By Keith Smith, facilitator from Wake Up Edinburgh
Mindfulness days provide me with a wonderful opportunity to come together with others in mindful community and touch the practice deeply – to dedicate myself fully to the present moment over a longer period of time and reveal the deeper peace and suffering underpinning my everyday mind. So, after spending a year in Plum Village helping with the Happy Farm organic gardening project in Upper Hamlet, it was to my delight to hear on my return that my good friend and the Wake Up Edinburgh facilitator, Gustaf Rydevik, wanted to organise a mindfulness day for the Wake Up community in Edinburgh.
We quickly came together to make a plan over a mindful cup of tea in a vegetarian cafe/ restaurant in the historic city centre. We quickly decided that the best way forward was to make use of our individual strengths whilst also making sure to maintain regular contact and ask for suggestions and input when important decisions were being made. Gustaf was best suited to organising the space and the day and making sure it progressed smoothly, whereas my own energy was put towards outreach, making flyers and posting them in suitable places and contacting other meditation groups in Edinburgh as well as to meet with Wake Up Glasgow, just an hour west of us, to spread the word there. It was a joy for me to do this work and helped with my practice at that time of contemplating the meaning of non-action and looking at my expectations and fears.
“…my own energy was put towards outreach, making flyers and posting them in suitable places and contacting other meditation groups in Edinburgh as well as to meet with Wake Up Glasgow, just an hour west of us, to spread the word there”
We were kindly offered the cushions and mats from the Edinburgh Wild Geese Sangha, the core Community of Interbeing in Edinburgh, and we decided to hold the event in spiritual centre in a quiet part of town near the botanic gardens as this would provide the right setting for such a special event. The flyers made use of Thich Nhat Hanh’s New Year practice phrase “New Year, New Me” and I used a fresh and simple black and white design without too much wording. The best places to post flyers were in vegetarian/ alternative cafes and in health food shops as these places all seem to have a noticeboard full of yoga, meditation and various other MBS events. We also put flyers in the Edinburgh University buildings and particularly in the Chaplaincy, which is a popular space for students interested in spirituality and self improvement. I always asked the staff before putting flyers, out of politeness and respect. We didn’t do any flyering on the street as it didn’t seem appropriate or necessary to us. The plan for the day was as follows:
13.30- Guided sitting meditation,
14.45- Walking meditation,
15.15- Fruit eating meditation followed by tea, snacks and socialising,
15.45- Dharma sharing,
16.45- Deep relaxation,
When the event day came round, the sun shone brightly through the full wall window panes in the room, the eternal peace reflecting on my busy body. The morning was a bit hectic as I had to take the cushions and mats from the other side of town and arrange them in the space. Perhaps the one thing that would have settled me better was to wake up earlier and meditate for a little while. As it was, there wasn’t much peace for me in the lead up to what was, after all, a peaceful event, but that all changed when people began to arrive and I could just sit at the door inviting people in as Gustaf held the space upstairs ready for the introduction. We had some worries that people wouldn’t come because it was too far away or we hadn’t advertised it enough, but as it got closer and closer to the starting time it became clear that we would be pushed for space to fit everyone in!
“Close to 25 people attended the event and we had to improvise with blankets for cushions. People fitted in comfortably enough and the day ran smoothly and joyfully.”
Close to 25 people attended the event and we had to improvise with blankets for cushions. People fitted in comfortably enough and the day ran smoothly and joyfully. The guided meditation seemed at first hindered by a loud conversation happening just outside, but letting go of notions of peace and quiet, the conversation eventually drifted off and aided in revealing the beauty of the following silence. Walking meditation turned into a slow walking meditation as the garden was only just able to fit us all in. We completed a full circle and gave the fresh air and bird song our full attention. The socialising provided a nice space for people to connect informally, beginning or sustaining friendships. After this we had Dharma sharing where people were allowed space to speak from their heart, sharing joys and pains of life, and we rounded off the day with a beautiful deep relaxation led by our friend and Wake Up member Nicole on the theme of a water drop on it’s journey from the river to the ocean, to the sky, to the ground, through the Earth and back to the river.
The day gave Wake Up Edinburgh a boost of confidence and kick started a new initiative to do a weekly mindfulness session in a free space offered to us in a great cafe run by a kind and generous Tibetan woman. We are also keen to do more Mindfulness Days with the aim to hold one every month. I hope this will inspire and encourage others wishing to run similar events. It is a very rich and nourishing experience.
Wake Up Edinburgh meets every Monday evening at the Himalaya Centre. To stay updated, you can join their Facebook group.