12 September 2014

Everything Changes/Goodbye Summer

Hey, where did the summer go? Seriously. I painted this before heading to Turkey for a week of swims in the Med (which I am deeply grateful for, for sure). The holiday ended, in my case, in a stinking summer cold which meant I was indoors for 10 days watching the sunlight dancing in our London garden. 

A few more weeks of answering emails and next thing I know is I'm packing for a ten day vipassana meditation sit in Herefordshire. Reluctantly. I wanted to bail and seriously considered a last minute cancellation. 

So much time away. So many things to take care of, so much to enjoy and do as an illustrator, as a social media trainer, as a wife and friend. So much on in London.

I got on the train though. And, by the end of the ten days, I was super glad that I did.

I wish I could say it was a time of thoughts landing as softly as autumn leaves on the forest floor, that ten day sit. In the interests of full disclosure though, my mind was more like a bucking filly, clanging into every thought, kicking and rearing at every unpleasant sensation for most of the time. Nothing special about that, I guess.

So much wildness in the mind is revealed when all else is stilled, when life is lived with an inwards focus, sitting in meditation for many, many hours a day as is the programme on mediation courses in the tradition of U Ba Khin and SN Goenka. Unpleasant sensations abound, to put it mildly.

But there are breaks, respite is possible. The woods are my place to soften focus, to loosen my grip a bit. As I walk in the heightened state of sensory awareness that slowly arises on about day 3 or so, I find there is something new to see each time.

Small things: the moss among tree roots, tiny scratch marks around mouse holes in the ground, a pale spider, backlit in the early morning sun, waiting, just waiting in absolute spider trust for the next sustaining moment to unfold.

Tiny, slow changes also, things I'd usually miss completely: over the ten days, small patches of yellowing leaves turn here and there, the beginning of autumn. Apples ripening.

Time to let go of the summer, smilingly, as our meditation teacher, Goenkaji, would say.

Of course, there are also wonderful moments: long, deep, spontaneous in-breaths, the gentle blessing of Hereford rain on the roof of the meditation hall. Space between interior conversations expanding, softly. The capacity for healing opening up, compassion and joy arising as thoughts began to land more gently. 

Thoughts that gradually lose their importance and sense of permanence, no more and no less worth clinging to than the yellowing leaves floating onto the woodland floor. Everything changes, all in a flux, all in a flow (in Goenkaji's words).

More information on 10 day Vipassana sits in Herefordshire and worldwide is here - do feel free to contact me if you're at all curious to know more. It's the best gift you can possibly think of giving to yourself all year. Of that I am sure.


  1. Thanks for your lovely image and words... truly admire your ability to do this presence for ten days at a time... and all the small things speak to me x

  2. Gorgeous illustration and gorgeous photos and inspiring words that encourage me as i prepare to attend my 2nd Goenka Vipassana retreat this coming Tuesday......

  3. Thanks Maggie and Rory.
    Rory... enjoy never seems quite the right word, but have a good sit.