"Mindfulness and Meditation allow us to open our hearts, relax our bodies, and clear our minds enough to experience the vast, mysterious, sacred reality of life directly. With Practice we come to know for ourselves that eternity is available in each moment.

Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call:
Musings on Life and Practice
by a Longtime Student of Meditation

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Body of Wisdom

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day 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.”
Thich Nhat Hanh

“In Islam, and especially among the Sufi Orders, siyahat or 'errance' - the action or rhythm of walking - was used as a technique for dissolving the attachments of the world and allowing men to lose themselves in God.
-- Meister Eckhart

Reverend Gyomay Kubose (1905 - 2000)
When I observed my first Zen teacher dry mopping the wooden floor of the Zendo at the Buddhist Temple of Chicago years ago, I was awestruck.  
I hadn't seen anything like it before. 

There was a simple grace in his bearing, a Presence in his slow mindful steps that was astonishing. 

It was obvious to me that Reverend Gyomay Kubose, in his 70's at the time, was connected to his body, to the smooth wooden floors of the Buddhist Temple of Chicago -- and to Life itself -- in an entirely different way than I'd seen before.
Later that day, I was introduced to formal walking meditation practice on the opening evening of my first zen sesshin.  That weekend, I got a taste of a different way of being.

Embodied Practice
The first of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, Mindfulness of Body is a practice that stretches back to the earliest texts of Buddhism. The Anapanasati and Maha Satipathana Suttas spell out the details of this and other meditative techniques. They’ve been taught and practiced for about 2,500 years. 
Beginning with focusing the attention on the process of breathing, Mindfulness of Body can be practiced in a number of ways to more fully experience the play of sensations dancing through our bodies.  
This can change everything.
As Mindfulness Practice deepens, we become more fully present.  We can connect with ourselves, with others -- and with Life itself -- on deeper and subtler levels.  
There, we may find that Reality asserts itself.
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 array of experiences, most of this occurs without our full presence of mind.  Generally, conditioned as we are in the modern capitalism of Western civilization, 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 attention to include a universe of experience that we generally aren't aware of.  Without Practice we are liable to "sleepwalk,"only half-awake, through our lives. 

Reverend Kubose, most definitely, was not sleepwalking as he dry mopped the floor of the Zendo.  I could feel his Presence. He was awake to the present moment, connected with something very special, doing what needed to be done to prepare for Sesshin.  
The Theory and the Practice

Last week, in one of the Morning Mindfulness Meditation Circles (Now online on Zoom), I mentioned that I sometimes find it helpful to choose a specific practice intention for the day as part of my morning meditation.  Then, in the evening, I reflect on how that intention influenced -- or didn't influence -- my day.
I even listened to my own advice.

Remembering Reverend Kubose's unspoken teaching from years ago,  I decided to be especially aware of each time I was on my feel, moving from one place to another.  Having practiced formal walking meditation in a variety of forms, my intention was to lower my "center of gravity," placing more of my attention in my belly (the hara or tan tien) and the contact of my feet on the floor each time I was walking, whether I was was just across the room -- or across town.
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 place more of my attention in my body, there was a shift.  I came more fully into the present moment.  As I did, 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.  In fact, over the years, I come to see that my "gut feeling" is often more accurate than an exhaustive -- and exhausting -- pro's and con's analysis. 
Opening the Door

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.  
At times, 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.  Coming to my senses, I felt the cool smoothness of the knob as I twisted it. The door then opened into the gleaming grandeur of the Present Moment.
I love when that happens.

It just takes Practice.


1 comment:

Susan said...

I have many fond memories of practicing walking meditation at the studio. Thank you, Lance 🙏❤️