It’s the Newhaven Arts festival at the moment in my beloved Newhaven. And the wonderful organiser Rhoda, who is the galvanic force that propels most things round here, asked me to repeat my “Sit the Downs” meditation walk up on the chalky South Downs. I did it last year on a rather blustery summer morning on the Newhaven Cliff but this year I’m actually taking people up the Downs to sit on all that ancient chalk and connect down into the Earth.
But Rhoda also asked me to trial a “Sit the Bay” with the members of the Newhaven Gig Rowing Club which is a flourishing community project with lots of members organised by my friend Nikki, another Newhaven dynamo.
So at 5.30am this morning, with Ben the Dog safely snoozing in the car, eight rowers, a cox and myself set out up the harbour. The sun was rising across Seaford Head to the east and the water was magical.
I didn’t get to row this time (though I’ve promised to join) but was transported beyond the lighthouse like some Tudor dignatory being paddled up the Thames. And then we sat bobbing in the dawn light and meditated.
More and more, I’m working with the body as the starting point of all my practice. And sitting on the water, gently torqued this way and that by the gentle movements of the sea, the body was very present.
We used the sounds of the morning to settle our awareness. Some deep belly breathing to expel all the sludgy thoughts of the day and opened our awareness out. First down into fathom-deep water below us. Then out into the dome of the morning sky. And finally, out to the horizon.
Using Trungpa Rinpoche’s core practice of following the breath out to the very end of the exhalation. And then following it beyond even that. As if you’d got to the edge of the world and then jumped into the space beyond. It was so gorgeous out in the Bay. Ringed around by the horizon.
I said: we tend to live such claustrophobic lives, trapped in our head. To be able to connect to that endless space we live in is such a life saver. And with practice we can remember it even when we’re not sitting on a boat, in silence, on a summer’s morning.