I've just returned from Scotland where I attended a five-day retreat as part of my continuing professional development.
It was a tough few days where at times I felt like running, self-doubt stories kept creeping up on me. The point of the retreat was to assess my readiness to teach the eight week Mindfulness Based Living Course. The assessment required that I lead two practices to my peers. You would think after years in the classroom teaching challenging teenagers that this would come naturally, that certainly was not the case.
The Fear Story
I think the strongest, most paralysing emotion for most of us is fear. And I don't mean fear that is real, when perhaps your life is in danger, I mean the fear that comes from the stories we tell ourselves.
I had booked onto this retreat twice previously and both times fear took over leading me to pull out at the last minute. I wasn't good enough, I would fail if I went and so the story went on for over a year. Holding myself back from taking the next step.
Finally, I decided to accept that whatever happened, I just had to take the chance. I'd overcome so much more in my life, this was not going to beat me!
So there I was into the third day and doing my presentation. I couldn't believe how much I was shaking but I did it and I passed. And the relief was like I'd put down a huge weight that I'd been carrying for a long time.
The Present Moment Experience
The next day I was to give a shorter presentation but still part of the assessment. And I got thinking about my school teaching days. When a teacher knows they are going to be observed for assessment, they will play it safe. I did it myself and I observed many other teachers do the same. We would plan a "safe" lesson, one that didn't require too much classroom management.
The problem with playing safe is that you get safe results, nothing inspiring, just safe. And often that can be a bigger risk because a dull lesson is not always seen as adequate by inspectors.
So with this in mind, I got up in the morning, trying to decide if I would take a risk and deliver my presentation the way I would normally teach it to my groups?
I was fortunate to wake up to a beautiful scene, the snow had covered everything and it was just an amazing white picture. I stood outside just looking at the tree, the grass, the almost unreal natural beauty. Then something inside suddenly spoke, "what are you doing just standing here?" And out came my phone to take a photo.
In this world we live in, to just stand is not natural and when we do it, many of us feel guilty. Like it's a waste of time, we should be doing something. However in that moment, I realised that I didn't want to see this view through the lens of my phone, I just wanted to experience it as it is. I wanted to be in it, see it in its full beauty and take the whole thing in. Breath the fresh air, smell the wet ground and be right there.
In that short space, I was in the Present Moment. I stopped doing, I just started being. It wasn't long, it was just a few moments, a few breaths but it gave me a taste of Mindfulness at it's essence.
Thinking adds a layer to present moment experience - unknown
I took this experience into my teaching practice, I took the risk and used my own experience to present my task. Thankfully it worked out well for me.
Mindfulness is learning how to not become so involved with the thinking so that it interupts our experience of life. It's not easy but with practice you get better at it.
To learn how to develop your own Mindfulness practice, then join us at one of our events.