Dr Jan Goss

Fireworks, Friends & Loneliness

Last night I watched fireworks for the first time in a long time, on Bonfire night. I spent time with family and connected with new friends. The fireworks as spectacular as they were, came and went so quickly. All pop and fizz, alluring…and oh so impermanent! ‘Don’t hold on to them’ I reminded myself…’be fully in each moment’…’remember that they will come and go!’

I realised that if I could really be there with the fireworks in the moment and savour each spark, each colour, each twist and turn, not holding on too tightly, but watching them come and go in their own time, I could enjoy them so much more. I think I have probably had a hiatus from firework watching because my expectations in the past have been unrealistic and so I have often, to a large extent, been disappointed.

The metaphor for life doesn’t escape me (or you probably!) unnoticed. It serves as a great reminder of how life is, of how our expectations impact our experience of life. People, events, ‘highs’ and ‘lows’, feelings and sensations, the breath…they all come and go, changing from moment to moment. I was so much more aware of managing my expectations of the fireworks yesterday and I feel that this is indicative of the more measured way that after seven years of daily mindfulness practice, I manage the ebb and flow of people, experiences and expectations in my life.

I had a great October – two retreats, one I co-facilitated and one where I was ‘retreating’. Managing the potential ‘dip’ in our mood as we return to our everyday life after a holiday or a retreat is something we need to be aware of – although there is usually an uplifting resonance that stays with us following on from a retreat. Both retreats served to remind me of the preciousness of connecting with our self and others in an authentic way, allowing our self and our heart to be open, allowing our self to be ‘vulnerable’ in the safety of a nurturing space.

November too, has been benevolent, so far. I attended a Day of Mindfulness in Lancaster practising in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. Taking a day out in this way, to reconnect with our practice and others always feels nourishing. I also had the pleasure of attending a music/storytelling event organised by a dear friend and offered by Empty Hands Music aka Nimo Patel, who has been ‘on tour’ since May this year sharing his music (for free) and inspiring stories of ‘serving’ people in India over the past 6 years.

After the event I was invited for a beautiful vegan meal and spent time getting to Nimo and his fellow travellers, talking, eating, meditating and generally being outrageously happy in the present moment. Such kind, open-hearted and inspiring people, it was a privilege to be in their company. I was taken by how easy it is to bond deeply when everyone is defence-less and open-hearted, and how effortlessly we can create community. I don’t think anyone wanted the evening to end but we didn’t hold on too tightly, and we eventually let it go around midnight.

Managing the letting go of people, experiences, and the associated feelings that we have, is a big part of practising mindfulness. The ability to let go with a minimal amount of discomfort or pain (or none) is the fruit of our practice. Over time we become more emotionally adept and more emotionally resilient, less swayed by the ebb and flow of life, as we remain increasingly centred in our body, in the present moment. We don’t hold life so tightly, we allow it and our self to flex and flow, knowing that everything changes and that everything will work out. It always does, when we let it. We learn too, to let go of the fears that drive our clinging behaviours, in order to come to a point of accepting and eventually embracing, life’s inevitable challenges. And if we persist in facing life, rather than distracting our self in an attempt to push the unpleasantness away, we begin to understand that treasure lies in the ‘difficulties’ we face.

Recently, I was witness to a person sharing their experience of recognising and holding their loneliness. I have thought a great deal about the courage this took to express, and the strength of practice it takes to identify that, and then be ok with it, not attempting to push it away or cover it up through some form of consumption. Being able to sit with our loneliness knowing that it is a part of life and that it won’t last forever, knowing that there will always be fireworks and friends around the corner, is the very essence of mindfulness. When we understand this, we can enjoy each moment of our daily life because we have let go of judging, of clinging, of wanting things to be other than they are right now. Only then are we in a position to truly appreciate our life.

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