Silver Spring, Maryland, community online on Thursday evening
May 7, 2021, 7:00 to 8:45 pm
Open to all online on Friday evening
Sometimes in life I go through inspired and engaged periods, and other times I am vaguely irritated and my life seems without spark. I may simply be tired and tied into a habit of stressful attitudes, having gone through several years of heavy demands. I have not looked deeply at this irritation, but I have noticed that what I really want is to PLAY and REST, not to have a plan or objective.
Our guidelines for meditation include following the breath, observing the passage of thoughts, and sitting upright and comfortably. It seemed to me effort was involved, which for me is the opposite of rest!
I shared these thoughts with Mitchell, who sent me the passage from Thich Nhat Hahn below (from the March 1998 issue of The Shambhala Sun). Thay explains that resting is the first part of meditation:
My dear friends, suppose someone is holding a pebble and throws it in the air and the pebble begins to fall down into a river. After the pebble touches the surface of the water, it allows itself to sink slowly into the river. It will reach the bed of the river without any effort. Once the pebble is at the bottom of the river, it continues to rest. It allows the water to pass by.
I think the pebble reaches the bed of the river by the shortest path because it allows itself to fall without making any effort. During our sitting meditation we can allow ourselves to rest like a pebble. We can allow ourselves to sink naturally without effort to the position of sitting, the position of resting. Resting is a very important practice; we have to learn the art of resting.
Resting is the first part of Buddhist meditation. You should allow your body and your mind to rest. Our mind as well as our body needs to rest. The problem is that not many of us know how to allow our body and mind to rest. We are always struggling; struggling has become a kind of habit. We cannot resist being active, struggling all the time. We struggle even during our sleep. It is very important to realize that we have the habit energy of struggling. We have to be able to recognize a habit when it manifests itself because if we know how to recognize our habit, it will lose its energy and will not be able to push us anymore.
To meditate means first of all to be there—to be on your cushion, to be on your walking meditation path. Eating also is a meditation if you are really there, present 100 percent with your food. The essential is to be there. So please when you practice meditation, don’t make any effort. Allow yourself to be like that pebble at rest. The pebble is resting at the bottom of the river and the pebble does not have to do anything. While you are walking, you are resting. While you are sitting, you are resting.
If you struggle during your sitting meditation or walking meditation, you are not doing it right. The Buddha said, “My practice is the practice of non-practice.” That means a lot. Give up all struggle. Allow yourself to be, to rest.
When I sit on my meditation cushion, I consider it to be something very pleasant. I don’t struggle at all on my cushion. I allow myself to be, to rest. I don’t make any effort and that is why I do not get any trouble while sitting. While sitting I do not struggle and that is why all my muscles are relaxed. If you struggle during your sitting meditation, you will very soon have pain in your shoulders and back. But if you allow yourself to be rested on your cushion you can sit for a very long time, and each minute is light, refreshing, nourishing, and healing.
We do not sit in order to struggle to get enlightenment. No. Sitting first of all is for the pleasure of sitting. Walking first of all is for the pleasure of walking. And eating is for the pleasure of eating. And the art is to be there 100 percent.
Be there truly. Be there 100 percent of yourself. In every moment of your daily life. That is the essence of true Buddhist meditation. Each of us knows that we can do that, so let us train to live each moment of our daily life deeply. That is why I like to define mindfulness as the energy that helps us to be there 100 percent. It is the energy of your true presence.
Breathing in, repeat in the here, in the here. Breathing out—in the now, in the now. Although these are different words they mean exactly the same thing. I have arrived in the here. I have arrived in the now. I am home in the here. I am home in the now.
When you practice like that, you practice stopping. Stopping is the basic Buddhist practice of meditation. You stop running. You stop struggling. You allow yourself to rest, to heal, to calm.
We hope you can join us this Thursday or Friday evening. After our meditation, we will read aloud this passage from Thay and consider these questions:
- When are you able to get the rest you need?
- Do you see mindfulness practice as helping you get the rest you need? Or do you see mindfulness practice as something effortful, another duty or obligation?
- Are there parts of this reading that feel important for your life right now?
(I have been a regular Thursday night participant for many years, however, I am uncomfortable having my last name on the internet because of privacy concerns.)
Special Still Water Invitation:Still Water MPC has endorsed May We Gather, A National Buddhist Memorial Ceremony for Asian American Ancestors, to be livestreamed on Tuesday, May 4, 2021, 7:00 – 8:30 pm EDT.
“May We Gather is the first national Buddhist memorial service in response to anti-Asian violence. The ceremony will be livestreamed from Higashi Honganji Temple in Los Angeles, which was vandalized earlier this year. The event will be freely broadcast online and will bring together Asian American Buddhists and their allies to heal in community together.”
You are invited to share this information with your Sangha members and friends. More information is at http://www.maywegather.org.