I ’VE just come back from an eight-day mindfulness meditation retreat at the Buddhist Society Centre in Serpentine.
After doing it tough in monasteries in India and Thailand, where you sleep on a bamboo mat and take bucket showers, this was meditation heaven.
En-suite bathrooms, Lavazza coffee capsules and a French chef serving knock-out bolognaise sauces and sticky-date puddings.
It was hard not to get seduced by the worldliness of it all, and I’m not sure if my Dharma mates in Asia would have envied me or pitied me.
The retreat was run by a white-bearded Irishman who’d spent many years in Burmese monasteries.
He peppered his talks with amusing personal stories, and I ended up writing a poem about him:
The Buddha woulda been tickled pink
To think that an Irish charmer
Many years down the track
Coulda been teachin’ the Dharma
Of course, I have no idea what the Buddha would have made of him.
All I know is that at the end of Buddha’s life, he’d said ‘Be a light unto yourself’.
In other words, don’t get too hung up on my teachings, but figure it out for yourself.
That is the great thing about mindfulness.
It enables you to connect directly with your own intelligence and wisdom.
We have three layers of mind – the brain and its biochemistry (hardware), our thought processes such as beliefs and values (software), and pure mindfulness or consciousness (the programmer).
We are familiar with the first two layers, but not so much with the third.
As a result, we live our lives based on whatever cultural and family values have been passed on, but we rarely tap into the intelligence, intuition and wisdom that is available to us.
In some cases where a person’s values are unclear, the thinking layer may become disturbed by anxiety and so on.
Mindfulness practice offers a way of correcting these imbalances, and also of tapping into our creativity and higher intelligence.
That’s the good news. And it’s available to everyone.
The slightly sobering news is that it’s not always easy to access.
The second layer of thinking tends to become ingrained and habitual, and we have to learn how to temporarily put it aside in order to access the mindful state.
That’s why practicing mindfulness is important.
The more we practice, the easier it is to pass between these two states.
Then our innate intelligence and wisdom can infuse and shape our attitudes and values, and our lives will take on a far greater peace, harmony and creativity.
Weekly classes are available at Off The Wall Yoga, Petra St, East Fremantle, Sundays at 6pm.
by FRANK VILAASA