When This is All Over

I was at the gas station the other day standing at the pump, waiting for my tank to fill. A staff person was at an adjacent pump cleaning the handles and with an upbeat and friendly tone said Good morning! when he saw me. Then another vehicle pulled up to a pump closer to where he was working and he took to exchanging pleasantries and small talk with the driver. I overheard the driver ask him the stock standard how are you question, to which the worker replied: I’ll be happy when this is all over. I thought to myself: That’s it, isn’t it? That’s the crux of this coronavirus tune so many are singing – and it’s not at all different than our usual tune, the one where we think: after this happens, after I get this thing, after I land this job or this person or this whatever it is, THEN I’ll be happy.

We all do the dance of later I’ll be happy or later I’ll practice meditation, after things have settled down or later on I’ll get some rest when I have more time. I’ve been re-reading the classic Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind by Suzuki Roshi and also certain sections from two of my favorite books by Thay recently, which I’ve been referring back to quite a bit lately and receiving nourishment and strength from:

Peace can exist only in the present moment. It is ridiculous to say, “Wait until I finish this, then I will be free to live in peace.” What is “this”? A diploma, a job, a house, the payment of a debt? If you think that way, peace will never come. There is always another “this” that will follow the present one. If you are not living in peace at this moment, you will never be able to. If you truly want to be at peace, you must be at peace right now. Otherwise, there is only “the hope of peace someday.”

– from The Sun My Heart by Thich Nhat Hanh

 

To cook, or to fix some food, is not preparation, according to Dogen; it is practice. To cook is not just to prepare food for someone or for yourself; it is to express your sincerity. So when you cook you should express yourself in your activity in the kitchen. You should allow yourself plenty of time; you should work on it with nothing in your mind, and without expecting anything. You should just cook! That is also an expression of our sincerity, a part of our practice.

It is necessary to sit in zazen, in this way, but sitting is not our only way. Whatever you do, it should an expression of the same deep activity. We should appreciate what we are doing. There is no preparation for something else.

– from Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

 

Someone asked me, “Aren’t you worried about the state of the world?” I allowed myself to breathe and then I said, “What is most important is not to allow your anxiety about what happens in the world to fill your heart. If you heart is filled with anxiety, you will get sick, and you will not be able to help.” There are wars – big and small – in many places, and that can cause us to lose our peace. Anxiety is the illness of our age. We worry about ourselves, our family, our friends, our work, and the state of the world. If we allow worry to fill our hearts, sooner or later we will get sick.

Yes there is tremendous suffering all over the world, but knowing this need not paralyze us. If we practice mindful breathing, mindful walking, mindful sitting, and working in mindfulness, we try our best to help, and we can have peace in our heart. Worrying does not accomplish anything…if we don’t know how to breathe, smile, and live every moment of our life deeply, we will never be able to help anyone.

– from The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh

 

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On Authenticity

It’s worth starting out by saying that this post may be a little rough around the edges. You see, with my husband away on a 3-month retreat at Deer Park Monastery, I am missing my counterpart to talk through such Dharmic ponderings with. Sooo, I’m fixing on using this post as a stand-in :)

This morning, as part of a practice I call Mindful Morning Saturdays, I watched a portion of a Dharma talk by Sister Lang Nghiem, given recently at Plum Village centered around the 8th, 9th, and 10th Mindfulness Trainings. In it, she spoke about authenticity. She said: according to the Buddha, every moment, we are already our true self.

“Every moment, we are manifesting the totality of our self; the totality of our seeds; the sum of our habit energies. So there is no authentic self you need to be true to. Every moment, you are already your true self. This is a very important teaching to understand.” – Sister Lang Nghiem

My first reaction that popped up in the wake of her talking about how there isn’t really such a thing as authenticity, was: Oh, I super don’t agree with that. And as I talk regularly to myself, I even said it aloud. Of course there’s a difference between someone who is being authentic and someone who isn’t, I thought. You can always tell when someone is being real with you and when they’re not.

As she continued, I understood a little more about the teaching she was offering and it made a bit more sense. However, I was left wondering if perhaps there are two ways of addressing such a dynamic question as to whether authenticity exists: from the ultimate dimension perspective and from the historical dimension perspective.

Here’s what I’m thinking. From the lens of the ultimate dimension: yes, we are always manifesting who we are; we are authentic to who we are based on the fact that we are alive and a collection of causes, conditions, our ancestors, and our experiences. From the lens of the historical dimension: there are clearly more authentic people operating around us than others; those who have the ability to integrate their internal landscape with their external actions and speech and have them in alignment with each other.

In my google search for “authenticity images” I came across this:

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On V-Day

I have mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day. For me, V-Day is on par with Santa Claus at Christmas. I mean, part of me gets the whimsy of it but a bigger part of me is all like: Really?! THIS is what the group consensus came up with?

When holidays have the great potential to plummet a fair amount of our brethren into the pits of despair, based on the hype that gets generated around them and the unrealistic notions hitched to their giddy-up, I’d say something is in serious need of cultural repair.

