I walked through the park at night in the fog, past the faint white ghosts floating on the lake – the sleeping swans. As I walked I brought my attention to every sense. I have realised the word ‘attention’ works much better for me than ‘mindfulness’, which sounds like a conundrum from the off. We all know what attention is, and we can direct it where it’s needed.
The trees were dripping their foggy wetness on my face, the river was rushing in the distance. The dark grey of night fog was impenetrable. I brought my attention to its void without fear, accepting its blankness like a mirror of no-mind.
Every so often, voices in the distance would push through the fog, or footsteps would emerge behind me – people still need to empty their dogs no matter what the weather. But I resented the presence of humanity encroaching on my dark wet solitude.
As I walked toward the long straight path out of the park I breathed consciously while reciting a version of Thich Nhat Hanh’s breathing mantra: “Breathing in, I am the body…breathing out, I am the body”. I have realised that centring in the body is the most reliable way of finding presence, for me. Presence – one of Eckhart Tolle’s favourite words. I haven’t visited his teaching much over the last year, having spent time exploring some its sources, such as the many Buddhist doctrines, which are insightful but don’t massage my heart in the way Eckhart can.
Walking up the path, centred in my body, I felt that my ‘mental and emotional complex’ – a phrase that spontaneously occurred to me, maybe derived from the ‘military/industrial complex’ in the USA! – was hanging in front of me like a hardened shield or something attached to the front of me or hanging around my neck. I could see that it wasn’t me; and every ratty little bit of frustration or anxiety that was still buzzing around was happening inside of IT, not me. Since my time away from Eckhart, I could see that I had slipped back into identification with it.
I sat down on the wall outside the park, and fully stayed with where I was, not in my shield, with all the battles it wants to fight and all the enemies it sees. I wasn’t concerned with the cars driving past me, not imagining their drivers’ opinion of me: thief, wierdo, alcoholic – how I normally worry that I appear when I let myself wander and drift. I was content to watch it all like a child – the headlights swishing through the fog as the leaves floated down from the majestic trees. I was thoroughly in the moment. That elusive NOW that we never actually leave.