A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Friday, 26 March 2010

Just This! Just This!

In its outward manifestation, meditation appears to involve either stopping, by parking the body in a stillness that suspends activity, or giving oneself over to flowing movement. In either case, it is an embodiment of wise attention, an inward gesture undertaken for the most part in silence, a shift from doing to simply being. It is an act that may at first seem artificial but that we soon discover, if we keep at it, is ultimately one of pure love for the life unfolding within us and around us. From Coming To Our Senses by JON KABAT-ZINN

Of course you can meditate anywhere, but I've always thought long walks and pilgrimages provide a wonderful opportunity for mindfulness and meditation (Pilgrimpace, in much the same way, relates walking to prayer). Away from the demands of job and family, email and cell phone, the ever-accelerating rat race, there's time and space to explore your own mind and face up to who you really are. It's less easy to be distracted from appreciating, fully and with an open heart, the beauty and significance of the present moment. For the present moment - here, here, now here - is all we ever have. But far too often we don't recognize it or inhabit it at all, preoccupied as we are with regrets about the past and anxieties about the future.

Mindfulness is the act of becoming aware of awareness itself, standing back and watching our teeming thoughts (which seem to have a mind of their own) come and go, realizing we are more than our thoughts and ideas, our fears and hopes, our instincts and emotions. By observing and understanding these processes we can free ourselves from their tyranny over us, and be delivered back to our true selves.

First days of spring
the sky is bright blue, the sun huge and warm.
Everything is turning green.
I carry my monk’s bowl and walk to the village
to beg for my daily meal.
The children spot me at the temple gate
and happily crowd around,
dragging at my arms till I stop.
I put my bowl on a white rock,
hang my bag on a branch.
First we braid grasses and play tug-of-war,
then we take turns singing and keeping a kick-ball in the air:
I kick the ball and they sing, they kick and I sing.
Time is forgotten, the hours fly.
People passing by point at me and laugh:
“Why are you acting like such a fool?”
I nod my head and don’t answer.
I could say something, but why?
Do you want to know what’s in my heart?
From the beginning of time: just this! just this!
RYOKAN

5 comments:

verena said...

google wont allow to send the appropriate comment, got to type something.....


:-)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

"Mindfulness is the act of becoming aware of awareness itself, standing back and watching our teeming thoughts…" I like the sound of this, but I'm not sure I actually understand it on an active, utilitarian level. I do think we are more than our thoughts (and possibly more than the awareness of those thoughts) in that thoughts form the basis and direction—the impetus—for outward manifestation (different from pure reaction—though perhaps not as much as we'd like to believe) as words or deeds; thoughts can be verbalized, written down, or put into action in the physical. And yet this doesn't explain all the "us" of us, as there often seems to be something more—a spirit or essence, something possibly undefinable but as common within the human make-up as love.

I don't know about you, but I find when engaging in what may or may not be true meditation—both active physically or inactive—depending on which is the case, I seem to fall into two very different thought milieus…one somber, weighty, the other quick and focused. Do you experience this difference? Are your "sitting-quiet" thoughts different than your "in the zone while walking" ones?

martine said...

thanks for sharing this
martine

Tim Shey said...

There is a Scripture in Psalms: "Be still and know that I am God."

I listened to this audio tape by a monk from a monastery in Canada back in the early 1980s, and he taught that every time you breathe in, say "Jesu", and every time you breathe out, say "Abba." This really helps to center and focus your thoughts on God.

Now years later, I just focus on my breath. It is breathtakingly (no pun intended) simple. Breathe in, breathe out, focus on the Lord (be washed in the Word--the Word being the Lord Jesus Christ).

There is another Scipture in Proverbs: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." I would like to say that stillness is the beginning of serenity, inner peace and wisdom.

Blaise Pascal once wrote that all of the evils in the world could be prevented if people would just sit still in a quiet room for one hour a day.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks everyone for these interesting comments.

Grizzled, thoughts can certainly be the basis for action, whether wise or misguided. And, equally, we often act 'thought-lessly'.

It's good to examine the way we think, see how thoughts spin round our brain, often in a seemingly haphazard fashion. It's possible, in meditation, to reach a state beyond thought - I can do this quite often, though only fleetingly. The more we practice this - being aware of our own thoughts, being aware of awareness, being mindful of our thoughts and our senses and what's happening right now in the present moment - the better we become at being able to control our thoughts, or at least to see them for what they are from some platform of sensitive awareness.

In mindful meditation (if you can call what I do this) I don't find I experience those categories of heavy or light. I just find the activity - whether one's body is passive or in motion - brings a huge relief from any stress that may have built up. Really it's simply about seeing what's there all the time - which we're often too busy or stressed or preoccupied or thinking too many thoughts to notice.