by Berenice Boxler
At the beginning of the year I was in Northern Germany on a retreat. Silence, meditation in sitting, walking and eating and in movement. Imagine a movie apparatus projecting a movie onto a collection of people. There will not be much to recognize, as there are too many forms, colours, movement, sounds. If the same movie is played onto a white wall, then you will start to see the content. This is exactly what happens in a retreat: no television or smartphones, no alcohol, no books and no talking – „silence as the real teacher“ (Jake Dartington). External distractions and routines are reduced to a minimum, so that one can see the inner processes (= films) more clearly. Only then can we see the tricks of editing and the art of putting it all together.
On one of the mindful walks, my attention turned to the landscape: grey and muddy, withered branches, well-kept but flowerless gardens, dirty horses in the pasture, everywhere puddles and rotten leaves. The houses were beautiful and you could see that the people here take great care to keep everything in order.
The brain is always working
Nevertheless, I was able to catch the following thought, which appeared again and again: „How beautiful will this look, once everything blooms!“ In my imagination I saw laughing children in summer dresses on the swings, flowering hedges, the pond full of plants and the house “Am Rosengarten” in all its glory.
And again and again I could see the lightning-fast functioning of the brain: external impressions (here: seeing) –> judging –> imagination and ideas: „what if …“ or „I think it would be more beautiful like this…“. Everything, but not the non-judgmental perception of the present moment: Right now it is so.
Life is happening now
But the practice of mindfulness does not consist in judging and criticizing these trains of thought. It‘s about recognizing how we humans function.
Realizing that we want to change things and situations that we do not like – even if only in our imagination. Realizing that we judge everything and everywhere. Realizing that we are nearly always working towards a goal, waiting for something (spring for example). Realizing that this moment in its supposedly imperfection is life. Realizing that there are so many beautiful and exciting things to experience right now: the beautiful eyes of the horses, the clear air, the voice of the body (cold!), the connection with other people, nature in all its wet green and brown colouring.
Right now it is like this, and there is nothing missing. With this realization, we can stop waiting, and live our lives, just as it unfolds.