Category Archives: waking up

What I learnt from staying in bed

Kaspa writes: 6.00am. One of the cats comes in to the bedroom, meowing like the drawn out glissando of a singing-saw. I roll over in bed. The room is already light; the bedroom curtains are too thin and appear to glow in the dawn.

I try to ignore the wailing cat, who is just looking for attention, or breakfast, and pull the duvet over my head.

Satya slips out of bed and whispers to the cat. I hear her going downstairs and the quicker footsteps of the cat following her.

It’s quiet again. Perhaps I can go back to sleep. But it’s too hot underneath the duvet and too bright in the room. I reach over the bedside table, where I keep an eye mask (like the ones they give you on long haul flights), cover my eyes and return to dream-land.

An hour and a half passes. I begin to wake up again. My awareness wakes up slowly, first into the middle of a strangely fraught dream. Some time passes and the dream drops away like a backdrop falling at the back of a stage, to reveal another scene behind.

Incoherent thoughts wash across my mind. They are a mixture of old memories and fantasies about the future, none of which are grounded in reality. There is a selfish quality to these thoughts. I watch them grasping at superficial ideals, and angrily pushing other things away.
Some more time passes. The curtain of these thoughts falls away too.

I’m conscious of the room, of the bed beneath me and of the day ahead. The thoughts I have now are more grounded in reality, and less selfish. I’m ready to get up.

Sometimes this process takes just a few moments. Sometimes the thin tendrils of the dreams and selfish thoughts hang around throughout the morning, like silver threads of cobweb caught on my jacket.

Becoming aware of this waking up process leads me to be kind towards myself. I feel less guilty about the days when I struggle to bounce out of bed bright eyed. I have learnt to respect my unconscious mind working things out in its own way.

My ‘waking up’ karma will be different to yours. Perhaps like Satya you will wake up early and do an hour of something before anyone else in the house wakes up. This morning Satya spent time gilding whilst I was still emerging from sleep. The standing Buddha I bought last week is almost completely covered in ‘gold-coloured leaf’. Perhaps like me it takes your more enlightened mind longer to wake up than your foolish mind.

Those early morning thoughts and dreams are a window into my unconscious mind and show me what fears and hopes are swirling around in there, affecting the actions I take in my daily life. As I get to know myself more deeply and accept those hidden parts of myself I can begin the process of letting go.

If there is an exhortation in this email it is to become truly intimate with your own processes.

What can you learn from watching your own minds rhythm throughout the day? Can you work with the nature of your own mind, rather than against it? What can you see in the liminal spaces of your own mind as it wakes up or in the twilight moments before falling asleep?

Image: Asleep by Ginney, shared under an attribution share-alike licence.

What is your song? Are you singing it?

hillsSatya writes: A book I’m reading tells a story about the three most important tasks of being a human being: we need to quiet the busyness of our minds, find our song, and sing our song.

Our song might be keeping things clean and tidy, or making tables, or loving people who are difficult to love. I’ve been wondering about what my song might be.

Last week our esteemed Dharma teacher visited our little Buddhist group in Malvern. Before he arrived I was a teensy bit frantic – making sure that everything was ready, wanting to make a good impression, running at a million miles an hour.

Afterwards my friend thanked me for getting into such a state, because as he watched me he had an insight into a similar trait he recognised in himself. He hadn’t realised how he’d behaved at the beginning of a group he ran himself, and suddenly saw it reflected and magnified in me. As he told me the story I smiled wryly, glad to be of service to him.

Maybe my song is to be foolish : )

On reflection, I think my song really is to be foolish. Singing my song means writing newsletters like this one, where I own up to being very human and show you that it’s really okay. We are acceptable just as we are.

This is also what happens in my novels. My characters find out about their own foolishness, and then have an experience of being accepted – Joe by his aunt Nel, April by Art, Ruth by Red and by herself.

Being foolish and being loveable anyway. Even when I really don’t feel loveable. I can live with that. I’ll keep offering my foolishness up.

What might your song be? How are you currently singing it in your life? How would you like to sing it? Do share your thoughts in the comments.

A final confession. My friend forgot that he’d told me about noticing my foolishness, and he told me about it again in front of some different friends. The first time he recounted it I’d been amused, but this time I was a teensy bit tired of having my foolishness pointed out and I pretended not to hear him.

There are layers and layers and layers. Trust me. And it’s all okay.

In other news I’m planning a big online event, Grateful May, I hope you’ll join me. And if you’d like to listen to me talking about burning flapjacks (with my Buddhist priest hat on) you can do so here. Go well _/\_

Life is short. What are you going to do with yours?

DSC00132Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer. ~ Barbara Kingsolver

Satya writes: Yesterday our old man cat Fatty was diagnosed with a condition which means he’ll be on medication for the rest of his life.

This year, I turn 40. When I look in the mirror I find more and more white hairs.

