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Coming Home To Ourselves Day of Mindfulness

On Saturday, 18th November, White Clouds Sangha hosted a Day of Mindfulness at the Bedminster Meeting House in Bristol.

Thirty-seven friends gathered for a day of practice, contemplation and joy, facilitated by UK dharma teacher Jane Coatsworth.

A feeling of calmness, strength and stability could be felt in all of the activities we took part in, and Jane held the space with compassion, inclusiveness and serenity.

During her introduction, Jane remarked upon the four elements of monastic life - work, study, rest and play. The Day of Mindfulness was focused on these latter two. In the morning, we rested, and in the afternoon, we played.

During the first morning activity, friends introduced themselves and used one, two or three words to describe how their neighbour was feeling, before Jane led us in a period of guided relaxation. This was themed around connection with the earth, scanning the body and being in touch with calm and restful energy.

After a break, a guided meditation preceded a period of walking meditation, in two circles. This was followed by silent yet restorative sitting, taking in what we had already done and reaffirming the feeling of serenity and stillness.

The feeling of peace continued through lunch, which began with each table reading the Five Contemplations, and a period of silent midful eating. I certainly found the initial silence of the lunch break reflective, and, although challenging, a meanigful practice to begin this part of the day.  I noticed that the talking which followed was calm, joyful and indeed mindful, and the feeling that was maintained throughout the lunch break was peaceful and tranquil. 

Jane advised us to treat the afternoon’s activities as experiments, with no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ ways to do anything. With a view to ‘coming back to ourselves', to letting go and enjoying ourselves, we were brought towards ideas of freedom and non-judgement.

The first activity was to draw. Just to draw, it didn’t matter what. For the following hour, we were encouraged to bring to mind what the conditions, places, habits are, that make us feel ‘home’. We all took to this in different ways, in our own private practice, without commenting or showing others. Again, there was a pervading sense of calmness and peace over the gathering, with all of us taking the activity in different directions. For me personally, drawing gave way to writing.

Later in the afternoon, we shifted, via some delightful mindful movement, towards play. After being absorbed in a ‘mirroring hands’ exercise, where different kinds of mindfulness and concentration were brought together, we moved to a task of giving and receiveing, by passing a ball between ourselves. This might sound ‘simple’, but the exercise moved from the simple slowing down and exchange of passing the ball between two, to a more considered four person group, to a frenetic and unpredictable eight. A simple task, but given new meaning and new importance.

As Jane was rounding up the day with a sitting meditation, she reminded us that one of the jobs of a practitioner is to tend to our own peace – little by little. Days like this bring us further towards that peace, and maybe that peace is the island within that we were looking for in the earlier drawing task.

The day ended on a final reflection on ‘play’ and the singing of I Have Arrived and Dear Friend. 

This was a truly special and revitalizing day, spent with dear friends old and new. A heartfelt  thanks to Jane and the organizing team, I hope that there are many more Days of Mindfulness to come.

  • Words - Gideon Thomas, images - Lidia Szczytowicz


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