Dharma Topic: Celebration, Busyness, and Mindfulness

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Dear Still Water Friends,

This Thursday, June 2, our evening gathering will begin at 6:30with a Still Water Orientation. It is a time for those new to thepractice to ask questions about basic mindfulness practices and the Still Watercommunity, and a time for seasoned practitioners to share their experiences.

Our meditation period begins at 7, and our programbegins at 8. Our topic will be: the celebration of life in the presentmoment.

I returned a few days ago from a week at the Green MountainDharma Center in Vermont. While there I heard a talk Thich Nhat Hanh gaveseveral weeks ago which concluded with him saying: “Our practice is thecelebration of life in the present moment; it is not hard work.”

So simple. Our practicing is about embracing, honoring, whatcomes our way. Our practice is about smiling to our friends, to the dandelions,to the vicissitudes of life. Our practice is about making each of our actions arite performed with intention, attention, and joy.

Thich Nhat Hanh frequently says and writes, as in the quotebelow: The kingdom of God is available to you at every moment. Are you availableto the Kingdom of God?

[T]he purpose of the practice is to get free … to get free in order for the Kingdom of God to be available to you in the here and now. Get free in order for true life to be possible for you in the here and now … for the pure land of the Buddha to be available to you in the here and now.

Sometimes the pure land of the Buddha and all its marvels seem to be very close. In fact everything in us and around us is a miracle: your eye is a miracle; your heart is a miracle; your body is a miracle; the orange you are eating is a miracle; and the cloud floating in the sky is a miracle. If they do not belong to the Kingdom of God then to what do they belong? From time to time we have the clear impression that the Kingdom is here, is available in our daily life. But since we are running all the time, we do not have the freedom to enjoy it – it is not available to us.

I would say that the Kingdom of God is available to you but you are not available to the Kingdom of God. That is why we need to learn to live, to walk, in such a way that we become a free person. That is the meaning of all the practice.

(From a talk by Thich Nhat Hanh at Deer Park Monastery, Aug 22, 2001)

For me, I know, it is easy to miss the celebration when Iget caught up in busyness. The busyness of wanting to get done all the things Ihave told others or myself that I would do. The busyness of doing, creating,achieving. The busyness (and irony) of becoming someone I can be proud of.

The Christian writer Janet Ruffing calls it the “Demonof Busyness” and writes:

Resisting the demon of busyness is a habit of the heart much needed in our times. We seem to have no positive word for the practice which opposes this demon. Its opposite appears to be laziness or idleness. We love efficiency too much to even consider the merits of the Italian phrase, “il dolce far niente,” “the sweet doing of nothing.” Doing nothing feels like wasting time. Too often in the state of busyness our internal self-talk engine is racing, using up more energy than the actual task at hand requires. Perhaps we need to imagine a version of activity that is vigorous and alert, that is engaging all of us at once. The Buddhist concept of mindfulness, a one-pointed placement of attention, comes closest.

What we need to resist is the sense of time-urgency and all the internal diffusion of consciousness which is simultaneously thinking of the future, basking in self-importance, and maintaining an illusion of control. All of these internal “thoughts” actually divert us from all dimensions of the present reality. They are literally useless and exhausting, yet somehow we love them although none are necessary.

The essay, Resisting the Demon of Busyness, is available at www.worship.ca/docs/p_31_jr.html.

I believe that perhaps the essential skill we need to resistthe busyness and nurture the celebration is simply the noticing of when we arecelebrating and when we are too busy (or too sad, too angry, too distracted) tocelebrate the present moment.

For me, sitting in meditation is one of the places thenoticing is most likely to occur. Not that is always does. Sometimes the energyof busyness overpowers the meditation – too many things to get done. Andsometimes I can turn the meditation into hard work, trying to attain or achievesomething. But often enough, after a few minutes the busyness calms down and Iam able to be with my breath and to notice how that feels physically andmentally. I am able to become aware of, embrace, and celebrate the streams ofenergies that comprise my life at this moment.

Please join us this Thursday for our orientation, ourmeditation period, and our program.

The best times to join us are at 6:30 for the orientation,just before the first sitting at 7 pm; at 7:25, at the beginning of walkingmeditation; and, at 7:35, at the beginning of the second sitting. (To allowothers to maintain concentration and continuity, we ask that practitioners notenter during the walking meditation.)

Peace and joy to you,

Mitchell Ratner 
Senior Teacher