Last updated on 10th March 2016
I didn’t write a reflection in the blog yesterday (although I did the day before). I said when I came down here for this ten day retreat at the Krishnamurti Study Centre, that I was aware of three intentions … three hopes. One was to “move the slider across” from the usual heavy emphasis on “Doing” in my life at home to a much greater emphasis on “Being” here in the Centre & walking in the surrounding countryside. A second wish was to explore “Awareness” more … both by seeing how it is to spend days where I am more aware, and to read/discuss/think/experiment with awareness over the time here. Both of these hopes have worked out well … precious days, deep, soft.
Besides the “being/doing” shift and exploring “awareness”, the third hope I had for these ten days was to have a chance to look back and get a perspective on my life. Now in these last days here … the final three (yesterday, today & tomorrow) ... before I travel north back up to Scotland again, I am looking more at this area. I spent yesterday deliberately reviewing. To help this process I filled in a number of sheets that I often use with clients in my work as a psychotherapist - see the "Good Knowledge" section of this website's page on "Wellbeing, time management, self-control & self-determination". So I used "The respected figures exercise" and “The funeral speeches exercise”, a simple overall review process “Role assessment exercise”, explored new possibilities too with a “Goals for roles brainstorm”, looked more methodically at my relationships through a “Personal community map” exercise (see the "Good knowledge" page on "Relationships in general") and made more specific intentions with the "Goals for roles: 5 year, 1 year & 3 months goals" sheet.
Waking this morning I had a sense that this last quiet week has allowed the “tide of my life” to wash right out. I’ve been wandering around the mudflats … a quiet, precious, magical time. Now I can hear the gurgling wash of the water as the challenges & involvements of my life back in Edinburgh flow back in. I feel a bit invaded here on the shore, as the waves begin to lap back up the beach. I note this as the “noisy children” of thoughts, plans, dates splash into my mind. But like children, all of this is also warmly known, loved, committed to. By chance I began experimenting with giving each day an overall rating at the start of this month. The scale I have been using runs: 1 (awful), 2 (very poor), 3 (poor), 4 (medium), 5 (good), 6 (very good), & 7 (‘masterpiece’). The average score for the last eight days down here on retreat has been 5.5, while the average for the hugely busy & committed two weeks at home before that was 5.9.
This doesn’t surprise me so much, although I find it intriguing. I know that I’m hugely fortunate in my life … deeply engaged with work I love, happily married, good friends, lots of interests. I think one of the best ways to approach & understand wellbeing is through “Self-determination theory (S-DT)”. S-DT researchers would argue that wellbeing is particularly affected by how we’re doing in our lives with “Autonomy, Competence & Relatedness”. I know I rate highly in these areas … living a life, doing a job that is very much self-chosen & high in Autonomy; feeling pretty experienced & effective in what I do across the different areas of my life (Competence – well assessed in the “Role assessment exercise” - see above), and I’m also deeply blessed in my relationships with my partner, family & friends. Down here on retreat, Autonomy is high, but Competence & Relatedness leak a bit … so it’s not too surprising if my overall day ratings are lower than at home. In some ways it’s surprising that the scores average out as high as 5.5 here. One “old timer” at the Centre asked me about my sleeping. She said that many people arrive here in the Centre and are initially troubled by nightmares. I didn’t notice this personally as I settled in here … but actually, now I think about it, I woke last night very unusually having had a nightmare (I had quite forgotten about it up until now). I was trying to wade across a section of a very fast flowing, flooding river and I was nearly carried away. This would probably have seriously injured or killed me. I just managed to hold onto a piece of stone and pull myself out, but I woke frightened & shaken (very much as if I had just, by the tips of my fingers, pulled myself back from a potential self-induced disaster). Mm … and this morning I have a sense of the business of my daily life coming in, gurgling & bubbling like the tide. Note! … try not to get swept away by the busy-ness. It might not kill me physically, but it can “clog up my soul”! It reminds me of my first evening arriving here at the Centre. I wasn’t aware of any nightmares, but I wrote:
“After arriving here last night, I unpacked, and went for a walk in the deepening twilight. Through my head ran the Eagles song “Desperado”. It’s a song on one of the several playlists I use when I’m running: “Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses? You’ve been out ridin’ fences for so long now. Oh you’re a hard one, but I know that you’ve got your reasons. These things that are pleasing you can hurt you somehow. Don’t you draw the queen of diamonds boy, she’ll beat you if she’s able. You know the queen of hearts is always your best bet … Desperado, oh you ain’t getting no younger. Your pain & your hunger they’re drivin’ you home. Freedom, oh freedom, that’s just some people talking. Your prison is walking through this world all alone … Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses, come down from your fences, open the gate.” Well that’s a pretty good song to have in my head at the start of a retreat. The rain came down gently. I didn’t see a soul on the very quiet little country lanes. An owl hooted as I headed back.”
And the next day I went on to say: “But Krishnamurti continues to be a wonderfully original explorer & teacher about awareness. Although I disagree with him in his dismissal of gradual, step-by-step progress towards greater psychological (and spiritual) health … I am very respectful of his emphasis on sudden, ‘right now’ waking up to clarity & connection. Last night, walking down empty country lanes in the deepening twilight, the Eagles song “Desperado” kept running through my head. Although the line “Your prison is walking in this world all alone” in the song, referred to lack of loving relationships, there’s a deep sense in which it could refer just as well to the isolation of our individual egos. K is inspiring with his position that when we ‘wake up’ and relate directly to a tree, to another, to this world … then ‘the observer and the observed are one’.”
I feel there’s treasure here … in this territory of awareness/awakeness, the ebb & flow of our self-sense, and freeing from the “prison of walking through this world all alone”.
See too tomorrow's post "Personal ‘retreat’: eighth reflection – making life intentions & the last day here".