Dharma Topic: Being More Fully Present

Dharma Topic: Being More Fully Present

Discussion date: Thu, Jan 05, 2006 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Dear Still Water Friends,

Many of us enjoy sitting meditation. We sit on a cushion orchair, we follow our breaths, and, bit by bit, our minds become less agitated, asettling occurs. Sometimes, the simple act of sitting changes our physicalpresence — we may breathe differently — or the texture of our minds may change– we may feel more at ease, less fearful, more relaxed. Sitting is a wonderfulpractice.

However, if all we do is sit, and then forget aboutmindfulness practice through the rest of the day, I believe we are missing muchof what mindfulness practice can offer us. As Thich Nhat Hanh explains in theexcerpt from his Library of Congress talk below, the act of embracing our innerlives, the physical, mental, and emotional sensations flowing through us, issomething we can do in every moment. And when we do, our moments and days (andrelationships) come alive.

Sitting practice and "Being Present" practicesupport each other. When we sit we tune our capacity to be present. When we aremore fully present during the day, our minds settle more easily when we sit;giving insight more opportunity to arise.

You are invited to join us this Thursday, January 5, 2005,for a program on "Being more fully present." As usual, the besttimes to join us on Thursday evening are:

  • Just before the first sitting at 7 pm;

  • At 7:25, at the beginning of walking meditation; or,

  • At 7:35, at the beginning of the second sitting.

Also, this Thursday, we will have a Still WaterOrientation, beginning at 6:30 p.m., in which we talk about sittingmeditation and other mindfulness practices as well as provide information aboutthe Still Water community. The orientation is open to everyone, includingold-timers, those with some experience, and those new to mindfulness practice.

You are invited to join us this Thursday.

Warm wishes for the New Year,

Mitchell Ratner
Senior Teacher


Being Fully Present
by Thich Nhat Hanh, from Calming the Fearful Mind: A Zen Response toTerrorism

Coming home to our bodies can bring us relief within just afew minutes. After that, we come home to our feelings and emotions."Breathing in, I am aware of my feelings. Breathing out, I calm and releasethe tension in my feelings." This kind of practice can be done anytime,anywhere, on a train, on an airplane, at work, or at home.

If we do not know how to take care of ourselves and to loveourselves, we cannot take care of the people we love. Loving oneself is thefoundation for loving another person. If we love someone, the greatest gift wecan make to him or to her is our true presence. If we are caught in our thinkingand our worries about the past and the future, we aren’t truly present, and sowe can’t offer this most precious thing, our presence and compassion, to ourloved ones. Breathing and walking mindfully, and becoming fully alive should beour top priority.

How can you love if you aren’t really present? To lovesomeone is a practice. If you’re really there, your beloved will know it. If youonly pretend to be there, your loved one will know that as well. When you bringyour mind back to your body and become fully present in the here and now, you’rein a position to take care of your beloved one. Your own presence in the hereand now will make life available to you. Your beloved belongs to life. TheKingdom of God belongs to life. When you become present, your beloved one andthe Kingdom of God become available to you at the same time.

When I drink tea with my full awareness, this is mindfuldrinking. If I establish myself in the here and now, my tea becomes fullypresent, too. It is possible to drink our tea and eat our breakfast mindfully.You might ask: "I have so many things to take care of and think about, howcan I afford the time to drink my tea mindfully?" But if you are lost inyour thinking while you drink your tea, it isn’t true tea drinking. You are notreal and the tea is not real. This is why non-thinking is a very importantpractice. I don’t deny that thinking is important. But there is productivethinking and unproductive thinking. If we aren’t capable of living the momentsof our daily life deeply, we can’t touch reality in a deep way and our thinkingwon’t be very productive. I usually enjoy walking meditation before I give atalk. While walking to the auditorium, I don’t think about my talk. I just enjoyevery step I make. This is why when the time comes for the talk, the talk can begood. The time of nontalking is the foundation for the time of talking.

Discussion Date: Thu, Jan 05, 2006


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