Mindfulness Based Stillness Meditation
Stillness is not an experience to have, a place to go to, a thing to get, it is here all the time.
Brent trained as a Mindfulness Based Stillness Meditation Teacher at the Gawler Cancer Foundation Yarra Valley Living Centre in Victoria Australia. The teaching programme is based on the combined wisdom (30+ years) of Dr Ian Gawler and Paul Bedson, working with 1000s of participants at both the Centre and in their outreach work. Paul who is now President of the Meditation Association of Australia was the primary course teacher.
In a world driven by fixing problems, setting goals, achieving and acquiring, it is hard to sell a practice or way of life, that is not about getting anywhere or achieving anything. But nonetheless raises your level of consciousness.
If you've read any of my other blogs you'll see that I am not a person who is primarily relaxed and tranquil. Nor am I mindful all the time. But imagine what I’d be like if I didn’t meditate.
Prior to finding mindfulness meditation, I would have never considered, it would have become such a significant part of my life. I was introduced to mindfulness meditation at the Gawler Cancer Foundation in the Yarra Valley, Victoria Australia in 2004. Karen had recently been diagnosed with terminal breast cancer and we were looking for hope. Although there was no miracle, the Gawler Living with Cancer programme was a significant part of our journey, teaching us to ‘live’, to be present, to resolve issues, to ease one’s fears, tackle resentment and bitterness, to contemplate your death, to live life as a precious gift, to laugh, to cry, to make connections and eat well.
We became attached to the Gawler Foundation’s, essential elements for wellness, as Karen lived ‘well’ with her cancer prior to her death in 2007. These elements were:
• Regular meditation
• Good nutrition
• Power of mind
• Emotional healing
• Quest for meaning
• Moderate exercise
• Effective support
It was a great programme, hence my training there to become a mindfulness meditation teacher.
When I consider how meditation is portrayed in the media, I see beautiful people, in the lotus position, meditating in some luxury spa, or on a beach, or in front of some majestic landscape. These people seem to ooze tranquility and are at peace with the world. But it looks like you need a costume and have a body that doesn’t have an ounce of fat on, if you are truly to participate. It is something that you can buy from experts and it has the added advantage of assisting you in your image making project.
Well, when I think of my mindfulness meditation, it is conducted at home, in whatever I am wearing, on a dining room chair (I can’t for the life of me get into the lotus position), in our lounge or on a fine day with my dining room chair outside, with all the noises and distractions of living in a suburban home. I have really tried to stand against the idea, of only being able to meditate in a perfect environment, as on the whole this is something that most of us don’t have control of. We have to meditate in whatever conditions are presented to us.
Meditation has become an ordinary part of my life, a seemingly mundane task, just sitting there, but inspiring nonetheless. It appears simple but it is not easy, and maybe most appealing to me, it is profound but not serious. As Paul Bedson stated “Mindfulness isn’t about using the thinking mind but stepping back to the observing mind. It is about paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally.”
Even though I have meditated for many years and am now a Mindfulness Based Stillness Meditation Teacher, I at times still a struggle, to quell my excessive thinking, stop planning my day or worry about my future. Although I sometimes get frustrated, what the practice has shown me, is they are just thoughts. I am aware of them as they either pass by, or try and grab me (often successfully) out of my aware mind and return me back into my thinking mind. As I get caught up in a worry, I can also observe my body begin to react, but then as the thought moves away and I again focus on my breath, I can notice my body ease.
I’m drawn to it, as it is about accepting myself, rather than searching for improvement, or perfection, or fulfilment. It’s such a relief to not be analysing myself or trying to get anywhere.
It is not about pathologising, measuring, comparing, or finding a problem that can be fixed, it is just a sensitivity that needs to be met – met with attention.
I feel we live in an emotionally phobic world where we run like anything from certain feelings. Where we are taught that the antidote is too just think positively. But mindfulness meditation is not about positive thinking and it is not about running from feelings, or making them go away. It is simply being with them by keeping them company. We are just aware, it is not important what you find, it’s the quality of the care and attention you bring – to just sit and be with your feelings. To for example just notice you are feeling hurt, instead of going into a story that judges it, or explains it, or blames someone else.
It fosters humility, without trying to, encourages compassion without effort and opens up a space for curiosity rather than judgement with the ones you love. It teaches you to be in the present, where life actually exists. To live appreciatively as we conduct our ordinary lives.
Meditation encourages one to live life, rather than race through it, opening up the opportunity for deeper, richer and stronger relationships.
It encourages vulnerability, which further encourages one to live a wholehearted life.
For me it has allowed me to face life head on, to just be with what is happening rather than make a story up about it.
I’d recommend you give it a try, you won’t regret it.
All the best in your practice.
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