The Meaning of Life…

Winking Universe Lady

What is your take on the meaning of life? When Excellence Reporter first asked to interview me on the meaning of life I felt incredibly honoured, but also, I don’t mind admitting, slightly overwhelmed. Rather hilariously ‘write the meaning of life’ has been sitting at the top of my to-do lists over the last couple of months. The question floated into my practice, conversations and dreams and then after one meditation as I wrote in my journal the following just flowed onto the page…

What a wonder it is just to be alive, more remarkable still to be aware of this and to wonder what might be the meaning of life?

As endless reflections of consciousness becoming conscious of itself there are as many meanings as there are makers of meaning. Perceived by the perceiver, these ever-changing ripples of reality and perception shift instant by instant, uniquely filtered and distilled.

Even if you know what I mean, you’ll never really know my meaning, for no two of us live the same life. Many may have had a moment of ‘no-one understands me’ and on one level we are right, yet this is only a tiny fraction of the picture. The little surface me, the flesh-bound layer of self-consciousness. The part of us that is easily wounded, critical, anxious and needs to be right. This is the layer where life happens to us, our actions and reactions driven by fear. It is easy to be held here on the surface, so compelling our storylines, so persistent our thoughts.

For me, the meaning of life is to wake up to the wonder of life beyond meaning and experience the wonder it is just to be alive. With this human equipment it is so easy to forget ourselves, lost in the maze of the mind, so we are here to remember why we are here. This can be seen with the naked eye when the eye is truly naked. Grasped only when we stop grasping. In our search for meaning we can get in our own way, for searching is doing and defining is confining.

When we awaken to the brilliance of our being, so much vaster and greater than the smallness of any thought, we wake up to the true meaning of all meaning. The solid reveals itself as spacious and fear gives way to love. We experience the energy of life flowing through us and in this eternal moment we join the dance. No longer the spectator or commentator we step into our true nature. The emptiness that propelled our search for meaning, that hungered all of our wanting, once realised becomes wholeness. The need for meaning satiated by knowing who we really are. Laughing and crying at the same time, just because, feeling the full contradicted contrast of things. Two opposing truths, both true at the same time; wholeness and emptiness, darkness and light experienced together as one, no beginning, no end, just now.

While we are here, we are here to be here fully, to have a direct experience of life. Indirectly experienced meaning holds no meaning. Even the most vivid of imaginations cannot summon up a taste without lips and a mouth and taste buds. If no taste had ever been tasted before, the sensation of dripping juice, the essence from ripened fruit, is just meaningless. Yet to you and I, to us who know, we know, without words as signposts or pale imitations of the truth. Sweetness only sweet through direct experience and contrast of the sour. Together we can sip on the full flavour of life, whilst catching fleeting glances of ourselves in the mirror of awareness along the way.

How would it be if I had never had feet that touched the earth, that walked and ran and leaped in exploration? If I never had this body to feel and to touch, to move and express, to hear the beauty of birdsong and look up towards the sky? If I had never had the chance to live and love and be loved and lost? To be here, to create, to play, to learn, to grow. Then to unlearn, unfold and to let go, surely this is what gives meaning to everything and to every nothing?

In life we eat the sun, turning our many faces towards it to feel the light. Until breath, the thin layer of separation between inside and out, between living and dying, here and there, falls away. And the ripples of an endless echo find no surface on which to bounce. The roar of the wave of all things crashes without crashing and we become the light once more.

The above is from an interview first published by Excellence Reporter in July 2018: Frances Trussell on The Meaning of Life

What is your take on the Meaning of Life?! Please share your take or comments below.

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How to be grateful for depression

how-to-be-grateful-image

I can look back on my episode in the depths of despair with gratitude. Without that period of madness, my mindfulness practice would have remained in the ‘should’ pile alongside many other I’ll-get-round-to-it-when-I-have-the-time projects. Broken into a million pieces, you tend to only pick up the bits that are truly important to take with you into the next phase of the journey.

