What Are You Really Seeking?

Feb 12 2018

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Welcome to Gaia house

Hahhhhhhhhh! Fresh back from a Wholehearted Living retreat, led by the sumptuous Leela Sarti, a Swedish wonder-being who clearly lives her message, relishing each moment right to it’s edges and beyond. 

I am soothed and revitalised by 4 days sitting in silence in the exquisite Devonshire countryside with upwards of 50 other brave soul adventurers, sending our attention down, down, down into the ground whilst incrementally opening our hearts wider and wider and wider, contained by Leela’s gentle, yet direct guidance and the nurturing holding of the retreat centre. 

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Meditation Hall, Gaia House

In one of her Dharma talks, Leela spoke about our love of the comfort zone, she acknowledged that meditation retreats are hard work, even though all we’re doing all day is sitting down, walking slowly, standing still, eating or resting, we’re showing up to meet ourselves in every moment of every day. Ordinarily, when things feel challenging, we find ourselves seeking “rest from reality” by regularly slipping down dark alleys of mindless distraction or pleasure seeking, or filling up our time with compulsive procrastination. On meditation retreat, all of your usual life-avoidance strategies are surrendered at the door; there are no phones or computers or tellies or cake or cheese, just the schedule. 

Ahhh the simple, solid schedule! My stable friend for the last 15 years of meditation retreats. The schedule is constant, from 6 in the morning until 9.30 at night, every 45 minutes, a bell rings and you move towards the next “activity.” With a twinkle in her eye, Leela asked us, since being on retreat, how many of us had developed a tea fixation? In search of a new comfort zone, retreatants often make do with “a nice cup of tea” in place of their usual habits. We do this, we all do this, seeking out pleasure to make ourselves feel better, I know I do! My current favourite pleasure hot-spots are: facebook and coffee what are yours? 

Meditation retreat shines a light on your habitual / compulsive pleasure-seeking behaviour, whilst also helping you to cultivate patience and kindness towards yourself. This combination allows you to dig beneath the surface of pleasure-seeking behaviours and ask yourself “What am I really seeking?” 

"So what am I really seeking, I hear you ask?" It’s been clear for some time that when I open up my facebook account, I am actually seeking connection and yet I know that this is not it!!! Because I know deep in my bones that true connection involves vulnerability. Facebook communication is the antithesis of vulnerability; in profile pics, people present the “best” versions of themselves and in the comments, often our worst selves emerge. It’s easy to fabricate a perfection myth, or hide in the shadows and hurl scorn and criticism at others, but it takes guts to be seen as we are, vulnerable, imperfect and real. Facebook offers an easy alternative to connection, where we don’t have to really take risks; it’s like eating a bowl of sugar when what we actually need is some wholesome vegetable soup. From now on, I choose soup!  

Now lets look at coffee. What am I really seeking I hear you ask? Stimulation, the buzz, getting more stuff done, faster, getting slightly off my tits, into the manic space that used to be my normal. I stopped taking drugs a long time ago, because I found they didn’t mix so well with wanting to stay alive. My drug binges were mostly hilarious adventures into crazier and crazier realms of human thought and behaviour, but my comedowns were immense black holes of despair that would go on for weeks. I wasn’t able to bounce back like other people seemed to be. But I loved the crazy space, so I kept going back in. I guess drinking coffee is a sentimental nod to a younger, rebellious version of me. It does me no good though! I get terrible coffee comedowns and a soul-screaming hunger for MORE. So what can I do instead? Give the crazy teenager inside me space to play! Without stimulation, without the after-effects, without the comedown, just give her space to play!

I wholeheartedly recommend doing this inquiry for yourself. Gently explore; what are your favourite pleasure-seeking behaviours, search beneath the surface to find out what are you really seeking? I hope you find some insight and wisdom.

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Loving Kindness Stones, Gaia House

If, strangely, through doing this exercise, you find that what you really need is more play, conveniently I begin running a series of 4 Mindful Play Sessions tomorrow! I’ll be offering a sober mindful play space for grown-ups to reconnect with their playful selves and other playful grown-ups. 

I am so excited to not only be running the sessions, but also getting to spend the next 8 weeks writing along-side the sessions. I’m hoping to synthesise all the theory, practice and personal stories that are inside me into some sort of book that will be useful for other people. Watch this space!

For more info about Mindful Play click here.

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