Mindfulness, Wonder, and Joy

Mindfulness, Wonder, and Joy

Discussion date: Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Dear Still Water Friends,

This week a poem by Gregory Orr found its way to my email inbox:

To be alive: not just the carcass

But the spark.

That’s crudely put, but …

If we’re not supposed to dance,

Why all this music?

I read it over and over, smiling, and savoring the words. The poem reminded me of the “Breathe, you are alive” calligraphy by Thich Nhat Hanh we have at Crossings, where we meet on Thursday. The poem also reminded me of the lush rose hip pictured above, which I encountered two weeks on a coastal hike in Maine. The rose hip seemed so exuberant, I could not help but share its joy.

Forty years ago, in The Miracle of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh, contrasted machine thinking with mindfulness, and explained that it is mindfulness that brings us to wonder and joy.

When you are walking along a path leading into a village, you can practice mindfulness. Walking along a dirt path, surrounded by patches of green grass, if you practice mindfulness you will experience that path, the path leading into the village. You practice by keeping this one thought alive: "I’m walking along the path leading into the village." Whether it’s sunny or rainy, whether the path is dry or wet, you keep that one thought, but not just repeating it like a machine, over and over again. Machine thinking is the opposite of mindfulness. If we’re really engaged in mindfulness while walking along the path to the village, then we will consider the act of each step we take as an infinite wonder, and a joy will open our hearts like a flower, enabling us to enter the world of reality.

Similarly, sixty years ago, in God in Search of Man, Rabbi Abraham Heschel contrasted everyday thinking with wonder and radical amazement:

Wonder or radical amazement is the chief characteristic of the religious man’s attitude toward history and nature. One attitude is alien to his spirit: taking things for granted, regarding events as a natural course of things…He knows that there are laws that regulate the course of natural processes; he is aware of the regularity and pattern of things. However, such knowledge fails to mitigate his sense of perpetual surprise at the fact that there are facts at all. Looking at the world he would say, "This is the Lord’s doing, it is marvelous in our eyes" (Me-et Adonai haytah zot, hi niflat b’aynaynu! — Psalms 118:23 and Hallel).

This Thursday evening, after our meditation period, we will share our experiences with mindfulness, wonder, and joy. What helps us bring them into our lives? Do we miss them when they are not present?

An excerpt about concentration and joy by Thich Nhat Hanh is below.

Smiling Like a Buddha: A Six-Session Mindfulness Meditation Class begins this coming Monday, September 28.

Many blessings,

Mitchell Ratner

Concentration

from Your True Home: The Everyday Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh

When you contemplate the big, full sunrise, the more mindful and concentrated you are, the more the beauty of the sunrise is revealed to you. Suppose you are offered a cup of tea, very fragrant, very good tea. If your mind is distracted, you cannot really enjoy the tea. You have to be mindful of the tea, you have to be concentrated on it, so the tea can reveal its fragrance and wonder to you. That is why mindfulness and concentration are such sources of happiness. That’s why a good practitioner knows how to create a moment of joy, a feeling of happiness, at any time of the day.

in: Dharma Topics
Discussion Date: Thu, Sep 24, 2015


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