Mindful Morning Saturday

Offering incense in the dark of early morning

I’m not sure how long ago I started this practice I call Mindful Morning Saturday, maybe a year or so. I’ve posted about it before but I was inspired to post about it again, simply because it’s adds so much benefit, energy, and joyfulness to my weekend.

As an ordained OI member (Order of Interbeing), I am asked to partake in a certain amount of Days of Mindfulness every year – 60, to be precise. And this particular OI requirement often poses some head scratching for folks, both before and after they ordain. True to form, we are not given any specifics as to how to manifest this and are left instead to use our own intelligence and insight in developing our own relationship with how to put this into active practice.

I ordained in 2007. For the first few years after that, I simply continued to attend our locally held retreats twice a year, as well as any locally held special events and days of mindfulness organized by my sangha. Then, in 2014, I started going on retreat to Deer Park Monastery for 3-4 weeks at a time every January. So for the past five years I’ve been closer than ever before, in terms of meeting the required 60 days of mindfulness.

For years, I’d wanted to figure out a way to insert a Day of Mindfulness into my home life routine once a week but I hadn’t known a good way to do it. I think like many of us OI members who are perplexed by this requirement of ordination, I was caught in thinking that a Day of Mindfulness had to be a WHOLE entire day, which seemed impossible if I was interested in doing it every week.

Then, just last year I think it was, I started thinking about the Days of Mindfulness I would participate in while I was staying at Deer Park. Most Sundays at Deer Park are an open Day of Mindfulness, where folks are welcome and encouraged to come to the monastery for a day of practice. The Days of Mindfulness there generally start at 9:00am and end after lunch, around 1:00pm. They aren’t a WHOLE entire day. They typically last about 4-hours. Once I realized this, I started thinking about my own 60 Days of Mindfulness differently.

And so, Mindful Morning Saturdays (MMS) were born!

Here’s how it works. I’ve set up my own schedule for Saturday mornings, which includes:

  • reading from the Plum Village chanting book
  • offering incense (with the accompanying chant)
  • sitting meditation
  • engaging in three earth touchings
  • doing the series of Qi Gong stick exercise
  • eating my breakfast mindfully (which for me means mono-tasking, which I rarely do)
  • watching a Dharma talk online
  • chanting the Heart Sutra (using a recording that I chant along with, either led by the monastics or Dharma teacher Michael Ciborski)

In most cases, I set aside the hours of 5:00-8:00am for this schedule. However, if I am afforded more time, I will often extend my MMS until 9:00 or 10:00am, depending on the weekend.

These pics were taken during my MMS yesterday.

Here’s something I penned in my journal after my sit yesterday:

Towards the end of my sitting session, I suddenly found myself transported to Deer Park. There I was with Mike, at just about the time when they would be looking to gather for their sitting session (Pacific Time) – only, not really, as Mike would likely be sleeping in.

I found myself feeling surrounded by the interplay of dim lighting, in the vastness of the Big Hall amid the darkness of pre-dawn. I could see the lines of cushions and the array of orchids on the alter. I could hear the soft padding of socked feet on the bamboo floor. I could even hear the soft din of Escondido rising up from the valley, and the swish and sway of the eucalyptus tree standing beside the temple bell.

In the middle of doing stick exercises this insight arose – and I stopped to write it down:

Part of what I savor about early morning is the quality of the stillness and silence that perfumes the collective air.

This led to my thinking about how the quality of the collective energy is quite different on the bookend darkened hours of a day. The stillness, silence, and darkness are wholesome and invigorating at the start of a day, whereas these same components collectively speak and translate in a nefarious way at night. The collective happenings at pre-dawn conspire not in a toxic or harm-producing manner, as they do at night. The collective activities that people are engaging in are quite different. At night: drinking, drugging, carousing, thieving, sexcapading, violence, and crime rise substantially. Unskillful actions abound in the night. But in the morning, the collective activity is slumber. Given that we are energetic beings, this makes a very large and noticeable difference in the quality of the very air we breathe and engage with.

It’s often that my MMS lead me to such new thoughts, understandings, and insight. MMS is akin to prepping a fertile field for cultivation. It sets the stage for growth, renewal, and fruition of the practice to take shape. It’s been a truly lovely and invigorating addition to my practice.



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