I feel quite sorry for the mildly miserable, they might never be down enough to be forced to look for another way; sleepwalking through a life of grumpy discontent. No, I am glad to have been painfully depressed, stabbed and prodded into wakefulness. I had no other choice to commit to a practice, I could no longer be ruled by my thoughts. And, oh, the joy of contrast; in the moment of becoming the observer and recognising your own power to sit back, to watch, to choose, to bask in separation. How quickly our relationship with our thoughts can shift, and how remarkable this shift can be. Suddenly the world, once dark, appears in full beautiful colour.  It is like when you misplace your keys in your living room, you know they are in there somewhere so you really open your eyes and look. And with this new way of looking, really looking, something happens. Familiar items within the room suddenly appear to you with a vibrancy and clarity as if they are being seen for the very first time.

For me, meditation is like brushing my teeth; I just wouldn’t want to go out and breathe my un-meditated breath on anyone. An un-meditated me feels a bit gross, sloppy, unfocused, easily carried away by the rivers of thought. For those people that manage to feel sane without meditating I salute you, I am not sure how you do it. Meditation isn’t the only way of being mindful, but it is the best way to start cultivating it. I love to learn and during my first flushes of falling for mindfulness my appetite for knowing all there was to know on the ‘subject’ was ferocious. I devoured book after book at breakneck speed, it seems funny to reflect back on all that striving. What meditation teaches us when we sit and look is that we already know everything we need to know. Whilst we have a very human need to learn, it is in unlearning we find the being bit of ourselves. Like all things we try to attain, we can get lost in doing mindfulness, but quietly as we practice, we realise mindfulness instead. And with each realisation another layer of ourselves falls away, we see things a little more clearly and the subtle hum of happiness begins to beam through into every part of our being.

Being terribly depressed was one of the best things that could have happened to me. All pain is a messenger, and the message I had ignored for too long was that I was on the wrong path in my life. I see this time and time again with clients who come to me looking to overcome depression. So strong the pull of how we think we want our lives to look, we begin to override our internal sat nav until we can no longer hear the voice of truth within us, we become lost to ourselves. So the messenger of emotion ups the anti, louder and louder pain shouts, our heart beats faster and anxiety rings in our ears. When we really hit rock bottom there is no choice but to finally ‘get the message’ and from down there we get a chance to truly begin again.

How beautiful this principle of beginners’ mind, we really can give ourselves permission to start over, with each new moment comes a new beginning and each mediation a place to get familiar with beginning again and again. When in meditation we forget to begin again; frustration, anger and boredom arises as holding up a mirror to us until we see what we are doing to ourselves. To see that reflection is such a teaching, I am chuckling to myself as I write this because an old earworm has returned to sing the Radiohead lyrics to me; ‘you do it to yourself you do and that’s what really hurts’. This full human experience really does hurt sometimes, it can be so painful and yet so exquisitely beautiful all at the same time. It is so hard for the mind to accept these two opposing truths and that’s ok too – because not all things can be figured out on the level of the mind. If you are in pain you know you are alive, and being alive is certainly something to feel grateful for. So feel pain, but know that you don’t have to feed it with your thoughts. Instead of mindlessly scattering seeds for the crows to peck, we can consciously plant seeds that we gently cultivate.

Depression is a pushing downwards, low thoughts take us on their repetitive downward spiral into lower and lower mood, the body joins this journey like grabbing onto the back of a conga line – with each kick a release of stress hormones, a slumping of posture, a reducing of immunity, forwards and downwards we dance. We lose ourselves in the dance, we become the dance and the dance becomes us, smothering and suffocating in its embrace. In meditation we sit in separation, thought comes and goes and when we don’t engage we see this separation for ourselves. Thought only becomes thinking when we choose to get involved with it. In stillness, free will is placed right under the spotlight of our attention. As thought forms float through we begin to see them for what they are, they are just thoughts and they are not us. And so the grip lessens, our relationship with our thoughts changes and release arrives.

We have the power to choose to act in ways which lift us in an upward direction, to embrace more of those things which make us feel alive and move away from those that deplete us. I used to be very busy trying to control the universe, it was exhausting. These days I choose more carefully the parts I play and try to be playful in the playing of them. I particularly enjoy being DJ when it comes to choosing what song to play in my head, if you don’t like your thoughts you can always change the record.

