Category Archives: The Caravan

The Caravan: Awareness Without Thought (Part 2)

As we drove back to the caravan, I could sense the resistance in me. As best as I could, I gave attention to it without thought, without questioning what the resistance might mean. It was simply a time to experience it.

Resistance is not a bad thing. Sometimes it’s a sign that things are moving too quickly for us and we need to take a step back; sometimes it might mean that we are avoiding something that could be good for us. Other times resistance could be telling us that it is somehow best to not engage a situation or circumstance. Resistance is usually a fear response; but a fear of what: of life generally, of being somehow overwhelmed, making a wrong decision?

Back with my friends and their caravan, we sat down to talk about how the last week had gone and how I was feeling about my time in the caravan. I still did not have an answer to what the resistance might mean. It felt like a risk to be speaking about something I did not (as yet) have a clear answer for.

Often we don’t come to clear enough answers about questions on our own. Sometimes sitting with things by ourselves is not enough. When we start to talk to others about how we are feeling, then this is when things might start to clarify for us. This sense of clarification happens in the deep of us, a kind of coming together of sense and feeling to form an intuition in the heart: a discernment.

As I spoke, I discovered myself speaking in the past tense about being in the caravan. Upon this discovery, I began to feel a kind of relief. The resistance began to subside. We continued to talk. In time I came to a decision to leave. With this I felt some peace; and then I felt guilt, and shame.  

In coming to a decision, we can soon feel a variety of emotions and feelings. It can be a challenge to navigate a decision within ourselves while all this energy is moving around in us. We can start to question whether a decision is the right one or not. With this questioning can come doubt. In this instance it can be a good thing to say the mantra, especially if our practice is such that the mantra has become grounded enough in the heart. Here, the mantra is like a sinker on a fishing line: it can drop attention back into the heart, the place where our original intuition was experienced, before thought and emotion crowded this intuition out.

I am now living back in Sydney, back in the house I lived in for a couple of years prior to 2019. Upon arrival it felt like I had come home. There is a deep sense that it is good to be here before the challenge and change of moving to France takes place. The guilt and shame have fallen away.

We may not know enough about the fit of a decision until we act on it. Hopefully there has been enough discernment before the action. An important part of discernment is the art of not thinking; this might seem a strange thing to say, especially if we think all life decisions are problems to solve – some are not. It can seem counterintuitive to not think about something we are unsure of, and yet when it comes to decisions of the heart a time of thoughtlessness is wise. Meditation is the art of not thinking about a decision that can be a part of the process of coming to a decision. In time, and with others, we can use words to clarify what our hearts have said.


The Caravan: Awareness Without Thought (Part 1)

For the last couple of years or so, myself and some other members of The WCCM have been planning a move. Come the middle of April this year I should be arriving at Bonnevaux, the new international retreat centre for The WCCM. I will be there as part of the live-in community. In the meantime, I am living in transitional accommodation in an on-site caravan at a friends place in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales (west of Sydney, Australia).

Where I’m living is a wonderful place, full of trees and wildlife and a generous spirit. It is a place of peace that is giving me and many others a space of quiet and safety. Indeed, the spirit of the place has been stirring in me feelings that I might have not noticed or might have otherwise been tempted to ignore.

As accommodation goes the caravan is refreshingly basic: bed, a small swinging table, limited seating (thanks in no small part to my luggage), pump action tap with sink, two electric hotplates, some cupboard space, and a bar fridge. Volunteering for manual labor comes with the accommodation. This transitional accommodation is for two months.

After living in the caravan for around a week and a half, circumstances have found me back in Sydney this past week and in the house where I used to live. I am due back at the caravan this weekend, and I now find myself in something of a quandary: I am noticing resistance within me around returning. It is not about the caravan itself; more about my reaction to returning.

What am I do to with this resistance? Ignore it? Push it down beyond awareness? Just live with it? What might it be saying?

This occasion of resistance is a good time to practice what many are calling these days mindfulness; or perhaps we could call it the practice of becoming aware, without thought, of what I am feeling about heading back to the caravan.

How could this be done – to not think about what I am aware of? Isn’t thought and awareness the same thing? No. Thinking is largely a product of our self-consciousness, while awareness occurs in consciousness. What we repress ends up as unconscious.

Feelings are best felt rather than ignored, suppressed, and repressed. Feelings left unfelt in this way require quite a bit of energy to keep them ‘out of mind’. Over a lifetime, energy used in this way can cause exhaustion, anger, resentment, even grief and depression. Repression of feelings also contributes to the ageing and damaging of our bodies. So it’s important to grow in the practice of the regulation of our feelings, allowing them to rise and be felt. However, because we are well versed in repression, this can be a challenge to learn and continue to practice.

A healthy mind is all about being conscious. If we are too self-conscious (a common malady today), our thinking can crowd out our feelings, giving little space for us to simply feel. Anger may rise, for example, and what we could do is quickly start to analyse it: where is this from, why am I feeling this? The result of this is that we are no longer feeling or allowing space for feeling. Thinking can also be a part of suppression and repression; over-thinking contributes to feelings becoming unconscious and unfelt.

So, it follows then, that if we are to give more space to the feeling of feelings and so become more mindful, it would be good to practice the art of not thinking. Easily said than done.

Meditation is the practice of not thinking, or non-thinking. How does this happen? Via the giving and re-giving of attention to a mantra we, in efffect, give the energy invlolved in thought something else to do. Rather than thinking about tomorrow, last week, or today’s to-do list, we practice the art of allowing thinking to recede and quieten via attention on the mantra. What then happens, over time, is that space is freed to feel. Feelings can rise safely and not be subjected to the scruttiny of self-consciousness via thought. In time, too, because they are being safely felt, the intensity of our feelings subside. Another way of saying all this is to say that we are becoming conscious.

So now is the time for me to become aware of what I am feeling. It is important that I put any descriptive words aside and simply feel the feelings. Now is not the time to speculate. Now is the time to simply feel. After feeling words will come. This practice is a fruit of meditation.


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