I’m back from Buddhafield festival. I had a really good time overall, although I left early and had to spend 8.5 hours travelling with the flu; including a 90 minute train where there were no seats. I sat on my suitcase in the corridor because I could not physically stand without support.
Feeling a bit better today but that experience is clouding the overall sense of how I found the festival. So I shall leave the actual review stuff to another day.
There are a couple of aspects I loved so much that I want to bring them back here though; to the real world:
Checking In and Out
Listening to my body – hunger and feeling
[Context: I was on the early morning shift at Buddhafield Café – arriving at 7am and leaving between 1:30 and 2pm]
Each morning, we grabbed some breakfast and headed into the café space; where we sat on carpet-covered crates and ate in a circle. Once our co-ordinator joined us and most people had arrived; we began Checking In.
The Check In
This is a process where you explain how you’re feeling, what you think you’d be best doing today and anything you want the group to know. Common comments were “tired but good” or “did a workshop last night which brought up some stuff for me; feeling a bit fragile, can I do washing up?”
– This process allows everyone a space to really feel how they’re feeling.
– It also tells other people to avoid you/subjects/give you hugs/be extra kind and so on. If a job needed doing and I couldn’t do it; I knew which people weren’t feeling tired or who was in a good mood to ask if they could do it. The awareness of others was a big part of how we got each shift smooth; despite any hiccups [the wind blowing out the grill fires, having no hot water and the gas bottles dying for example].
– I also felt I knew my colleagues much better on a personal level; which helped me to feel okay helping with other jobs. I know I may have thought 2that’s not my job; you do it” but knowing how people are and that we all have days where we pick up the extra bits; it was so helpful to have made the strong connections.
– we also had dharmashamin attend our check-in and check-outs to provide a little “bit of wisdom” or Buddhist thought – e.g. “notice when you’re feeling content or not”, “can we all share one thing we’re grateful for?”, “notice if there’s anything you want to give; such as a hug or do another person’s job without them asking”.
After our shift, we met again in a circle and began the process of checking out.
The Check Out
We finished our shift at 1pm and met in the Dome with our lunch to discuss how the shift went. We discussed how we each felt, how we each thought the shift had gone. Then once everyone had expressed feelings; our co-ordinator then talked through any practical things about the good/bad bits of the shift. We also took this time to reflect on Dhamrashamin’s suggestion for the day; saying if we’d remembered it and what we’d experienced.
Not only did this help me to separate work from non-work; it kept me grounded for that space in integrating a thought or awareness for a few hours a day. It was good to say goodbye to everyone at the end of the shift; unlike in a normal job where you may say bye to your one friend/close colleague.
This practise also made us aware of the different energies of the different roles.
After a hectic shift on the counter, the washing up people said their space had been quite relaxed; despite being just 3-4 metres form the counter while the cook said she’d made her curry pot almost a little shrine where she poured love into her stirring. Being aware of other roles are; which ones drain energy and which ones leave you feeling energetic; this again helps with the flow and knowing who to ask to do what how each person must be feeling during the shift.
All this greater awareness came from spending just a few minutes with each person at the beginning and end of the shift. And it meant we felt like a fellowship; cared for humans; not worker bees needing to be fast and earn a lot.
As we worked, anyone was free to ring the mindfulness bell which gave us a 5 second or 60 second gap to just notice how we were; to get back into our body and to perhaps call to mind Dharmashamin’s thought for the day. You could take as much time for it as you needed/wanted, but this depended on the job – half way through serving customers, you can perhaps only take 3-5 seconds; but that’s sometimes enough.
On Saturday, I attended a talk by Amarantho who said whenever he sees a church, he uses it as a cue to be aware, to come back to his practise. I think I could do this pubs or buses around Brighton.
Listening to the Body
He also spoke about going on retreat and having no schedule; which forced him to listen to his body to know when to eat; if he wanted to meditate, to read, etc. I began to get good at this while I was at the festival; I’d eat when I felt hunger as I could take as many free meals as I wanted from the café during the week. On evening I went to see a band who then said “this isn’t sitting down music, we want you up on your feet and going crazy” at a time when I was tired. I liked the music but didn’t feel it was dancey music. I took a good 5-10 minutes to debate with myself
“I feel tired. I want to sit.”
“You’re now the only one sitting. Others want to dance who can’t get in.”
“But I’m so tired. I hurt. Standing hurts.”
“Then let’s go”
“But the festival finishes now. This is my only chance to see them.”
“Well, decide because we hurt. We need to respect that. And standing for 6 hours tomorrow morning at the café to add onto anything we do tonight.”
“Okay, let’s go back.”
A couple of comments struck me form that dharma talk from Amarantho.
“Not one person in here isn’t pure, innocent. You have all your energy. You can always have your energy.”
“We just want our love received. As a baby, we are loved and our love is received.”
“Presence is just Pre-essence. Get out the way and be present”.
“Offer each other presents. Offer presence.”
“The Universe only blesses”.
And lastly, “Receiving yourself after taking a breath.”
This is the practise done when cued to midnfulness. Ground, get into your body and then see how you feel. Take a breath, maintain your energy and receive yourself.
I’ve not heard that phrase before but it struck me quite strongly. I can receive myself. Just as I am. Take a breath, and accept/receive myself.
While I was there, I wrote a diary. Not a diary on lined paper in sentences. Scribbles of feeling, thoughts, notations.
For example, one page says:
“Saturday. Feeling versus acting. Worked counter – money, complaints, refunds, choc bars, teas, water, muesli, fruit. “feel sad but can still smile & be friendly”. Fragile + feeling ill – eyes, head, stomach. Jacket, cous cous, roll. Phone charge. Nap! Shower. Naked man. Pancake!!! Ritual sparklers. “other languages say ‘I have sadness’ which doesn’t define their being” (e.g. Spanish). I owe Hannah £6.50. feel body need sleep + ;left music. I don’t have a kissing-cheek friend. Bellydance show. Began panic- got into rhythm.”
That’s enough for me to know what I did that day. At the café we were told to be mindful of how we feel, but that we had a choice to act as we wanted. Hannah and I were spoken to by a random naked man as we walked through one field; very odd/new experience for us both. I noticed a lot of friends just kiss each other on the cheek while giving hugs. I know what I did on shift, what I did after – music, bellydance show & the ritual. I have pancakes, jacket potato, cous cous and a bread roll. And so on.
I want to keep this documentation up if I can. I’ve not been good at it in the past; and it’s essentially what I tell Phil each evening so maybe that’s enough; now I’m back. We’ll have to see how it goes and how I feel about it.
I attended Introduction to Tribal Bellydance, Instinctual Body, and part of Creative Movement 1: Balancing Yin and Yang. I remember how much I love to dance and that I don’t do it much a University for fear for being too loud/people hearing. However, it used to be a really big part of my life, my practise and I want it back. So I hope I can reclaim that a little. I’m going to look at more formal classes and see if anything sparks my interest and until I find something, commit to dancing once a week for a minimum of ten minutes.
Wow, that was longer than I expected. I’ll be writing a couple more pieces about my experiences at Buddhafield, but those are the really important aspects I want to bring home in some form. I’m planning to add a checking-in process into my morning ritual, to listen and receive my body, to dance regularly and to document something in some way.