"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! The Musings of a Long-time Student of Meditation

Sunday, March 3, 2019

A Few Thoughts About Thought

"One can appreciate and celebrate each moment -- there is nothing more sacred.
There is nothing more vast and absolute.  In fact, there is nothing more."
-- Pema Chödron, 
Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

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


A Friend's Window, Rowe, MA
It snowed again this week.  Twice.  There are mountains of snow at the edges of parking lots all over town.  And the National Weather Service is predicting another 4"- 8" tonight.   

Some of my friends and relations have been complaining about the latest forecast for a couple of days.  They seem to be taking it quite personally.

And so it goes.  

The thinking mind, conditioned as it is, spins on to judge, to compare, to exaggerate, to speculate, creating all sorts of storylines about a possible future event.  It can and will do that as a matter of habit.  All too often, it's much ado about nothing.  All the fretting and complaining is just another snow job.  Like a good con man, these thoughts create an alternative reality -- and steal from you the richness of the present moment.

Here and Now

When I stop typing, take a full breath, and gaze through the window at the sunlight strewing diamonds across the snow, when I open to the melody of the neighborhood cardinal's morning song and the sound of traffic emerging, cresting, and disappearing like an ocean surf along High Street, everything shifts.  The world immediately expands.  Freed from the fetters of thought, each moment becomes vast and wondrous.

It happens every time I pause and stop typing.  (You could, perhaps, pause here for a moment, take a deep breath or two, and gaze out the window or around the room right now before clicking  READ MORE.)

Now, after pausing again for a few moments,  (did you actually pause and take a few conscious breaths?), thoughts work their way into my fingers, and you and I continue. (Did you? Pester. Pester. LOL)

A Few Thoughts about Thought

I'm not saying that thinking is bad.  In fact, the part of our being that generates thoughts is itself an absolute wonder.  Although thoughts can ensnare us incessantly in a web of distraction and distort reality in a deep and fundamental way, thoughts are also capable of being extremely helpful and useful.  They can serve to connect us to one another.  They can create word pictures that can improve the quality of our lives in substantial and practical ways. 

Although the thinking mind can catapult us into endless dramas about yesterday and tomorrow, it is also capable of poetic brilliance, expressing insight and inspiration that helps bring us to the wonder of the Present Moment.  Although it's clear to me that we meet Truth directly through a sensibility beyond words, the thinking mind in itself isn't the devil.  Like anything else, it simply is.  Thoughts can help pave the way to hell -- or grease the skids to heaven.

One of the major merits of Mindfulness Practice is that we are able to expand our awareness to embrace thought in the arms of a clearer, kinder, and more comprehensive quality of consciousness.  The process of Sitting Still and merely noticing that we are thinking, making the mental note "thinking" with as much grace and gentleness as we can muster before returning our attention to our breathing, (and/or our bodily sensations, our other senses, or other meditation object), cultivates Presence.  We are less likely to be "lost in thought." 


With Practice, the quality of our own experience shifts.  Rather than dominating our awareness and becoming a sovereign soloist in the unique hymn of our own experience, the thinking mind returns to its proper place as a member of the choir.  

As we come to present moment with all our senses engaged,  feeling the dancing sensations of our breath and body, hearing the sounds play across the ever present silence, eyes attuned to the symphony of colors around us, hearts open to the entire universe of human feeling, the Present Moment emerges as the Miracle that it is.

Our thoughts can sing in harmony with this -- or not.  In the all embracing heart of the present moment, even dissonance isn't necessarily a bad thing. It simply is.  With Practice we can celebrate and appreciate it as well.

At least, that's what I'm thinking at the moment!

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