I was really lucky recently to be able to go camping on Moreton Island, QLD with my partner and four kids for 8 nights with just the basics (e.g. cold showers)…. and it really felt like a retreat from the world as we slept, snorkelled, kayaked, ate and slept some more!
But as the layers fell and we slowed down… and we focussed more on being and less on doing I noticed that even then….even when things were really peaceful and less stressful, my mind would STILL be classifying each moment as ‘like that’ or ‘don’t like that’ and I would be disappointed that this holiday wasn’t PERFECT!
It was almost as if by slowing down I became more aware of my mind’s ‘chatter’ and I was amazed that even when on a tropical island there was still potential to be unhappy… e.g. ‘it’s too hot’, ‘it’s raining’, ‘there’s mossies’, ‘I wish we had fresh fruit’ ‘the kids are fighting again’ etc. It didn’t seem to matter how relaxed we were I was still finding things I wanted to avoid or crave. I would dwell on memories of past holidays and wish that this one would have that same or even better moment of happiness, connectedness or relaxation… I was spending a lot of my holiday in the past or the future and not in the present!
This got me thinking about the Buddhist principle that aversion & craving cause our suffering/distress. As humans we tend to classify moments as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral and crave more of the pleasant and try to avoid the unpleasant. Maybe this is human nature and it may even be an important survival strategy? But if we are to be content with the present moment we need to observe our judgements and not get too caught up in them. E.g. ‘I’m having the thought that it would be really nice to have air conditioning/ a more comfortable mattress / a hot shower right now’ and let that thought drift by and remain in the present moment…
As I noticed these thoughts and became less caught up in them I was able to be more and more immersed in the present and less and less bothered by the ‘unpleasant’ features of camping. Each time I noticed them I would think ‘This isn’t perfect, it is as it is, and within that are some really great moments!’ and somehow this helped – in fact it is still helping me to adapt to life back in the real world!
I hope you all had a good start to the New Year with some time to reflect and be mindful 🙂