Today is day 7 of my 21-day sitting meditation intention and it just so happened that we had a Day of Mindfulness (DOM) led by our local dharma teacher Rowan Conrad at the Open Way Mindfulness Center here in town. So I had a lot of opportunity to sit with sangha (community) today which was lovely. Despite the sunny 60 degree weather we had a full house of folks come out for the DOM which was great. About 25 people altogether I would say. Having a local teacher to help guide the sangha and our mindfulness center communities is quite wonderful and I feel very fortunate to have such ample practice opportunities and resources available. With every weekly sangha gathering, retreat, and day of mindfulness my practice strengthens and grows, watered by the nourishing rains of the buddha, dharma, and sangha.
Our DOM lasted from 9:30am-4:30pm and consisted of periods of sitting and walking meditation, teachings from Rowan, contemplative questions and discussion periods. It functioned much differently than our usual DOM schedules and I found myself both enjoying the increased focus on teachings and missing our more fluid approach that involved more silence. Usually we tend to only have one discussion period but with this different set up we had multiple sessions of discussion which was nice.
Here are some notes I took from today’s DOM, which is a mixture of Rowan’s teachings and others comments, questions and my own two cents:
We are not practicing to avoid suffering, we are practicing to engage it in order to become free from un-necessary suffering.
Q: How do we overcome identity? A: We often think in terms of This Or That but instead, we can think of This And That. (For example: I personally love this mindfulness practice, sharing silence and my teacher Thich Nhat Hanh and I also love rap and hip hop music and riding my motorcycle. I used to be caught in the thinking that they all could not possibly go together, that I had to choose between them. But I see now more clearly that this is incorrect thinking. Our strength of character comes not from appearances and coming off a certain way superficially but in being authentically with our life experiences just as they are).
The Four Nobel Truths: 1. Suffering exists in life. 2. There is an origin to suffering. 3. There is an end to suffering. 4. There is a path that leads to the end of suffering. My notes on the Four Nobel Truths are thus: Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes. Does suffering exist? Yes! Is there a cause of our suffering? Yes! Is there an end to our suffering? Yes! Is there a path to joy, ease, and freedom? Yes!
The Buddha taught that we suffer from 2 things: grasping and delusion. If we are unable to handle the little suffering in our lives what hope do we have to handle the large suffering that exists? When weight lifting we don’t start out with the biggest weights, we start out small and work our way up. It is the same for our suffering. We must learn how to skillfully handle the little things that arise: a person who cuts us off on the road, stubbing our toe, or perhaps getting out of bed in the morning…
During our DOM someone asked the question: What is the difference between engaging and grasping? It is a good question. I’ve often heard Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) say that a good question has the power to benefit many. From my experience the difference is in the way in which we meet the situation, person, object or feeling/thought/emotion. When we meet life with anger, fear, expectation, and judgement we are grasping. When we meet life with openness, understanding, connection, and joyfulness we are engaging. It is the difference between coming together with or growing further away from. Engaging connects us with life which increases our ability to become more mindful and awake. Grasping separates us from life which increases our suffering.
A few things that came to mind during the DOM today:
We should not underestimate the power of offering a smile. Collectively speaking we need to smile more, if we are unable to smile how is it that we would be able to take good care of others and the world?
Oftentimes we think much too much. And oftentimes what we think about is quite unproductive, unhelpful, full of misperceptions, and negative. We spend a lot of time and energy in getting caught in thoughts that serve no other purpose than to perpetuate suffering.
Our intellect can be a great hindrance to our practice. Mindfulness involves action which involves effort. If we only utilize and strengthen our intellectual knowledge our relationship with ourselves and the unfolding of life will be very limited and we will be unable to develop our capacity for deep insight.
I am comprised of the air that fills my tender lungs
I am comprised of the earth that cradles my rippling footsteps
I am comprised of the water that surrounds my skin and bones
I am comprised of the fire that glows brightly within and all around me
I am comprised of the emptiness that quenches the tired thirst of man