‘Oceans Within’ (Preface to my book)

Here is a sneak preview to the preface of my next meditation book: ‘Oceans Within: A Gentle Guide to Mindfulness Meditation’ (Volume III of my Gentle Guides). The book is due to be published in Summer 2024, by Mud Pie Books.

Preface

For many years, over a quarter of a century in fact, I meditated daily – but always with a sneaking suspicion. Was I doing it properly? Often I was lost in thought, my mind snatched away by worries or plans, or sunk inside memories and dreams. Really, I was not so much aware as ‘elsewhere’. Was I doing something wrong? Was I ‘failing’ in some way? When I look back now, a couple of decades on, I’m surprised I kept going.

I am glad I did because it led me somewhere new. In the end, I worked out how to meditate without the invisible stress of getting it ‘right’, or even the tarnished hope of making progress. I found the joy of meditating stress-free, liberated from doubt, self-judgement and criticism. Stress-free meditation comes with gentleness and a touch of infinite kindness. Its benefits pervade your whole life. And even if individual meditations leave you baffled, still, you never fail.

Most of us meditate with a hope, a wish for something more. Yet this can be double-edged. Goals motivate us, it’s true, but then they can also turn sour. Nagged by a slew of empty promises, and discouraged by disappointment and despair, we soon question: Is it worth the effort? And eventually, Why bother? My mission here is to proclaim the opposite. There is a way to meditate which is easy and enjoyable, and which leads (no surprises) to ease and enjoyment. Amid the tangled pathways and muddy byways of meditation, we re-invent its glorious simplicity. We tackle the belief that we can’t, in meditation and in life.

This volume* starts with that bugbear of busy meditators: sleepy feelings. It is true that dozing through our meditation may feel like a waste of time, but, carried on Waves of Sleep (Chapter 1), we drift into drowsiness with mindful awareness and discover how useful sleepiness can be. Approached mindfully, it brings zest to our day and helps us sleep at night. Next, in Seas of Wisdom (Chapter 2), we cast a net into the Ocean of Being and fish for insights. Here, even a minor shrimping expedition, idling among the craggy rock-pools of our mind, is well worthwhile. For when we understand ourself in meditation, we understand ourself in life. Finally, in Oceans of Peace (Chapter 3), we gaze at the ultimate horizon. Seeing peace as a process, we watch its flow. And in that flow, we find the peace we seek. As we care for our minutes, our days take care of themselves.

I have a friend who lives by the Atlantic coast. He walks daily on the Irish shores, his dog beside him. The dog is a blue-merle collie, who streams through the foaming breakers like sea-mist. Simon, meanwhile, combs the beach for pebbles. He finds them too: stones with fantastic shapes and shadings, marvellously patterned, etched with sea-runes. Palm-smooth pebbles pave his way as if by secret assignation, each one a rocky anthem to perfection. When I walk with him, I pick up stones that are nice, but mostly grey. For me – nothing special. No marvels from the ocean bed. I sigh for Simon’s enviable expertise in stone-spotting. I grumble, ‘You have all the luck!’. But then, he hunts daily. And that’s the thing. His ocean-lore has grown in time. Just as his collie dog learned to dance with the waves, so Simon has learned to see.

Meditation is just the same. The more you practise, the more you see. You comb the shores of your inner being, and treasures waft up from the depths. Fragments of freedom float by. You catch stray gestures from moments that pass, pebble-painted with runes. There is always a way to meditate. All you need is to find it. In the end, we mostly teach ourselves. For myself, to ‘get my eye in’ I turn my meditation over in my mind, exploring its ambles and gambols, its tumbling textures. Afterwards, I may see more than I did at the time. Sometimes, this turns into words, and the words into poems, like the ones I share here. As I write, I soak a little longer in the tides and currents of my ocean being.

This is something we can all do: to explore and express what comes in the wake of our meditation, to swim and swirl within our ocean reefs. For here are sea-treasures. Our beings are vast and unfathomable. They hold more than we can ever know. Looking below the surface, whether ruffled or smooth, we encounter the ocean within.

More about Meditation

What is meditation? People describe it in different ways. For me, it is a practice of ‘being’. This balances out the hectic ‘doing’ which often consumes us. This means if you find it hard to meditate, it may be because you think you should be ‘doing’ something different…
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My Mindful Journey

My mindful journey probably began with my beloved grandma. It is her pictures that illustrate my website (gallery). She painted them all in her retirement, doing her Fine Art degree in her 80s, and painting well into her 90s. She inspires me to remember, “it is never too late to learn.” Read more

More about Mindfulness

Mindfulness counters anxiety by speaking directly to body and emotions. It could as well be called ‘heartfulness’. Becoming aware through every aspect of your being– body, feelings, thoughts and meaning – you grow more centred and grounded, able to approach life with renewed positivity and vigour. Read more