I recently attended a presentation on the University of Montana (UM) campus for Mental Health Awareness Week and learned that 71% of UM students report feeling “very lonely” and 64% report feeling “very sad.” Loneliness is affecting the masses. I’ve got nothing against those who are super into celebrating V-Day on their own accord and feel called to set aside a day to connect with their romantic partner – I think that’s great, truly. My problem lies in the expectations we’ve orchestrated around V-Day; the pressure to be in love or have some grand lusty time; the hype and the heart-shaped everything; and the fact that in large part V-Day is a female heavy holiday and it’s the guy who’s supposed to dote on the special gal in his life and not the other way around. Females in particular are dangerously caught up in fictitious ideas of what it means to be in love and what our partners should and shouldn’t do to continuously prove to us how much they adore us. V-Day keeps in motion a slew of not-so-great to super-unhealthy views and notions centered around romantic relationships, sex, love, desire, and connection. And V-Day makes a lot of people feel even lonelier.

Like the pic I took above, from a book I came across in Powell’s Books while visiting Portland last weekend, says: What if this were enough? What if whatever we have going on right now we regarded as being enough? Enough to be content, to be happy, to be at ease in the world of heart-shaped everything on V-Day.

What if we were able to invoke the message of the 7th of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings: Dwelling Happily in the Present Moment?

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I Think We’ve Got It Backwards

Okay. So, what I’m about to post here has taken me almost a year to flesh out and wrap my brain around. Here goes.

In our Buddhist practice tradition, we have this teaching: This is because that is. Short-handing it, it means: Everything happens for a reason, based on a myriad of causes and conditions. On a similar note, I see as though we have two large components of life backwards, and one leads to the other.

The first thing we commonly have backwards:

A) We often see and regard ourselves as being separate/independent/unique in times when we would do well to strengthen our ability to look with the eyes of interbeing and get in touch with our similarities, shared humanity, and true sense of connection.

and

B) We often see and regard ourselves as being the same in times when we would do well to cultivate a deeper understanding of our individuality.

___________

And because of this first thing we commonly have backwards, it leads to this second thing we commonly have backwards:

C) We try to lone-wolf it in times when we would do well to lean on our loved ones for care, support, and nourishment.

and

D) We rely on others in times when we would do well to cultivate and/or strengthen our sovereignty.

__________

So, D is because of B and C is because of A. This is because that is.

I realize this might be confusing, like I said: it’s taken me a year to flesh this out. Here are some practical examples that will hopefully help a bit (with corresponding letters that match with the points above):

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My two new practices from 2018 (part 1 of 2)

Every January, for the past few years, in an effort to keep my practice fresh, vibrant, and strong, I’ve come up with 2-3 new mindfulness-based practices in which to enfold into my daily/weekly life throughout the year. For me, these new practices each year serve as the ultimate homage to the tag line of this blog, the URL of my website, and my social media namesakes on Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube: In Mindful Motion.

As I don’t think I’ve made much reference to them here over the course of the past calendar year, I thought I’d take the opportunity to do so, as 2018 comes to a close.

This past year, I’ve had two new practices. The first of which is shown above (my second practice will be fleshed out in a part 2 post). Inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography and coming across his set of Thirteen Virtues, which he formulated at age 20 in 1726 as a system to help him develop his character, I came up with a similar approach to the charts he made for himself in order to help keep track of his progress.

 

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All Is Well

To listen to this post being read on my podcast, instead of or in addition to reading it here, please follow this link: https://soundcloud.com/inmindfulmotion/all-is-well

There are some things I would never see fit to write, were it not for the simple fact that I rise early in the morning, when darkness still paints the sky.

Here are some examples, from this morning’s journal session:

It’s 4:12am, Saturday morning.
I awoke at 3:00 and did the should-I-shouldn’t-I dance till roundabout 3:45,
before the I-should won out.
As in: I’m awake, I should just get up.
I knew snow must’ve fallen overnight,
as soon as I stepped into the living room.
Despite the curtains having been drawn,
a brightness perfumed the air.

4:53am.
A light snow falls outside.
Tucked into the warmth of my home cocoon,
all is well.
Only the hum of the pilot light is audible.
Well, that and the gliding strokes of my pen over paper
as I write this.

Everything speaks a different language in sleep mode.

If you have a yearning to foster the sense that our world isn’t a junk show,
or that good people abound,
or that beauty is a thing that exists in every landscape we find ourselves amid,
practice bearing witness to the spell of early morning.
It might very well be the thing that rallies a new resounding melody within you,
in which to sway your heart and feet forward.

__________

The practice of Being Here Now does not disclude us from delving into the past or planning for the future. However, as mindfulness practitioners committed to our practice, we must develop a level of awareness in order to investigate the difference between what is skillful, helpful, and kind and what is serving to further exasperate feelings of attachment, turmoil, and disconnection. (Working analogy: We should only operate a time machine device if we know how to make proper use of all the controls and gadgetry. Otherwise, we risk getting stuck in the year 1985 without the benefit of hairspray and parachute pants.)

In short, we need to know how to visit the past and future without setting up shop there. To apply our mindfulness practice to working constructively with the past and future, we need to effectively use the tools that will bring us back to the here and now.

Place and Time

A light snow falls, like wishes and hopes for a future yet to come, with softness and a fragrant lingering for more.

So many of us ponder: Will more be enough?

Then following in tow: What if more is never enough? What if getting more simply leads to needing more?

And if we’re still and quiet in heart, speech, and body, this answer will be there on the heels of our fears:

There is no such thing as more, to remedy that which we experience as lacking.
There is only this.
There is only now.
This.
Here.
Now.
These are the only things we can truly rely on.