Lesson 8: Plant cuttings
In one way or another, everyone was very different than usual during the eighth and last meeting of our mindfulness course. Voices seemed low-spirited, and people were more emotional than usual. You could sense the impending end of these evenings and our departure from each other heavily in the air. You couldn’t even escape that feeling because that evening’s theme was: The last week and the rest of your life. I thought it sounded a bit heavy, but there was an element of truth in it. After this lesson, we would have to take responsibility for our own welfare, for mindful living and ensuring we put aside enough time to meditate. Secretly, I had been a little blasé about the weekly meetings, homework and a teacher who was very strict on us practicing our exercises regularly at home. Would I ruin everything now that I was left to my own devices? Because I had noticed that, in recent weeks, when I was super busy, meditating was the first thing I deleted off my to-do list. With the reasoning that ‘I really don’t have time for it now!’ While the teacher informed me the following week that it was precisely at that moment that I should have just sat there quietly, because those few moments of silence could have brought me so much. So this was the big question of Lesson 8: How do I now keep mindfulness alive? And as I looked around, I knew that I was not the only one wondering this.
Our teacher told us that the course does not simply stop after eight weeks. That is a conscious decision, because then it is time for self-reliance, making your own choices and personal responsibility. You need to apply what you have learned without relying on the support of those weekly meetings. Something that I notice I have already started to do. This past week, I have meditated several times without an external voice talking me through it. I sat in the silence of my bedroom, and no one told me I could let the outside sounds simply be and that I could return to my breathing. Of course, my thoughts wandered, but I always brought myself back to my meditation. I found meditating by myself a pleasant and much quieter way of carrying out the practice. No hassle with USB sticks, laptops, phones or headphones. Just me on my cushion. And I realized for the first time that I could do this exercise everywhere: at home, while traveling, in nature, in a hotel room anywhere in the world. And that made living a future mindful life feel much more accessible.
At the same time, I still cannot figure out what this eight-week course has brought me exactly. I certainly haven’t had any life-changing insights. Nor have I found any different ways to tackle things. There are some small new changes in my life: weekly walks or bicycle rides in the countryside on my own, checking how my breathing is when I feel very stressed or restless (which makes me feel calmer again), and making different choices when life feels too busy (I meditate for half an hour instead of pushing myself to my limits in the gym, for example). But I still don’t know what mindfulness will really mean for me when it comes to the rest of my life. It’s like growing my plant cuttings: it always remains to be seen whether they will shoot roots each time.
Alice is General Managing Editor of Flow International Flow and the Specials. Each Tuesday, Alice will continue to share what this eight-week course has brought her and whether her life has become more mindful because of it.