Last week, I was talking on the phone with a friend, when I realized I had a fever. I’d been feeling emotionally overwhelmed and physically tired for several days. I’d also been fighting a stomach bug which I kept expecting to disappear quickly. I was telling my friend how awful I felt when I suddenly stopped to check in with myself and realized I was experiencing chills and had a fever.
As I became present, I was able to slow down, finish the conversation, and sit with myself, finally focusing on what I needed. I knew I needed to cancel the evening activity I’d planned and probably cancel my activities for the next day as well. For a moment, I fought with myself, feeling the weight of my own expectations about what I “should” be accomplishing.
Then I let all of that go. When I ceased fighting what my heart and body were telling me, my sense of overwhelm lightened and my muscles relaxed. I felt relieved and knew I needed to rest.
That wonderful feeling of calm, of coming home to center and finding balance, is what happens when I, and all of us, practice being mindful. Thich Nhat Hanh writes in the The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching:
We have to learn the art of stopping—stopping our thinking, our habit energies, our forgetfulness, the strong emotions that rule us. When an emotion rushes through us like a storm, we have no peace. We turn on the TV and then we turn it off. We pick up a book and then we put it down. How can we stop this state of agitation? How can we stop our fear, despair, anger, and craving? We can stop by practicing mindful breathing, mindful walking, mindful smiling, and deep looking in order to understand. When we are mindful, touching deeply the present moment, the fruits are always understanding, acceptance, love, and the desire to relieve suffering and bring joy.
During the next few days I was able to care for myself better by taking time to cook healthier meals, resting more consistently, and practicing breathing and walking meditation. But I noticed that as I recuperated, my habit energies of constantly checking my email and news updates resurfaced. I was shifting back into autopilot.
Aware of this trajectory, I began sitting with my craving and experienced feelings of fear and isolation. I knew I needed more healthy connection with the world instead of news updates, so I began brainstorming alternative ways to do that, including setting up time to talk with friends and reinvigorating my gratitude practice. I was intrigued that I had the most difficulty keeping my balance around old habit energies as I became physically stronger and healthy again. I’d like to hear how you find your balance in this dance of continual forgetting and remembering that we all practice.
This Thursday night at Crossings after our sitting, we will explore how we work with our habit energies. How has your mindfulness practice helped you understand your habit energies better? If you are new to the practice, what habit energies do you observe in yourself that are dominating your life?
This week is also 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.
From The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh:
We need the energy of mindfulness to recognize and be present with our habit energy in order to stop this course of destruction. With mindfulness, we have the capacity to recognize the habit energy every time it manifests. “Hello, my habit energy, I know you are there!” If we just smile to it, it will lose much of its strength. Mindfulness is the energy that allows us to recognize our habit energy and prevent it from dominating us.