That’s not to say that the cloud of depression never floats into my life to obscure the view, but nowadays I see it for what it is – just a cloud. Mindfulness has made me recognise my own innate strength, I feel content in the knowledge that whatever the storm it will pass and that I have the power to weather it. The sun is always shining behind the clouds.

This article by Frances Trussell was originally published on ‘everyday mindfulness’

You can now also follow Frances on Twitter @francestrussell and Facebook 

10 Top tips for establishing a daily meditation practice

Meditation has been shown to make us happier, healthier and less stressed, the only problem is that to feel those benefits we actually need to do it!  Here are my top tips…

  1. Prioritise it. Take responsibility for your own happiness.
  2. Schedule an appointment with yourself (and stick to it).
  3. Ask for help. You being the best, less stressed version of yourself benefits everyone around you. Ask those close to you to help you make time to meditate.
  4. Do it first. We are very good at doing deals with our self like ‘when the house or my desk is tidy, then I will meditate’. We are far more likely to get the tidying done quicker, be less distracted and enjoy it more if we’ve meditated first. Meditate first, it doesn’t matter if there is mess because when you meditate you have your eyes closed!
  5. Bring the right attitude. If you approach meditation as ‘just another thing to tick off the list’ you make it into a chore, not a pleasure.
  6. Make it work for you. Most people find that meditating first thing in the morning sets them up for the day, however there are no hard and fast rules, making an appointment you can keep is the most important thing.
  7. Be flexible. It would be wonderful if we all had a little candle-lit meditation room in our house where knew we wouldn’t be disturbed. Realistically you might need to meditate on your train commute or in your bathroom with the loo seat down and the door locked. Don’t wait for the perfect conditions, there are no perfect conditions – dogs will bark, planes will fly overhead, the world will go on turning and this is all part of the practice.
  8. Start small. It is better to follow your breath for a minute than to not meditate at all. If all you can manage is a minute today then start there. Perhaps tomorrow you will manage five minutes, next week ten. If you honestly cannot find a single minute in which to follow your breath you probably really need to reassess your life.
  9. Just do it. Even if we are feeling ill or have had the manic day from hell (especially then) we can still lie down, close our eyes and breathe.
  10. Take it one day at a time. If anyone told us we’d have to do anything every day for the rest of our lives that would be too overwhelming to cope with. Life isn’t like that; we only ever have to deal with life one moment at a time, one day at a time. You cannot change what happened yesterday but how you choose to respond to where you find yourself today will shape your life.

Finding the time is usually the main concern of those first setting out on their voyage of meditation. For me, really taking a look at what else I was spending my time doing was a revealing exercise – how much time do we spend checking Facebook, watching TV or procrastinating about life? We have to decide whether we are prepared to use some of that time for meditating instead.

Meditating every day is not always easy, you might not always want to do it, but once you have made it a habit and felt the enormous benefits you won’t want to go without it either.

Ultimately the thing which is usually standing in your way of your practice is you. Meditation is the process of recognising resistance and letting go – this takes place not only in the bit where we sit there and close our eyes but on the way there too, and throughout our lives.

The hardest journey is often the one to our seat.

This Blog will change your life…

“Do you have a blog?” clients have been asking for some time and my answer has been a big fat no, until now.

Both trained journalist and meditation teacher, blogging would seem like an obvious thing to do. And yet I find myself uneasy to add to the barrage of distractions which might be stopping us from engaging fully with our direct experience of life.

I have an admission to make… I too check my phone and social media far more often than I would like. I am drawn in by those catchy titles promising hidden gems of knowledge to improve my life. Well let me share with you the little gem that’s right here, hiding in plain sight; Life is always the thing that is happening right now. So, I wont find what I am looking for on my phone on anyone’s Twitter feed or status update nor on the pages of any book because someone else’s words paint a second-hand picture of the world, a pale imitation of the vibrant truth we experience when we commit to being here now.

Life is now and it is going to happen whether you choose to pay attention to it or not. I hope you make the choice to be concious of the moments of your life as they arise – this moment is your life.

find out more at: http://www.mindfullyhappy.com