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Mindful spaciousness

Learning to create a space between us and our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations during sitting meditation is an incredibly liberating experience. Not only does it help prevent us from falling into unwanted habits, but it also enables us to communicate from a deeper, warmer place or ‘heart centre’. This is a place where faith and mindfulness can merge.

Imagine, for instance, sitting with Jesus and cooking fish on a charcoal fire by the lake shore. You hear his words: “Come to me, you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest”. You share your pain with him without judging it, you experience his gentle and humble heart, and you find rest for your soul. Your body feels lighter, your mind becomes spacious and you view your experience more compassionately.

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The heart of mindfulness

I’ve been used to expressing myself with words such as “fine”, “grand”, and “no bother” all of my life. But these aren’t really feelings at all. I think this is the experience of a lot of Irish men.

I finished an 8 week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course last week at the Mindfulness Centre in Dublin with elements of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), and it was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. It enabled me to communicate from my ‘heart centre’ on a consistent basis which has been a deep longing of mine. Here are some of my learnings:

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Breathing with compassion

An Ignatian Contemplation (from St Ignatius Loyola) on aligning with the suffering of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane through our own pain or frustration during the Covid-19 pandemic. It involves the use of our imagination and feelings along with elements of mindfulness. It is also set in the context of the Advent season where we are invited to ‘stay awake’ to the suffering of others.

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Holy waiting

Jesus, in the Gospel of Mark, tells the story of a man who leaves his home to go on a journey and puts his slaves in charge while he is away. He assigns them different work including the task of the doorkeeper “to be on the watch”. They need to be vigilant because he can return home at any minute.

Can we imagine the master’s reaction if he finds his doorkeeper not on the job? Sleep, according to Kieran O’Mahony OSA, is commonly used to mean inattention, lack of alertness, as well as death. Surely not a good thing this Advent season.

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‘The Spirit of the Rose’

It is not someone who has a huge, precious diamond that is richest, but someone who is able to give a huge, precious diamond away. Something like the extremely rare purple-pink Russian diamond called ‘The Spirit of the Rose’ that was sold at auction in Switzerland for €22.5 million.

In a poem by Rumi, we are told that being human is a ‘guest house’. What a wonderful image of our being! For each day we can experience a whole range of emotions such as joy, sadness, enthusiasm and boredom. But the question is do we accept and welcome them all as guests or do we resist and distract ourselves by focusing only on the nice things?

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Gentle gaze of Granny

“Dear Granny,” I wrote on her special occasion, “It is lovely to celebrate this birthday with you. Before my friends met you, they expected to see a frail lady, but they were surprised to find that you were full of life. Love always, Gavin”.

As I reflect on the whole experience of my Granny’s life and death since my last video (Gratitude in my Granny), I am grateful for a new appreciation of our relationship. I draw strength from our faith which we shared. I often saw her, for example, praying the rosary in her room. She said her prayers silently while going from bead to bead with her fingers. I felt comforted during these times, especially when I felt a little raw and vulnerable. We were in good, loving company and I cherish this memory today.

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Rooted or uprooted?

The song I Will Wait by Mumford & Sons includes the lyrics: “Now I’ll be bold, as well as strong, and use my head alongside my heart”. The chorus repeats: “And I will wait, I will wait for you”. The singers describe a connection and journey with another person, as well as mutual understanding, humility and intimacy. It is a call to build a relationship on a solid foundation where love freely flows. Of course, we all want to feel safe and secure, but where do we begin?

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