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Mindsprings TV: “Sit the Downs”

It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve finally combined my broadcasting skills with Mindsprings.

Sit the downs: A 70 mile long snake of British chalky downland

As part of the Newhaven festival I mentioned in my last post, I also ran a repeat of my “Sit the Downs” session from last year.

Twenty of us met on a very bright Summer’s morning last Saturday. Set off from Southease train station and headed up the hill to the top of the South Downs above Newhaven.

For those of you not lucky enough to know them, the Downs are a 70-mile long snake of British chalky downland that run from Winchester in Hampshire to the west to Eastbourne in the East. And I have spent the most part of my life living on or near them. 

The idea behind the event was to use meditation as a way of connecting more deeply with the landscape we live in. So often we admire and occasionally walk across our countryside. But the art of actually connecting to what is there mostly eludes us.

Lost in a static storm of thoughts and thinking

Generally, when we’re walking our dogs or strolling with friends on the Downs, or the Pennines, in the Alps or the Appalachians, we are lost. Lost in a static storm of thoughts and thinking. This is not a judgement call, it’s the human lot. But there are ways of cutting through it.. 

The tantric practices of Tibet focus a lot on the sacredness of the natural world. They see trees and mountains, lakes and rivers as living presences that ignite our sense of vastness and lead us out of the claustrophobia of the me-me-me mind. And sitting still on top of a hill is a simple way of letting that ignition happen. 

Of course, it’s not simple. We have many decades of habitual thinking and sludge in our minds. This blocks out the access ways into the landscape like a river gets blocked up by a dam of old trees and rotting vegetation. 

The energy of the landscape enters into our consciousness directly

So the somatic practices that I am such a fan of, offer a way to puncture through that dam. They allow the energy and wisdom of the landscape to enter into our consciousness directly. And this is not achieved by more thinking. We think enough already. But by some vigorous breathing that somehow punches a hole through the barriers and allows us to connect down into the chalk, or granite, or sandstone below us.

These natural formations have been sitting here for millions of years, calmly taking in the vast display of reality around them. We need to tap into some of that vast, steady awareness. We feel a potent antidote to the blatant insanity of our usual thinking minds. Mulling over the same things, over and over. Never satisfied. Often paranoid. The sanity of hills and rock is, at the very least, a tonic and, at the best, a gateway into a vast, unimaginable world of freedom from stress.

How to use the video

Mindsprings TV is a mix of me talking about subjects and also teaching meditation directly. It’s often difficult to meditate in front of the TV so I suggest you also download the audio file of the guided meditation section to listen to while you are out on a walk or in the landscape of your choice.

You can watch the whole video to get an idea of what the practice entails. But ultimately, I hope these videos will be springboards into using the guided practices to ignite your meditation wherever you are.

Please do get in touch if you have any questions or queries or feedback about what we broadcast!

Click here to sign up for Alistair’s newsletter. Find out more about The Mindsprings School. A series of courses created by Alistair to help you live a happier life.

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