Concentration: Investing Ourselves 100 Percent

Concentration: Investing Ourselves 100 Percent

Discussion date: Thu, Apr 01, 2021 at our weekly Thursday evening practice
April 1, 2021, 7:00 to 8:45 pm
Silver Spring, Maryland, community online on Thursday evening
April 2, 2021, 7:00 to 8:45 pm
Open to all online on Friday evening

 

Dear Still Water Friends,

One of my favorite images of mindful concentration is Thich Nhat Hanh fully present as he drinks his tea. Despite the simplicity of Thich Nhat Hanh’s action, his concentration elevates drinking tea into a profound, real experience. During the pandemic months, I’ve noticed in myself and others a tendency to be easily distracted and disoriented. I’ve found it challenging to be mindful of small, everyday actions like drinking tea that help bring my mind and body back to experiencing the present moment. But I also know that when I am able to focus all my attention on experiencing each delicious sip of tea, I connect with my joy in life. Thay writes about this quality of concentration in his book You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment.

Joy and happiness are born of concentration. When you are having a cup of tea, the value of that experience depends on your concentration. You have to drink the tea with 100 percent of your being. The true pleasure is experienced in the concentration. When you walk and you are 100 percent concentrated, the joy you get from the steps you are taking is much greater than the joy you would get without concentration. You have to invest 100 percent of your body and mind in the act of walking. Then you will experience that being alive and taking steps on this planet are miraculous things.

The Zen master Linji (also known as Rinzai) said, “The miracle is walking on the earth, not walking on water or fire. The real miracle is walking on this earth.” Why should you not perform a miracle just by walking? A step taken with mindfulness can lead you to the Kingdom of God. This is possible. You can do it today. Life is too precious for us to lose ourselves in our ideas and concepts, in our anger and our despair. We must wake up to the marvelous reality of life. We must begin to live fully and truly, every moment of our daily lives.

When you are holding a cup of tea in your hand, do it while being 100 percent there. You know how to do this—one deep in-breath, one gentle out-breath, and the body and mind come together. You are truly there, absolutely alive, fully present! This only takes ten or fifteen seconds, and suddenly the tea reveals itself to you in all its splendor and wonder.
When I pick up a book or open a door, I want to invest myself in this act 100 percent. This is what I learned during my monastic training, when my teacher taught me how to offer a stick of incense. A stick of incense is very small and very light, yet the right way to hold it is with two hands. When offering the incense, you have to invest 100 percent of your being in your hands and in two of your fingers—the energy of mindfulness must be concentrated there. This may look like a ritual, but it is really an act of concentrated awareness. I put my left hand on my right hand, and during this time, I concentrate 100 percent. The incense is an offering to the Buddha, but does the Buddha really need incense? This is actually an offering of peace, of joy, and of concentration.

On Thursday and Friday evenings this week, we will read this passage and consider the following questions:
  • How do we ‘go back to the basics’ of mindful concentration when we find ourselves overwhelmed by the suffering in and around us?
  • During this year of political crises and pandemic-related stresses, how has our mindfulness practice helped us to stay more fully present with ourselves and others?

You are warmly invited to join us!

Many Blessings,

Eliza King

in: Dharma Topics
Discussion Date: Thu, Apr 01, 2021


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