This coming Thursday evening, after our meditation, we will explore the energy that flows through our habits, honoring some of the strategies that have served us and taking a fresh and friendly look at habits that no longer serve us. We’ll have the chance to share how mindfulness—the art of stopping—has created a context for recognizing and liberating the energy stored in the habitual ways we respond to life.
Which of your habits do you appreciate and which no longer support you? How has mindfulness practice allowed you to see through all your habits to the energy that fuels them? What habits have changed in your life as a result of your mindfulness practice?
I hope you can join us.
Wednesdays, September 11 – November 20, 2013. Fearless Compassion: Companioning Others in Aging, Illness, Dying and Grief
Sunday, September 15, 2013. Coming Home to Ourselves: A Day of Practice
Mondays, September 16 – November 18, 2013. Smiling like a Buddha: A Ten-Session Mindfulness Meditation Class
Saturday, September 28, 2013. Mindful Families Feast.
Friday, October 4 – Sunday, October 6, 2013. Settling Into Silence: Still Water Practice Retreat
from The Pocket Thich Nhat Hanh, (Shambhala Pocket Classics)
There is a story in Zen circles about a man and a horse. The horse is galloping quickly, and it appears that the man on the horse is going somewhere important. Another man, standing alongside the road, shouts, “Where are you going?” and the first man replies, “I don’t know! Ask the horse!” This is also our story. We are riding a horse, we don’t know where we are going, and we can’t stop. The horse is our habit energy pulling us along, and we are powerless. We are always running, and it has become a habit. We struggle all the time, even during our sleep. We are at war within ourselves, and we can easily start a war with others.
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 talking, 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.
But our habit energies are often stronger than our volition. We say and do things we don’t want to and afterward we regret it. We make ourselves and others suffer, and we bring about a lot of damage. We may vow not to do it again, but we do it again. Why? Because our habit energies push us.
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.
Forgetfulness is the opposite. We drink a cup of tea, but we do not know we are drinking a cup of tea. We sit with the person we love, but we don’t know that she is there. We walk, but we are not really walking. We are someplace else, thinking about the past or the future. The horse of our habit energy is carrying us along, and we are its captive. We need to stop our horse and reclaim our liberty. We need to shine the light of mindfulness on everything we do, so the darkness of forgetfulness will disappear.