Deepening Our Commitment

posted in: Dharma Topics | 0

Dear Still Water Friends,

The Still Water “At home intensive” began this past Sunday. A dozen experienced practitioners met at Blueberry Gardens to sit and walk together, and to explore and deepen our commitment to mindfulness practice. By the end of the afternoon, each of us identified concrete, doable actions we intended to practice for a week that would move us forward along our own personal journey toward greater mindfulness.

This Thursday evening, we will similarly focus our program on exploring and deepening our commitment to mindfulness practice.

Over the years, I’ve come to think of commitment to mindfulness practice as having four aspects.

Commitment to mindfulness as a deep intention. An authentic commitment to practice arises when we recognize that we value the mental, physical, and spiritual states that arise and are nourished when we are mindful. We value being at peace, centered, engaged, awake, connected, integrated, content, and so on. When we clarify our commitment to mindfulness it becomes easier to adopt activities and ways of being that help us live mindfully, and let go of those that are not helping us..

Commitment to mindfulness as a formal practice. We are fortunate in being part of a three thousand year old tradition. Practices such as conscious breathing, sitting meditation, walking meditation, bells of mindfulness and silent meals are well tested tools that help us to nourish our mindfulness. When we commit to mindfulness we commit to setting aside a part of each day for formal practices.

Commitment to mindfulness as a permeating essence. We add mindfulness to whatever else we are doing. How we walk, exercise, work, eat, consume, interact with others, organize our lives: this is mindfulness in daily life, 24/7. In each task of the day, we look for the way to do it that will bring us and world peace and joy. Thich Nhat Hanh explains how he rakes the leaves:

At this time in autumn, I usually rake the leaves in the hermitage. I do this every three days or so and I use a rake. I know that raking the leaves is to have a clean path in order to walk, to do running meditation and so on; I run every day at least two times -I practice mindful running and I rake the leaves in that way (mindfully). Raking the leaves is not only to have only a clean path to run or to walk, but raking the leaves is just to enjoy raking the leaves. So I hold the rake in such a way that I can be happy and solid during the time of holding the rake. And every movement I do I want to make it into an act of enlightenment, an act of joy, an act of peace; so I am not in a hurry, because I see that the act of raking is as wonderful as having a clean path. I would not be satisfied with less than that. Every stroke I make should bring me joy and solidity and freedom. I should be entirely myself during the act of raking the leaves and raking the leaves is no longer a means to arrive at an end that is called having a clean path.

Commitment to mindfulness as a context for our lives. When asked whether spiritual friendships made an important contribution to the path of mindfulness, the Buddha replied that it was the most important factor. Growing in mindfulness is something that is very difficult for us to do by ourselves. We need others to walk with us, to share our burdens and joys with, to sharpen our discernment, and to help us see ourselves as we really are.

Our discussion will focus on three questions:

  • Personally, why might you want to increase your commitment to mindfulness practice – what might be in it for you?
  • Can you think of one or more concrete, doable, action you could take, or way of responding you could change, that might move you along in your mindfulness journey?
  • Are you willing to commit to acting or responding in this way for a week?

You are invited to join us.

The best times to join our Thursday evening gatherings are just before the beginning of our 7 p.m. meditation, just before we begin walking meditation, around 7:25, and just after our walking meditation, around 7:35.

Warm wishes,

Mitchell Ratner
Senior Teacher