"Mindfulness Practice isn't just about escaping to some magical inner realm devoid of life's challenges. The Practice is about calming your mind and opening your heart enough to engage Life directly, to be more fully Present in a kind, clear, and helpful way."

Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call! Musings on Life and Practice by a Long-time Student of Meditation.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Rest is Easy

"So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it 
God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. 
-- Genesis 2:3

“Everyday we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: 
a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child - our own two eyes. 
All is a miracle.”
― Thích Nhat Hanh

Fall arrived on Sunday. 

It was three days ahead of schedule – if you’re paying attention to the conceptual structures and devices we humanoids create in our attempt to divide the seamless flow of reality into discrete and identifiable chunks of somethingness. 

Sunday, I wasn’t so inclined.
 

It was one of those days when any sort of box or label seemed dreadfully inadequate. Even words like Awesome and Astonishing and Sacred and Miraculous seemed way too tame. They paled in comparison to the Reality that gleamed outside the window.  There, a brilliant sun and crystalline blue sky soared over trees that danced and swayed wildly to the free-form music of a crisp northwest breeze.

As I sat for the first period of meditation at my bedroom altar, that same breeze whispered through the open window, “come out here.” When the bell rang (I time my sessions with an excellent laptop program), I donned long pants and a sweatshirt for the first time in ages, rolled up a makeshift zabuton, a blanket, and my zafu, and headed down to spend most of this week’s Day of Mindfulness outside. 


There, it once again became obvious: You don't have to die to go to Heaven!

Resting in Peace

If you've been following these meandering missives on mindfulness, you'll know that one of my Practice commitments for Fall Ango this year is to spend one day a week in Silence.  (See "'Tis the Season"and "Promises Promises"). Unplugged from the Matrix and it's various devices (even the printed word), from daybreak until the time I crawl away to sleep, the entire day is dedicated to the cultivation of Mindfulness.

I didn't invent this idea, of course.  
(READ MORE)
Thich Nhat Hanh
I’m deeply grateful to Zen Teacher Thich Nhat Hanh for his teachings on the Practice of a Day of Mindfulness. 

Echoing the notion of the Sabbath in the Judeo-Christian tradition, Thay has long recommended the importance of retreating regularly from the busyness of everyday life to focus on one's spiritual practice.  Although he and his disciples commonly share a Day of Mindfulness with others at Plum Village and other dharma centers, he also suggests that folks can do it themselves, either individually, with a friend, a partner, or a small group.  

I stumbled into a commitment to do this last February and continued for 18 weeks before the busyness of summer's family outings and other weekend activities caused me to let go of it as a weekly practice.  

When September approached, I was more than ready to again jump off the merry-go-round of "life as we know it" here in 21st century America.  I've found that the one day leap into Peace and Quiet makes the rest of the Grand Carnival one hell of a lot easier -- and a whole lot more fun. 

Many folks have found that to be the case (although, possibly, they may express it a bit less "colorfully").  Spending periods of formal Sitting, Walking, and Eating Meditation for an entire day can be transformative.  Doing this Practice on a regular basis can be life-changing.

Although I prefer letting the internal chatter of "monkey mind" to come to rest through complete silence when I practice a Day of Mindfulness alone (I don't even dangle a book in front of my eyes to engage "thinking mind"), other practitioners include listening to a taped dharma talk or reading a passage from a spiritual book as part of the day's spiritual focus.  Folks who practice a Day of Mindfulness with others may also include some time in a discussion of the Teachings as they do at Plum Village.  

Though the exact form may vary, the bottom line is clear: Through leaving the busyness and noisiness of "conventional reality", through taking the time to pay attention to our body, our breath, and our surroundings in the stillness of each Present Moment for an entire day,  we have a special opportunity to come to rest in a calmer, clearer, kinder quality of consciousness.  Although, there may be some periods of restlessness and angst that emerge as we "decompress",  with Practice, these too will dissolve in the embrace of Mindfulness. 

Give it a Rest, Buddhy!

Over the years I've participated in numerous meditation retreats and zen sesshins (ranging from a weekend to thirty days).  At one time I even plunged into the quiet cauldron of a Zen monastery as a resident for six months.  There is no doubt that these periods of intensive practice have enriched my life immensely and reinforced the continuation of a daily meditation practice.

Yet at this stage of the journey, in the midst of a life that can get quite busy at times, I don't find myself yearning for another "long term" retreat.*  The sense of Gracious Spaciousness that has emerged as I've returned to the Practice of a Day of Mindfulness each week seems to be enough.  More and more it permeates the rest of the week as a sense of ease, even in the midst of what used to be quite stressful activity.    All it has taken is the commitment to actually do it each week.

The rest is easy. 

* If you do find yourself with a curiosity or a yearning for the experience of a Meditation Retreat, definitely go for it!  There are significant openings and deepenings in Practice that can and do occur.


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