Simple Things

On a recent day ‘off’ I happened to have one whole hour, wholly to myself. At 2pm on this sunshiny afternoon I was out of town with a commitment to meet someone at 3pm  There were no other obligations, no dog to walk (my morning walk having already taken place), or pressing requirements for the fridge or even otherwise interesting diversions.  And having already meditated generously for the day, here was an hour, stretching before me to use – or not use – as I wished.

An hour of 60 minutes’ time can seem lengthy – but when filled with the hustle and bustle of ordinary life, an hour is very little time. On that sunny afternoon I was struck by the impulse and temptation to do something productive – an impulse that almost caused me a moment of confusion! Because we do become creatures of habit, and creatures of duty, both attitudes which make it very easy to keep doing all those things we think we have to ‘do’.  The very idea of a purposeless hour on an everyday afternoon was unusual and it took me a moment to recognize it.

Like a gift from a guardian angel, here before me was a precious interlude and I decided to make the most of it. And that’s when I saw the ice-cream shop.

What a novel idea – and how delicious that could be!  Sunshine and ice cream seem to go together and one of my clever granddaughters had already taught me the tricks involved in serving yourself.  Mind you, I’d never actually devoured one of those self-serves before.  I’d only provided the goods and absorbed the instructions!  And it would never occur to me to spontaneously buy an ice-cream anyway because ice-cream is not part of my regular diet.

However, a new experience was at hand – and, yes, I had the time to enjoy it I mused, as I navigated my way around the choice of cones, flavours and accessories to produce a masterpiece. What a difficult decision this could be!

And then I remembered what had reminded me of sunshine and ice-cream. From the depths of childhood, the real purpose of purchasing such a treat was simply that – a treat, a novelty and something to celebrate the moment; and also the attraction of something to do with simplicity, part of a process which the self-serve modern-day concept of ice-cream just can’t offer.ice cream cones

So I abandoned the self-serve shop and strolled in the sunshine until I found a regular ice-cream in a cone. And, coupled with happy memories, it was maybe the best ice-cream I’ve ever enjoyed, transforming one single hour to a very special and memorable hour on a spring afternoon.

And that of course brings me back to the matter of simplicity – and of course back to the importance of the very simple (but not simplistic) style of meditation that we advocate.

To integrate personal peace, to become responsive instead of reactive, to regain resilience and wellbeing and own the ability to live calmly one must consider simplicity.  Simplicity implies effortlessness and that’s the core of Stillness Meditation and its therapeutic qualities.

Stillness of self can’t be found in activity – or in thinking or focusing or breathing or concentrating. Stillness of self just simply is! But we have to know how to find it.  And usually we have to have some help in finding it, too.

And there’s one more important thing. When recounting in my book (In Stillness Conquer Fear’) my personal struggle with stress and anxiety and indeed how far I had wandered from simplicity, I have recalled my words to Dr Ainslie Meares: “what if I fail”, meaning what if his theory and his treatment really doesn’t work and I’m back to my pointless struggle again. His reply simply was:  there’s no question of failure. Trust me.  And so I did and he was right.

Because Stillness, as Meares taught me and as we at this Centre teach others, stillness is all about trust.  Trust in the teacher and trust in oneself – but most significantly, trust in natural simplicity.

To gain the benefits of living calm there’s no need for a variety of flavours, or choc chip or a range of hundreds and thousands or even excessive quantity.

As just a simple ice-cream can glorify and transform an hour of pleasure, an hour of simple stillness (when understood and correctly learned) can glorify and transform a life.

Pauline McKinnon © 2015