"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, June 5, 2016

Body of Wisdom

 “Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. 
Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is the only moment.”
― Thích Nhat Hạnh, Being Peace

"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, 
who is in you, whom you have received from God?
― 1 Corinthians 6:19, The Bible,  New International Version

When I observed my first Zen teacher practice kinhin, the walking meditation of his tradition, I was dumbfounded. I hadn't seen anything like it before. There was a grace in his bearing, a Presence in his slow mindful steps that was awe-inspiring.  

It was obvious to me that Reverend Gyomay Kubose, in his 70's at the time, was connected to his body -- and to the smooth wooden floors of the Chicago Buddhist Temple -- in an entirely different way than I'd seen before.

The first of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, Mindfulness of Body, is a concept that stretches back to the earliest texts of Buddhism.  The Anapanasati and Maha Satipathana Suttas spell out the details of meditative techniques which have been widely taught for about 2500 years.  In these teachings, the development of a fuller awareness of our breathing and our bodies is seen as a means of cultivating a calmer and clearer sense of the entire realm of our own experience.  Then, as Mindfulness Practice deepens and we become fully present to what we are experiencing on deeper and subtler levels, REALITY asserts itself.

The Real Deal becomes self-evident.

Getting From There to Here


Conditioned as we are, most of us are "in our heads" most of the time.  Although we are obviously always breathing, and our bodies and our sensory apparatus are operating to generate a whole realm of experiences, most of that occurs without our full presence of mind.  Generally, conditioned as we are, the focus of our attention is primarily on the thoughts running through our head.

Often fueled by emotions that we are mostly unaware of, these thoughts dominate our awareness in a way that sweeps us along the stream of our own conditioned ego patterns most the time.  Mindfulness Practice, both on and off the meditation cushion,  offers us a means to  expand our range of awareness to include a universe of experience that we generally aren't aware of.  Without  Practice we are liable to "sleepwalk", only half-awake,  throughout our lives.
(READ MORE)
The Theory and the Practice

In this week's MMM Circle, I found myself mentioning that it may be helpful to create a specific practice intention for the day as you awake in the morning, then reflect on how that intention influenced -- or didn't influence -- your day as you prepared for sleep.

I even listened to my own advice.

Tuesday, remembering Reverend Kubose's unspoken teaching from years ago,  I chose to place more of my attention into my belly (the hara) and to be aware of my feet contacting the ground every time I moved from place to place during the day.  I can't say that I remembered to do that every time I walked during the course of the day, but when I did, it changed things.

Each time I got out of my head and "lowered my center of gravity", there was a shift.  With this shift, the entire range of sensory experience opened up.   As well as feeling my belly and my feet and the ground more distinctly as I walked down the street that day, the sky often got bluer, the crisp air more invigorating, and the soundscape more vibrant.

I love it when that happens.

Although some folks tend to proclaim the superiority of "mind over matter" it seems to me that they may have it backwards.  Our bodies are a lot wiser than we think. 

That being the case, my belly and feet decided to stay with this intention for awhile. In many magical moments throughout the week, the Pure Land of the Buddha, the Kingdom of Heaven didn't seem theoretical.  The Presence of the One Love was palpable.

In fact, coming to my senses moments ago, I again remembered.  I got out of my head and lowered my attention into my belly and feet as I came upstairs.  A dazzling reflection of the sun glistened in the door handle as I reached to open the door.  I then felt the cool smoothness of the knob as I twisted it. Then I opened the door into the gleaming grandeur of the Present Moment.

It just takes Practice.
 

1 comment:

Conveyance Doctor said...

Sometimes during the week, Lance, I practice Tai Chi walking. Usually for 100 strides or more. As you know from your Practice, focusing on breathe and step while continuing to experience the setting is not (mentally) easy. I agree with you that it is Bliss...when achieved (even if for a few strides). To use your phrase..."it just take Practice."