Dear Still Water Friends,
There is something a bit odd about setting an intention to be mindfully present. When we learn meditation, we are told that if we wish to develop our capacity to be present, we should let go of our worries, projects, and plans. In sitting meditation, we learn to be mindfully present to our physical and mental sensations – just to be with them, without wanting to change them. Thich Nhat Hanh says that in becoming more present we become Buddhas, bringing mindfulness, concentration, and insight into the world.
As we develop our capacity to be more present in our sitting meditation, our experience of life changes. We feel more at ease. We feel more alive. Not being pushed around by fears and emotions, we feel more stable. The capacity to be more present, and the accompanying satisfactions, easily generalize. We find ourselves a bit more present, a bit more at ease, a bit more alive when we are talking with friends, going for a walk, or working on a task.
This is what the tradition of mindfulness practice teaches. This has been true in my life, and I’ve seen this transformation occur in the lives of hundreds of people.
Its not that everything is suddenly changed and we become perfect. We still are who we are. For example, I still procrastinate, say stupid things to people from time to time, and get anxious making decisions. However, it is easier than before. I’m able to work with, accommodate, compensate for, and smile to my shortcomings, and devote less energy to unhelpful ways of being with them, such as denial, exaggeration, blaming myself or others, or acting out.
I also know I have the potential to be more mindfully present. This past Sunday, during our New Year’s Tea in Columbia, we sat in meditation with the question: What would I like to nourish or accomplish in 2010? Right away, “being more mindful” came up.
This is where it gets interesting. I have this yearning, this aspiration in me to be more mindful. However, if I turn “being more mindful” into a project, if I get attached to certain outcomes, then I am undercutting mindfulness rather than nourishing it.
In our program this Thursday evening, we will focus especially on two questions. In what ways do we experience an aspiration to be more mindful in 2010? How can we embody our aspiration without it becoming a worry, project, or plan?
I invite you to be with us.
Some thoughts from Thay on the two questions are below.
Warm wishes for a peaceful and joyous 2010.
Becoming A Source of Joy
by Thich Nhat Hanh from Breathe, You Are Alive!
In traditional Chinese medicine, doctors often offer their patients something healing that is delicious to eat. And just by eating, you begin to heal in a pleasant and relaxed way. The same thing is true with the practice. While you practice sitting, you enjoy sitting. While you practice breathing, you enjoy the breathing. And if you are able to enjoy yourself, then healing and transformation will take place.
When you’re able to stop and breathe and enjoy each moment, you’re doing it for all your ancestors. Make a peaceful step. Smiling and touching the earth happily is very important. Your practice is not for yourself alone, it benefits the whole world.
We practice stopping and observing to arrive at liberation. We live as if we’re in a dream. We’re dragged into the past and pulled into the future. We’re bound by our sorrows, agitation, and fear, and we hold on to our anger, which blocks communication. “Liberation” means transforming and transcending these conditions in order to be fully awake, at ease and in peace, joyfully and freshly. When we live in this way, our life is worth living, and we become a source of joy to our family and to everyone around us.