April 15, 2021, 7:00 to 8:45 pm
Silver Spring, Maryland, community online on Thursday evening
April 16, 2021, 7:00 to 8:45 pm
Open to all online on Friday evening
An irony of this pandemic is that despite rarely leaving my house, I have almost never felt as busy as I do now. Even with nowhere to go, I find myself hurrying from task to task with little time for just being.
While my haste is triggered by specific goals and duties, it also reflects a habit energy deep inside of me. I often bypass the current moment in favor of focusing on the moments to come. Even when meditating, my attention drifts towards the future and the better self and times that lie ahead of me, instead of being in the present.
During this pandemic, many aspects of the present are uncomfortable: the loss, the uncertainty, and the isolation (to name a few). It makes sense that my mind seeks the potential comfort of the future, but that constant motion and attention to what’s next also deprives me of valuable peace and rest that are available to me right now. Thich Nhat Hanh writes about freedom and this inclination towards relentless striving in his book Keeping the Peace:
The basic condition of happiness is freedom. If there is something on your mind that you keep thinking about, then you are caught and have no freedom. If you are caught in sorrow and regret about the past, or if you are anxious about what will happen to you in the future, then you are not really free to enjoy the many wonders of life that are available in the here and now. The blue sky, the beautiful trees, the lovely faces of children, the flowers, and the birds can nourish and heal us in the present moment.
Many people in our society are not happy, even though the conditions for their happiness already exist. Their “habit energy” is always pushing them ahead, preventing them from being happy in the here and now. But with a little bit of training, we can all learn to recognize this energy every time it comes up. Why wait to be happy? When you walk, it is possible to walk in such a way that every step becomes nourishing and healing. This is not difficult.
Whether you are a businessperson walking across the office, a congressperson walking up the Capitol steps, or a police officer out on the streets, it is always possible to practice mindful walking and to enjoy every step you take. If you know the art of mindful walking, then you will be fully present in the here and now. You make yourself available to life and life becomes available to you.
Every one of us has the tendency to run. We have run all of our lives, and we continue to run into the future where we think that some happiness may be waiting. We have received the habit of running from our parents and ancestors. When we learn to recognize our habit of running, we can use mindful breathing, and simply smile at this habit and say, “Hello, my dear old friend, I know you are there.” And then you are free from this habit energy. You don’t have to fight it. There is no fighting in this practice. There is only recognition and awareness of what is going on. When the habit energy of running manifests itself, you just smile and come back to your mindful breathing. Then you are free from it, and you continue to breathe in, breathe out, and enjoy the present moment.
I hope you can join us this Thursday or Friday evening. After our meditation, we will read aloud this passage from Thay and consider these questions:
- In what contexts do you notice the habit energy of “running” in your daily life?
- Why especially in that context??
- What helps you to “slow down” so that you are more fully present with yourselves and others?