In the two settings where I'm meditating with others often these days, I usually function in the role of Timekeeper--or "Jikido" as they called it at Zen Mountain Monastery. That was my final service role at the monastery before I launched off after six months, convinced that my path led elsewhere--although I had no clue where that might be.
As I explained Monday, my assignment as the Evening Jikido at ZMM involved trying not to trip over my robes as I tapped or banged or clacked or rang a collection of noisemakers in an attempt to make the appropriate number of appropriate sounds at the appropriate times to signal the various transitions of the evening service. These days it's much simpler. I strike the bell to start the period. I strike the bell at the agreed upon time to end the period. Piece of cake, right?
You would think that having the on-line meditation bell replace me last Monday would have made life even easier. Set the laptop, settle into Sitting...breathe....relax...hunker down and just meditate!
It all started off fine. Free at last!
After about maybe ten minutes, the urge to look at the clock emerged.
Then it emerged again.
And it emerged again--this time more strongly, coupled with a bit of fear and disquiet about how long the period seemed. Then I noticed bursts of restlessness, anxious thoughts about how long this was taking, wondering if I had blown it when I set the timer, etc. I literally had to exert a strong willpower not to look up--again and again. I could feel the impulses surging in the muscles in my neck. Images of looking up flashed through my mind. Big surprise? I was face to face with my own deep conditioning, a pattern I may never have really noticed except for that locked office door.
For over a year now, with both the Monday Morning Mindfuless and the #OMG! (#Occupy Meditation Group!) Sits, I've rung the bell and then peeked a number of times at either the clock on the wall at Community Yoga or the Greenfield's Savings Bank clock across the street, to zero in on the moment when I ring the bell to end the period. (On the Commons with #OMG! my task is a bit easier because the traffic signal whistles six times just shy of every three minutes. )
Now, here I was, no bell to strike, an electronic timer and chime humming at my side to free me from any responsibility to do anything but just Sit. And again and again, I would relax into that Gracious Spaciousness only have a burst of some sort of energy/thought emerge to look at the clock--or fret about the time. Yet, having Sat through an awfully lot since 1969, it was "no big deal". I was "on top of it"! I wasn't going to look up. I was Just Sitting.
Then, as I disappeared into a stream of thoughts (about something else, no less), I suddenly noticed I was STARING AT THE DAMN CLOCK! I had, indeed, looked up!
So much for any attachment to being some sort of Super Meditator. With a chuckle at my own reoccurring, yet lovable, utter Bozo-ness, I looked down and relaxed once again. Then, with a grin on my face-- and with no qualms whatsoever--I slowly turned to check that I had set the laptop timer correctly. All was good.
It rang--quite sonorously--about a minute later.
Jane used the term " an appreciative heart" during the check in that day and it had made a deep impression on me. I don't know that I had heard it put quite like that before. Yet it felt like a deep reminder of something quite special. I had intended on commenting on it (especially since the acryonym--AH--seemed so neat!) but the check-in flowed on in other directions.
I think that those words, Appreciative Heart, capture something essential about Practice. As I sense it, there is a certain quality of Heart/Mind that can and does emerges as one touches what some folks would call our True Nature. It is where we touch, gently and appreciatively, the Sacred Miracle that is our lives. To me, it is the Heart of Practice. (I personally believe we all experienced that open, clear, appreciative space as children.)
I thank Jane for bringing that term into the Circle. She--and the Practice--helped make the moment that I noticed that I had looked up at the clock one of warm appreciation for the amazingly wonderful trip this thing called Life is!
How cool is that!?
See you on Monday--if not before.