"Mindfulness Practice isn't just about escaping to some magical inner realm devoid of life's challenges. The Practice is about progressively opening your heart and calming your mind 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.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Just One Day

"In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion."
-- Albert Camus

“Every day and every hour, one should practice mindfulness. That's easy to say,
but to carry it out in practice is not."
-- Thich Nhat Hanh
from "A Day of Mindfulness", The Miracle of Mindfulness


Although a  daily mediation practice has been the foundation of my own spiritual journey for quite awhile now, I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in a number of solitary and group retreats over the course of the past several decades.  Engaged in today's noisy, fast-paced and increasingly stress-packed world, making the opportunity to relax into an extended period of Silent Practice can be deeply healing.  

It only makes sense.

Who we experience ourselves to be, how we think and feel about, how we even see, our world is largely a result of our conditioning.  Although many of us recognize, quite acutely, the existence of our so-called "bad habits", many of us haven't quite realized that, in actuality, our normal everyday way of being in the world is, itself,  just a "bad habit".  Encountering our lives through what Albert Einstein called an "optical delusion" of consciousness, we experience ourselves as isolated beings, fundamentally separate from the rest of the Universe.  Lost in our thoughts and feelings, all too rarely actually Present to the deeper dimension of life that exists in every moment, the noise in our heads and the noise in the world consumes our attention -- and we suffer.

All this is nothing more, and nothing less than, a habit.  We have spend years feeding that habit, creating and reinforcing the patterns that continue to operate consciously and subconsciously to dominate our awareness.  This habit then creates our day to day life as the struggle it appears to be.  And all the while, in the Still and Silent Space that lies deep within us and infinitely beyond us, is a Way of Being that is truly clear, calm, kind, compassionate and wise.  

Mindfulness Practice offers us the opportunity to see that for ourselves --and through what the Zen Buddhists call Ceaseless Practice -- create and increasingly maintain that quality of consciousness as our habitual way of being.  This is largely a matter of time on task, the discipline and effort of a regular meditation practice sustained through time.  Like going to the gym, it's a simple, though not easy,  matter of conditioning.
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A Day of Mindfulness
I had been meditating for a several years before I participated in my first full day of meditation.   Although I had experienced a number of qualitative shifts and openings before that, there were moments during the later part of that day, the second day of a weekend Zen sesshin, that made it self-evident that there was a potential to extend and deepen one's Practice through extended periods of silent practice.  It takes time to sloooow down and be still.  Like a glass of swirling muddy water, the agitated patterns of our conditioned mind-states cloud and distort the simple clarity of mind.  Over time things settle down.  

It only makes sense.

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh has encouraged his students to take one day a week to devote to mindfulness.  Although I did that during two three month periods of intensive practice last year, my current commitments perclude that at the moment.  Instead, I have extended the invitation to other practitioners of silent meditation to join me one Sunday a month to share Practice from 9 AM until 4 PM at Community Yoga and Wellness Center here in Western Massachusetts.  Last month ten of us participated for at least a half day of practice.  The fourth such day that I've offered in the past year, in each instance at least one person mentioned to me afterwards that "something had shifted".  I could see it in their eyes. There was at least a glimpse, maybe even a good sip,  of that clear glass of water that sparkles in the dawn sunlight of True Being. 

How cool is that?
 
So, if you're a "local" come on by this Sunday.  (For more information)  If not, I'd encourage you to connect up with others, or find way to create the space in your life to "do it yourself".  Please devote a full day of your life to the silent exploration of Mindfulness.  Turning off the devices and distractions, spend your day in sitting meditation, walking meditation, preparing food, eating, and washing the dishes mindfully.  Spend the day being Present to the unimaginable wonder that exists in the midst of the very ordinary. 

It only makes sense. 

(Thich Nhat Hanh devotes chapter three of his classic work, Miracle of Mindfulness, to his thoughts and ideas about creating a personal Day of Mindfulness.  It's available in many libraries, new and used through Amazon.com, etc.)

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