Our life a process…

Our whole life is a process… A journey from our birth to our death.

While we’re here on planet earth in a body, anything we might undertake – any endeavour – is an opportunity to become connected to and understand ourselves – to know and remember our essential self.

All learning is to find out what, at the deepest level, we already know – the level of our most profound self…

So whatever we are attracted to – wherever we would like to develop new skills, to get better at something, to master it… We have the opportunity also become a master of life…

Becoming a master of life can then lead to becoming a master of letting go of this life – of ultimately learning how to die well.

If we live well, in each moment, then we can die well too.

This can only be experienced through practice…

Everything can be achieved through practice. But to fully ‘achieve’ things with Zen – being here and now – we must experience everything fully.

Of course there will be some things in our own unique energetic body, that we are more naturally inclined towards and when we practice them, the expression that emerges might be more expensive, more colourful, more bright, more fast, more tuneful… A higher level in terms of how we measure things on planet earth – than someone else…

But the secret is to value who we are and the expression of ourselves, without comparison to others…

We might be inspired by the achievements and expressions of others – but it is important that we do not compare ourselves in any negative way.

This is painful for the spirit and holds up our journey here, and misses the point…

If we are attracted to perfect a skill – there need be no comparison to another person or another expression of the same thing!

We are all unique and whatever our own expression on planet earth, in whatever endeavour we want to undertake, it is unique and valuable.

What is important is the practice.

The practice of our art… What is important is to discover ourselves within the process, to see and experience our own light and our own unique colour… To share ourselves and to be generous with our energy.

The art of running has been a lifelong practice for me.

I remember it all began when I was six years old – I am fifty nine years old now – fifty three years have passed and I am still perfecting the art of running… I am still diving deep into the learning the art and the practice of running.

In recent years I notice that the tension has gone and i feel like the child again.

I noticed when I was practicing to run barefoot across Spain, that the ingredients necessary to become fit enough were very easy. It was simply that each day I must turn up at the blank page…

We have a blank page in each new day, because in this paradigm there is night and then there is day again, which means that we have a new start every single day.

In fact, we have a new start in every moment, because there is only this moment. But in living this life on planet earth, with the illusion of linear time, every day we wake up to a fresh start…

Every day is new, so every day there is an new page on which we can create our life.

We can practice our own art, we can practice our life, we can hone our skills and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. It doesn’t matter if we are still practicing our skills and honing them and that when we come to die, we haven’t ‘arrived’ – because there is nowhere to get to, so we can’t arrive anywhere.

There is only the deepening of the practice, which where possible, needs to be practised without tension. It’s ultimate is that it is carried out with joy, expressed with clarity, because whatever we are practicing is being communicated out into the world for others to see

Now of course this doesn’t mean that we don’t dare start, because we are aware that our expression and our art cannot be clear and free of tension when we begin…

Because it is in the practicing that we can see where there is tension and stress, and so have the opportunity to clear it away. It is in the practicing that we discover our tension, and our fear, and also where we learn how to free our soul so that it is in motion through the conduit of the physical manifestation…

I have discovered that in practicing running almost every day of my life, that gradually there has been more and more freedom in each step – more Zen…

So for thirty eight weeks before I crossed Spain in my bare feet, I just turned up each day with no thought, just the action of one bare foot in front of the other…

In the past when I was training for events – while there were degrees of tension still left within me, often I would wake in the mornings and my immediate thoughts were often of this nature… ‘It’s too early’ – ‘it’s still dark’ – ‘I feel tired’ – ‘I don’t want to go’ – ‘Why am I doing this?’

Because of these thoughts, early on in my life, I trained myself to ‘just go anyway’ – to ‘just do it’, as the Nike slogan says.

I trained myself to silence my mind and its resistance.

I learned how to become the master of my body and my mind; rather than the body and mind controlling ‘me’.

I trained myself to silence my mind, firstly through the practice of putting other things into the mind – so it wasn’t exactly silencing the mind, but it was a route to stillness.

