Mindfulness and Melting Ice Cubes
Posted on 17th August 2018 at 11:27
Dear all, below is a snippet from my next book for mindfulness teachers to be released later this year.
Setting the scene — practising mindfulness for the rest of your life
Melting Ice Cubes
When beginning a mindfulness course, a retreat or a series of workshops I like to set the scene for the journey of mindfulness for the students. Even if it is one to one work then I still offer this or something similar as a way of looking at what we are engaged in. Below is just one way to set the scene.
I often say that you will leave our mindfulness course with less than what you came with and in this world where you pay something and you get something in return, it often raises a few eyebrows, and let me tell you I like to see raised eyebrows, it means I have touched on something. I mean you will leave with less stress, less anxiety and less worry, less unhelpful ideas. This may be the first challenge which the students will face, but like it or not I am there to challenge my students, as kindly as I can.
The first week of our course is called the Jewel in the Ice, I blend this with the lovely image from Charlotte Joko Beck’s wonderful book, Nothing Special.
Imagine each human being is like a block of ice, an ice cube, with little legs and arms sticking out. This is the human being most of the time. This ice cube has in its centre a beautiful glittering shining jewel. This jewel represents the jewel of a life of joy, a life of contentment or less stress, whatever term does it for you.
But it is inside this block of ice, we don’t have access to it, though we know it exists, or we wouldn’t bother trying to do something about it.
The ice is created primarily out of fear, out of our rigid held beliefs such as, I need to be right, life has to go my way, life should not be painful, s/he should not do that, and so on.
We go about our life as this ice cube hoping that when we bump and slide into another person they will shatter before we do because we are scared of our own vulnerability. Ice cubes hurt, they have a hard time because they have sharp edges which are easily knocked and chipped.
Because we are frozen we have no water to drink so we are thirsty most of the time. Yet we don’t really know what we are thirsty for. We may soften a little at parties but the underlying tension remains and the softening is temporary.
So how do we gain access to the jewel at the centre of this block of ice? Well, of course we melt the ice. If you put ice in the sun it just melts. Mindfulness is like the sun. If we know how to bring the sun of mindfulness and shine it on our own ice cube-ness, it begins to melt. We soften a little, in the words of Charlotte Joko Beck we become mushy. So the journey of mindfulness is to become mushier and mushier. But of course if you leave an ice cube in the sun for long enough the melting wouldn't’t stop. The ice just continues to melt and in the end it become a puddle.
So in the months, years and decades of practice we move from being an ice cube to becoming a puddle. How is that for a vision of the future?
I love to see people’s faces at this point, it is the last thing they are expecting. They are fully expecting a conceptual explanation of mindfulness but they don’t get one. At least not immediately, that comes a little later.
But for me it speaks volumes as the image is so clear.
Back to the image of the ice. What melts the ice is our own ability to observe ourselves both in meditation and in daily life. Self observation is the sun which melts the ice. This self observation is made of honesty and curiosity.
What also melts the ice is to meet a puddle, to meet somebody who is mushier that we are. So hopefully as a teacher you will help to melt the ice cube-ness of your students.
Now as the melting gets underway we begin to sense the jewel at the centre of all this. We may begin to sense a little less anxiety, a little more ease in our life. We may notice we are less neurotic, and we worry a little less. This is the emerging of the jewel we spoke about earlier. We cannot gain access to this jewel without some melting taking place.
But also our practice helps us to see how we create the ice with our self-centred thinking.
So as teachers this is our work to help our students become more and more mushier as their practice continues.
Not about getting somewhere
However, it is not a journey without upset. The melting of the ice can bring both joy and tears, but both are part of the process of the melting of our deeply held emotions in the body.
One of the benefits in my experience of illustrating the journey in this way is that it shows there is progress with mindfulness, but it is not about getting somewhere, it is about shedding, about letting go of all that causes us to suffer.
I will go into more about this shedding and letting go in another blog but for now it is worth noting that this way of presenting mindfulness (and it is not the only way of course) can be encouraging to students. I always point out that each moment of honest observation of how we are, each moment of feeling and experiencing the body without the mental story-line is a moment of melting. We don’t have to try to melt the ice, it just happens whenever were are willing to come into the present moment and to experience ourselves as we are.
Then those small cracks, those little changes begin to appear in our lives and they create more encouragement to continue the journey, a journey which isn’t a journey to anywhere else, but where we have been all this time, but never noticed. In other words it is a journey of discovering ourselves and life as it really is, and has been like this all the time.
The forthcoming book will be punctuated with stories and metaphors for you to use in your teaching.
Stories are a beautiful and effective way of getting across a message. Please feel free to use this story and all other stories and metaphors throughout the book when published or from these blogs. You can adapt them to suit your audience or tell them like they are written.
Tagged as: ice cubes, melting, metaphors, compassion
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