We all know that life moves relentlessly onwards, and that we don’t get to do it again, but it’s very hard to really know it. To remember it.  When we’re fretting about a project at work, rehashing our anger at someone who slighted us a long time ago, or feeling upset about running out of golden syrup to put on our porridge (this happened to me yesterday!), we forget that in the grand scheme of things these things don’t really matter very much.

What does matter?

Everyone will have a different answer to this question. I could answer it in a few different ways…

1. My writing. This is what is at the centre of my life, and everything else must arrange itself around it. Despite (because of?) this, it is the most difficult thing for me to get done.

2. My Buddhist faith. This keeps me steady, and allows me to take risks that I otherwise wouldn’t take. It holds me safe in an impermanent and often-scary-and-difficult world.

3. Paying attention. This is the path to enlightenment… (whatever enlightenment is). And it brings us many treasures and insights along the way.

4. Giving to others. I feel the most joy when I can freely offer to others – a cup of tea or a meal, a mindful writing e-course, my ears, my experience, a place to stay… this is what it’s all about.

I could go on. But none of this really matters if I don’t practice putting what is important at the centre of my life.

This, as we all know, is easier said than done. But it helps if we remember that life is short. Which is why I wrote this blog before I looked on Facebook…

If it’s time for you to find out more about what matters to you, get an important-to-you project going or move it forwards by joining me during March for my Creative Intensive. From Monday you’ll receive daily inspirational emails to keep you going, weekly prompts, a private online group where you can share your process (and difficulties and successes) and two 1:1 conversations with me to get you started/keep you going.

What does matter to you? What have you been putting off? Do let me know in the comments.

This is not your week to run the Universe

Germs by Rusty RussThis is not your week to run the Universe. Next week is not looking so good either. ~ Susan J. Elliott

Satya writes: I am just recovering from being poorly.

I am terrible at being ill. I hate it. It’s not so much the achey head, swirling guts or snot, which is bad enough. It’s something more.

I’m always (slightly reluctantly) curious about the things that are difficult for me. They show me things about myself that I can’t see any other way. And when I can see these things really clearly, they start shifting and there is space for something new to emerge.

And so, this morning while I was doing my spiritual practice, I made a mental list of what makes it so hard for me to be unwell. It’s quite a list.

1. I like to be someone-who-is-productive-at-all-times. Being ill makes this very difficult. And so I feel guilty, even though I know I’m not capable of being productive when my head hurts.

2. I don’t get things that I want. I wanted my friends to come round for dinner yesterday – we were going to make two kinds of nut roast, and I’d been looking forward to feeding them and enjoying their company and eating crispy roast potatoes.

3. I feel suspicious of myself. Are you really ill, Satya, or are you just avoiding things or being lazy? Is it really true that you can’t clip the faded flowers from the hydrangea bush? I often end up trying to do the things I feel I ought to be doing when I’m ill, only to come in from the cold a few minutes later. Permission-to-be-ill isn’t granted very often.

4. I like to be someone who looks-after-other-people-at-all-times. Not so easy when I can’t even look after myself properly.

5. I hate being dependent on others. It makes me feel like I ‘owe’ them. I don’t like to put them out. I’m rubbish at receiving things, like the amazing dahl soup Kaspa made me, after he’d clipped the old hydrangea blooms.

6. Okay, here is the one that I think underlies all of the others. When I’m ill, I’m not in control. If I was in control, I could avoid this whole uncomfortable list quite skilfully and without even knowing it.

I’m self-employed and so I have a lot of freedom to decide how I do things, with who and when. I can pretend that if we’re not earning enough money or if something is happening that I don’t like, then it’s entirely in my control to change it. I just need to try harder/work longer hours/get the right advice…  

When I’m ill, it’s really not my day to run the Universe. Most of the time, I think I manage to fool myself into thinking it is possible to be in charge. Of this little portion of the Universe, at least.

Being ill reminds me that I can’t rely on my body, or other people, or anything, 100% of the time. It reminds me of the things that answer to a different authority than me – other people, the weather, the germs happily swishing around inside me.

Although there is something that I can rely on 100% of the time. I can rely on my faith – some sense that even when things aren’t okay, and I’m feeling rubbish and guilty and out of control, that they really are okay. I’m learning what I need to learn, and I am being looked after. By Kaspa, by my friends, by my warm house, by the sunshine, by the air I breathe and the food I eat, by my body which is busy fighting off those germs for me… Even as I’ve been writing this blog post, two friends have texted to ask me how I am. I’m really an extremely lucky slightly-poorly person.

What do you find difficult? What is difficult today? What is it showing you about yourself? What bigger truth might it be pointing towards? Let me know in the comments. And go easy, get support, and do what I say, not what I usually do ; )

If you could do with some more support in your life, especially if you’re not very good at receiving it, I’ve just decided to run a Creative Intensive during March. This means there are limited spaces available for anyone who wants help in starting, continuing or completing a project – creative or otherwise. Read more and register here.

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Germs by Rusty Russ with thanks.