Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is the only moment.”
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 Buddhist Temple of Chicago -- 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 2,500 years. In these teachings, the development of a fuller awareness of our bodies is seen as a means of cultivating a calmer and clearer sense of the entire realm of our own experience.
Beginning with focusing our attention on the process of breathing, attention can be directed in a number of ways to more fully experience our bodies. As Mindfulness Practice deepens and we become more fully present to what we are experiencing on deeper and subtler levels, REALITY asserts itself.
At a certain point, 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 always breathing, and our bodies and our sensory apparatus are operating to generate a whole realm of experiences, most of this 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.
Fueled by emotional energies, subconscious beliefs, and conditioned filters that we are largely 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.
Reverend Kubose, most definitely, was not sleepwalking that day. He was awake to the present moment, to the majesty of Life Itself.
The Theory and the Practice
In a Mindfulness Circle last week, I found myself mentioning that it may be helpful to create a specific practice intention for the day when you awake in the morning. In the evening, reflect on how that intention influenced -- or didn't influence -- your day as you prepare for sleep.
I even listened to my own advice.
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. Our "gut feeling" may often be more accurate than an exhaustive and exhausting pro's and con's analysis.
That being the case, my belly and feet decided to stay with this intention for a while. 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. The door then opened into the gleaming grandeur of the Present Moment.
It just takes Practice.