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Our First Meeting...
Guest blogger Andrew Morgans describes his experience at the first Mindful Friends Retreat and Discussion Meeting.
As anyone who practices mindfulness knows, it can be a pretty lonely pursuit: upon completion of an 8 week course, where community is built, discussions are open, and the experience of the facilitator available, one can find oneself slightly adrift – what next? The support of a group now fading, it is easy for one’s practice to wane. Fortunately, Samye Foundation Wales (SFW) provides a space to come and practise with others in their dedicated mindfulness centre. The provision of weekly drop in sessions, along with longer 8 month courses and Mindfulness Association level 1 and 2 training, mean individuals can practise and deepen their mindfulness meditation while benefiting from the support of a community of fellow mindfulness practitioners. A new initiative, Mindful Friends, has just started at the Canton centre: it aims to help cultivate a community of mindfulness practitioners through monthly day retreats (10am-4pm), followed by an hour and half discussion group and – of course – tea, nibbles and an informal opportunity to get to know each other. This is my personal recollection of the inaugural Mindful Friends:
Our first meeting was probably more structured that what will follow: the whole group will
take ownership of topic of discussion in future sessions. We all watched a fascinating video of a
lecture from Rob Nairn, who has vast experience of mindfulness, meditation and western
psychology. Rob also developed the Mindfulness-Based living course (MBLC). Although not having the fortune to be taught directly by Rob (I met him briefly once at a retreat), I have benefited a great deal from Rob’s work, having completed several 8-week MBLC courses and attending the Mindfulness Association’s Level 1: being present course. Furthermore, I have read his book, ‘Diamond Mind’, which – I believe – is a treasure of a resource, explaining how people from a western cultural background can relate to meditation through a lens of western psychology.
Watching the video, much of what Rob talked about made a lot of sense to me, which is
unsurprising given my mindfulness background being so aligned to Rob’s work. Throughout the
video, I observed my mind effervescing with possibilities for discussion. On reflection, my mind was possibly excited that some of my practices were being clarified – what I was experiencing was possibly more self-centred than I thought! Fortunately, at the end of the video and the start of the discussion, I managed to hold my own thoughts and ideas, which was a blessing as someone else introduced a discussion point on the idea of ‘equanimity’ in relation to mindfulness practice. As the discussion ensued, deepened, and many individual and personal perspectives shared, I came to a realisation. This realisation was something I didn’t share on the day, but do wish to share now, having had some time to mull over and reflect.
"This was increcebly useful for me, and I truly hope that many people gain benefit from such discussions..."
I realised I had taken the meaning of ‘equanimity’ for granted throughout my practice: I was
continually using the word, but was bypassing the meaning. I was uttering the noun on the surface, but not fully investigating the profound depth this noun to gain a more experiential, as opposed to the trace-like conceptual – understanding. Why was I doing this? Well, it is probably because it is easy to say the word equanimity than it is to truly contemplate it – I have to admit to some laziness on my part! As our discussions highlighted, equanimity is a difficult idea to understand; how many other assumptions, or surface engagement, of meaning was I making? I can say, “may all beings be well”, but do I truly understand the magnitude of the statement? Am I merely uttering some words? This has opened a blind spot in my practise: I have no answers at the moment, but I am very grateful for these questions to stir up to the surface.
I understand that part of my personality means I can get very ‘in my head’ and, admittedly,
enjoy using concepts, theory and the like. However, I am beginning to further my understanding
through my mindfulness practise: the conceptual understanding of ‘mindfulness’, ‘equanimity’, and ‘compassion’ is nowhere near enough – the concepts point toward an ineffable subjective
understanding; subjective understanding is gained through direct experience in practising mindfulness. The proof of the pudding is in the eating; I think most of us can agree that compassion, equanimity and mindfulness are effective and ‘good’. To extend this proverb into allegory: I realise I’ve not eaten, rather smelled the pleasing aromas from the kitchen! I need apply myself more, both on and off the meditation cushion.
This is a very personal recollection, and something I will continue to reflect upon; I fully
understand that my experience of the first Mindful Friends discussion would be very different to
other present. So why am I sharing? Well, what I’ve described has impacted on my mindfulness
journey; the challenges I have made toward my assumptions occurred because I was in a room with other people, discussing. This was incredibly useful for me, and I truly hope that many other people gain benefit from such discussions, whether they share their thoughts or listen; a community is a great support and it is good to have mindful friends as companions on the journey.
Come along to our next meeting this weekend!
Silent retreat days take place between 10 am and 4 pm. Please bring something vegetarian to share for lunch.
Group meet-ups take place between 4.30 pm and 6.30 pm
Dates for 2019
Mindful Friends Days will take place on Saturdays throughout the year.
Saturday 4th May, Saturday 8th June, Saturday 6th July, Saturday 3rd August, Saturday 31st August, Saturday 28th September, Saturday 26th October, Saturday 23rd November, Saturday 21st December