming force.
Realising that this plant was causing the garden to shrivel and die I had started to hack at it’s roots. I’d previously tried pruning it, to no avail, it simply grew too fast and too strong for pruning to make a difference. The plant asserted itself, reminding me that it alone held the knowledge of how to do things properly and that without it’s strong ‘arms’ embracing the garden the whole thing was likely to collapse into a pile of rubble. I’d be left with a wasteland and a garden fit only for the bonfire. I hacked and hacked, through the guilt and the fear, ‘what if the plant was speaking the truth?’, ‘what if it was right and my garden was never meant to be beautiful?’, ‘what if I really didn’t own the garden and had no business doing this?’, ‘would I end up on the bonfire myself?’. As guilt and fear consumed me I began to believe that if I ever was to get back inside the garden I would be rejected, and so for a long time I couldn’t see the door through my tears, as I simply didn’t believe it was there for me any more.
Years went by, the monstrous plant shrivelled, my tears dried up and I could finally see the door. It was locked shut, and I wasn’t about to go and get myself another plant to open it. The very thought of that induced a deep-seated revulsion and nausea in me. I needed a key. There’s a Buddhist saying that goes: ‘when the student is ready, the teacher will appear’, and that’s pretty much what happened. I wanted a key and one just appeared before me. I started hearing about research in which a Buddhist monk had willingly subjected himself to hours in an MRI machine, meditating for scientific research. The idea of meditating in an MRI machine seemed to me to be quite a challenge. I’d been in one myself recently, on a tumour finding mission, and it’s like being in a coffin, accompanied by an army of tiny people in hobnail boots who are armed with hammers and pick-axes. It’s not a place one would immediately associate with tranquillity and peace. Intrigued by the complete lack of ‘woo woo’, ‘spirit guides’, ‘gods and goddesses’ and the like involved in the process, I began to look more deeply into what exactly was meant by ‘mindfulness meditation’. It’s simplicity and it’s effectiveness stunned me. Even small children can do this, in fact some schools are using it instead of detention and having far better results with it in terms of changes in behaviour. I wish with all my heart I’d known about this when my own kids were young and I will be teaching this to my grandson as soon as he’s ready. I think there’s no greater gift a parent could give their child, than to help them look inside themselves to find calmness, peace, love and enough strength to deal with whatever life throws at them. Once learned you can do it anywhere – even in an MRI machine.
Coming next: The name of the monstrous plant