Where do I start?

One of the most commonly asked questions when talking about mindfulness is, “where do I start?” The answer is simple; start where you are. If you have no understanding of mindfulness (although that in itself is a paradox in terms) then there’s this lovely little story I heard that explains it perfectly…

A Buddhist master is walking with his student in the mountains one day.

” Master, I want to practice mindfulness as you do, but although I have been practising for 6 years, I don’t know where to start.”

“Can you hear that stream?” the master replied.

The student couldn’t and stopped for a moment to listen.

“Yes,” he said, “I can hear that now.”

“Then start there.” said the Buddhist master matter of factly.

They continued to walk and a little further on the student turned again to the master.

“Master, might I just ask, what would you have said if I had said I couldn’t hear the stream?”

The master simply smiled and said to the student, “start here.”

Mindfulness is nothing more than immersing yourself in the present moment and each moment as they happen. Through your senses, taking in everything you hear, see, smell and feel in any moment. Often we can’t grasp it because of the simplicity. We need to see something to understand it or we need an explanation to grasp something.

There is nothing to see, nothing to grasp, just being with what is. When you attempt to describe the ‘is-ness’ you have lost it because it is nameless, without form and indescribable. We use words because that’s how we communicate and if I were to publish a blank page everyone would assume I had done so by mistake.

So to begin to meditate or to practise mindfulness, start here. Where you are at, in this moment…and the next, and the next. There is only ever one moment.

[This mountain stream photo is by Annie Spratt on Unsplash]

The Butterfly Effect

You may have heard of this before; in chaos theory where one small change causes much more dramatic changes further down the line. In simple terms, where an action causes ripple effects that go on and on. There is a brilliant little book, of the same name, I read that introduced the theory, by Andy Andrews. He gives some brilliant and utterly surprising examples of the butterfly effect in action. If something so tiny hadn’t happened, something so huge would not have occurred. The tiny flap of a butterfly’s wings could cause a typhoon on the other side of the world.

You could then look at this in many ways. If you were able to choose to go back and eradicate seemingly negative events or experiences from your life, would you? Most people could probably think of a few things they wish they hadn’t experienced and could erase from their lives. However, in doing that there are so many other things that wouldn’t be in your life right now had it not been for those experiences, let alone the infinite number of things that your’ event or experience caused for others. So you can see that these experiences we have in our lives not only affect what happens further down the line for us, but for others, our environment and who knows humanity and the world at large too. The book explains some of those gargantuan types of examples.

These days, when I am going through something that would from the outside be perceived as negative, I try to see it differently. It is just so – not good or bad, just simply as it is. That isn’t to say I don’t suffer through it – all humans suffer, that’s part of what makes us human. However, looking at experiences through a different lens, one where I am accepting of what is, means that I am not interfering with what is meant to be – the butterfly effect. It also makes you see that we are as we were originally born to be, part of a bigger whole that works in complete harmony, perfectly well without our interference. Often times our suffering comes from trying to change what is, from going against the grain or seeking to control what is out of our control.

This way of living, where you accept and let go, surrender to each moment and experience what is happening isn’t giving up. In fact it is more about actually being present in your life as it unfolds, to witness and experience each day fully, rather than being in a constant state of worrying or feeling anxious about what is happening and what you can (or can’t) do about it. When you live that way you spend your time either ruminating over the past or being fearful of what is coming. You miss the present moment entirely and that’s where you life is. That’s where your life matters, right now, in the moment, this moment, creating those tiny ripples or the small flapping of wings that spread far and wide….trust that and be present.

“By your hand, millions – billions of lives will be altered, caught up in a chain of events begun by you on this day.”

– Andy Andrews from the Butterfly Effect

[Image – years ago, when I first began writing, I wrote a series of stories called Rainbow of Love and this image was used for the story around the colour blue; Blue Butterflies…]