(Still Water Orientation 6:30 – 6:55)
Dear Still Water Friends,
For the past several months I’ve been practicing Tai-Chi. I like the flow of it and and the way it can bring together mind, body, and breath. Tai-Chi has made me acutely aware of my wandering mind. When my mind wanders in the middle of my routine, I often forget where I am or blunder along with much less precision. My mind especially wanders in a class when my teacher comes by to see how I’m progressing.
Thich Nhat Hanh teaches that the bringing together of mind, body, and breath is the foundation of mindfulness practice. In Together We Are One he writes.
In our daily life, we’re in a state of distraction, with mind and body going in two different directions. Our mind may be preoccupied by our projects, our fear, our anger; it may be caught in the past or in the future. But as soon as we go home to our breath, our body and our mind come together very quickly. And in this state of being, we pick up our tea, and the tea becomes a reality. And when we drink our tea, there’s no thinking, there’s just drinking, deep drinking. We are real, the tea is real, and life is real.
Interestingly, it is when we have the intention of having a non-wandering mind — such as in Tai-Chi or in meditation — that we are most aware of its wandering. The basic
practice to develop uninterrupted attention might be called “catch and release.” We set an intention to stay focused, we catch our minds wandering off, we release the thought or mental object that has caught our attention, and we return to our original focus. Over time, our capacity to stay mindful and concentrated grows. Thich Nhat Hanh sometimes calls this capacity “froglessness” and has written a poem with that title:
The first fruition of the practice
is the attainment of froglessness.
When a frog is put on the center of a plate,
she will jump out of the plate
after a few seconds.
If you put the frog back again
on the center of the plate
she will again jump out.
You have so many plans.
There is something you want to become.
Therefore you always want to make a leap,
a leap forward.
It is difficult
to keep the frog still
on the center of the plate.
You and I both have Buddha Nature in us.
This is encouraging,
but you and I
both have Frog Nature in us.
That is why
the first attainment
of the practice
froglessness is its name
This Thursday evening during our sitting and walking meditation we will practice with gathas, or meditation poems: They each remind us to be “frogless.”
Sitting Down To Meditation
Sitting here is like sitting under
the Bodhi tree.
My body is mindfulness itself,
calm and at ease,
free from all distraction.
The mind can go in a thousand directions,
but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace.
With each step, a cool wind blows.
With each step, a flower blooms.
Distractability in meditation and in daily life will be the focus of our Dharma sharing. What have we learned? What still challenges us?
You are invited to join us.
This week is the first Thursday of the month and, as is our tradition, we will offer a brief newcomer’s orientation to mindfulness practice and to the Still Water community. The orientation will begin at 6:30 pm and participants are encouraged to stay for the evening program. If you would like to attend the orientation, it is helpful if you let us know by emailing us at info@StillWaterMPC.org.
An excerpt by Thich Nhat Hanh on the power of conscious breathing is below.
The Power of Conscious Breathing
by Thich Nhat Hanh, from Peace is Every Step
There are a number of breathing techniques you can use to make life vivid and more enjoyable. The first exercise is very simple. As you breathe in, you say to yourself, “Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in.” And as you breathe out, say, “Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out.” Just that. You recognize your in-breath as an in-breath and your out-breath as an out-breath. You don’t even need to recite the whole sentence; you can use just two words: “In” and “Out.” This technique can help you keep your mind on your breath. As you practice, your breath will become peaceful and gentle, and your mind and body will also become peaceful and gentle. This is not a difficult exercise. In just a few minutes you can realize the fruit of meditation.
Breathing in and out is very important, and it is enjoyable. Our breathing is the link between our body and our mind. Sometimes our mind is thinking of one thing and our body is doing another, and mind and body are not unified. By concentrating on our breathing, “In” and “Out,” we bring body and mind back together, and become whole again. Conscious breathing is an important bridge.
To me, breathing is a joy that I cannot miss. Every day, I practice conscious breathing, and in my small meditation room, I have calligraphed this sentence: “Breathe, you are alive!” Just breathing and smiling can make us very happy, because when we breathe consciously we recover ourselves completely and encounter life in the present moment.