In place of any negative thoughts, I put mantras, for example ‘I love you thank you thank you I love you’ was one of my favourites, as well as ‘I’m sorry please forgive me I love you thank you’ – and there were others at different times ‘Om ma ni pad me hum’ and ‘Nam myoho renge kyo’… To name a few.

Immediately, when I awoke in the morning, if I felt these negative thoughts coming in, I would start the mantra. This meant that straight away a relaxation occurred within my being… I would then get out of bed and begin my daily practice of stretching and strength and balancing exercises… Meanwhile coffee would be brewing in the kitchen, so next I would go and sit and drink coffee.

I didn’t allow any thoughts of ‘I don’t want to go’ or ‘it’s raining’ or ‘it’s cold and dark’ to enter my being… I would instead just enjoy my ‘coffee meditation’ – present to each delightful sip, and would then literally step out of the front door.

With any practice we have a blank page of a new day, or the blank page of a new moment. Or the blank page a new hour – All we need do is begin – and the beginning is about taking one step.

One step is all that is needed, and then the next takes care of itself – and the next and the next.

This is the same in any practice, whether that be learning something academic, learning to cook, learning to sing, learning a language… Anything that we want to do – simply turning up is necessary, and not getting attached to how long it might take.

This can be more challenging of course, when we’re in an arena where there is a syllabus with a time scale… I had a time scale off thirty eight weeks ahead of me… But I had given myself plenty of time to train to get fit enough to run across Spain.

If we have any patterns of self sabotage we might set ourselves too short a time to achieve a goal, or we might start on a course with the syllabus and then not do the necessary work and get caught out because exams are approaching…

Or we might try too hard – not recognising that we don’t need to put this much effort in and then burn ourselves out with this energy of ‘trying too hard’ and doing too much…

Or we might set a level so high that it asks too much of us… Or we get attached to the outcome, and stop enjoying the process… And so on and so on!

It can be very difficult sometimes to stay exactly in the step we are in…

But the truth of the matter is we need to practice turning up and not looking too much ahead and or too much behind.

Occasionally of course, both can be useful in this paradigm, because if we have a goal ahead, and our motivation feels a bit low we can cast our eyes ahead to see the goal – whether that be a sporting event, or anything that we are working towards…

We can remember why we’re putting in the work, and sometimes it can be useful to look back and see how far we’ve come – to notice our improvement.

But the most important thing is that we turn up, and keep practicing, and then we will find the value in the practice as time unfolds…

This is why a goal can be very useful, because in setting a very high goal, it can be wonderful to stretch and discover we have unrealised skills, we might discover latent talents and inner strengths that we did not know we had…

Which had we not set the goal we would never have found.

This is why following things that excite us, or interest us, can be wonderful for our growth – to ‘find out’ through the practises…

So if our body is stiff and we want to be able to do more with it, if we want to create a supple body… It is simply practicing stretching the body and feeling it and clearing it and moving it… Doing this day after day after day and in the direction that truly supports our own unique body and its letting go, it’s opening…

And if it is seeking to learn a new language, it is just the same – turning up every day – doing a bit, doing a bit and doing a bit more and trusting that in the times where nothing much seems to be happening, this can be the time when a lot is happening…

It is often in those patches where we must just keep going…

And rest is vital too… Rest is integral to any practice.

Practicing is a vital part of life on earth, practicing anything, practicing, meditation, practicing, singing, practicing speaking in public…

In my case practicing Spanish – and practicing running.

But all of these things, also improve in the times of rest, when we let go and simply rest with nothing happening at all. Nothing attaching to anything that we feel we ‘need to do’.

It is always remembering that being still is the ultimate place to practise living from  – being silent – dropping between the thoughts to the place of complete silence…

The practice of stillness and silence is the most vital part of any practice.

If we practice from this place of silence, then our expression is limitless, and there is no attachment to an outcome.

And then who knows what is possible.