"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

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Day by 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

Taking the time each morning to Simply Sit Still has been the foundation of my own spiritual journey for a long, long time.  It's like drinking a tall glass of cool water.  I generally arise refreshed, at ease, and ready for the day.

It only makes sense.

Who we experience ourselves to be, how we think and feel about the world is largely a result of our conditioning.  In fact, even how we see the world emerges as a result of the set of interactions we've experienced in our lives. That is the view of most modern psychology -- and the view held by most Buddhists for two thousand five hundred years.

I think many people recognize, sometimes quite acutely, the existence of their so-called "bad habits." The whole ritual of New Year resolutions generates lists and lists of commitments to change these aspects of our lives.  Yet many of us haven't quite realized that, in actuality, our "normal " everyday, egocentric 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 around us consumes our attention -- and we suffer.

Yet, all this is nothing more, and nothing less, than a habit.  Each day, we reinforce patterns that continue to operate consciously and subconsciously to dominate our awareness.  We have spent years feeding that habit.  It creates our day-to-day life as the struggle it appears to be in a world propelled forward by a competitive, capitalist economy, religious institutions that prioritize judgmental attitudes, and a militaristic socio-political culture that glorifies violence. 
Many of us have been harmed and limited by this conditioning.  Wounded puppies, believing that we live in a dog eat dog world, we are habitually barking up the wrong tree.  And all the while, in the Still and Silent Space that lies deep within us and infinitely beyond us, we are all connected in Sacred Unity to what some wisdom traditions call the Tree of Life.
Many names are used over the years to identify Ultimate Reality.  I've communed with people that conceptualize it as God, the Tao, the Great Spirit, Buddhanature, Allah, Yahweh, Jesus, Krishna.  These days One Love seems to work best for me.  By whatever name it is known, it has become mysteriously clear to me that there is an infinite source of unlimited potential.  From that, flows a Way of Being that is truly clear, calm, kind, compassionate and wise.  

Mindfulness Practice offers us the opportunity to see that for ourselves.  Through Practice we can connect with, and increasingly maintain, this open-hearted and clear-minded quality of consciousness.  Being a Compassionate Presence can become our habitual way of being.  
This is largely a matter of time on task.  It's just like going to the gym. Over time, the discipline and effort of a regular daily meditation practice releases the knots and rewires the pathways of our conditioning.  It's as simple as that.
Yet, simple doesn't necessarily mean easy.  Over time we will have to face a lot of emotional energies and subconscious belief structures that we have repressed. avoided, and denied. Fortunately, the Practice affords us the opportunity and skills to do that with increasing ease.  Simply Sitting Still each day, we learn to embrace the entire gamut of the human experience.  In doing so, we gain the freedom and agency to live life wholeheartedly.
And there's more...
Taking More Time
As important as a regular daily practice is, I am also grateful to have to have participated in a number of meditation retreats over the years.  I encourage you to make the time and space to gift yourself with the opportunity to take Practice even deeper.
I'd been meditating on my own for a several years before I participated in my first retreat, a weekend Zen Sesshin with Reverend Gyomay Kubose at the Buddhist Temple of Chicago.  I experienced a more expansive and clearer quality of consciousness as time went on that weekend.  I also felt more connected to the sensations and energies of my own body.  In one instant, I got zapped with a clear awareness of a jolt of energy flowing from the tip of my forefinger to my brain.  (Later, this led to some interesting experiences of chi in both Tai Chi and Aikido Practice.)
It only makes sense.  It takes time for the activity of a "monkey mind" dominated by discursive thinking to sloooow down and be still.  It takes time for certain emotional energies to surface into awareness and be released.  Like a glass of swirling muddy water, the agitated patterns of our conditioned mind-states cloud and distort the simple and expansive clarity of mind that is our birthright.  Over time things settle down.  More subtle realms of consciousness emerge.  What was once merely conceptual (prana, chi, neural pathways, meridians, causal bodies, etc.)  becomes experiential.

A Day of Mindfulness

The late Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh 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 preclude that at the moment.  (I can get pretty busy for a retired old coot.)
Yet, I have continued to invite other practitioners of silent meditation to join me the third Sunday of each  month to share Practice from 9 AM until 3:30 PM at Community Yoga and Wellness Center here in Greenfield, Massachusetts.  Last month ten of us participated for at least a half day of practice.  Oftentimes, folks have shared in the Heart Council at the end of the morning and afternoon sessions that "something had shifted." It could be felt. 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 our True Being. 

How cool is that?
So, if you're a "local" come on by on Sunday for at least part of the day.  (For more information)  If not, I'd encourage you to connect with others, or find a way to create the space in your life to do it yourself.
I did so for several Fridays during Lent this year.
I shut down the computer and the cellphone to devote a full day to the silent exploration of Mindfulness, "off the grid."  Using an old battery operated digital clock to mark out the time, I spent an entire day and evening in periods of sitting meditation, walking meditation, napping meditation, wandering outdoors, preparing food, eating, and washing the dishes mindfully.  Coming to my senses, moving through time without the habitual distractions, I was able to be more fully Present.  There, the Connection was experienced.  I was able to experience the ease, joy, and extraordinary sense of  wonder that exists in the midst of the very ordinary moments of Life As It Is!

It just take Practice.

(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.)

No comments: