The Practice of Arriving

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Dear Still Water Friends,

I’ve always enjoyed the opening paragraph in Thich Nhat Hanh’s Being Peace:

Life is filled with suffering, but it is also filled with many wonders, like the blue sky, the sunshine, the eyes of a baby. To suffer is not enough. We must also be in touch with the wonders of life. They are within us and all around us, everywhere, any time.

For me, it is an elegant description of the human condition. Suffering fills our lives. We cannot separate from it. Twenty-five hundred years ago, in the Turning of the Wheel Sutra, the Buddha explained: birth, aging, illness and death are suffering (Sanskrit, dukkha). Sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair are suffering. And, “union with what is displeasing,” “separation from what is pleasing,” and “not to get what one wants” are also suffering (translations by Bhikkhu Bodhi).

Yet, there are also many wonders, delights, miracles, and satisfactions in us and around us, always available to us.

The tragedy of so many lives is that while we learn early to experience (and hold on to) the sufferings of life, we don’t learn to fully experience the joys. The mindfulness practice tradition teaches us that true happiness comes when we can fully enter the present moment. Thich Nhat Hanh calls it the practice of arriving. We relax and bring our bodies and minds one hundred per cent into the here and now.

Not only is the present moment usually pleasant, it is also curative. Over time our minds can heal from the many wounds we have been carrying. With a clearer mind we will understand how we can transform some of the suffering in our own lives and in the lives of those around us.

This Thursday evening our schedule will be slightly different. After our sitting meditation we will begin our program with introductions. Then, we will have an extended walking meditation in which we practice arriving, working with the gata:

I have arrived

I am home

In the here

And in the now.

I am solid.

I am free.

In the ultimate

I dwell.

Our Dharma discussion will open with the question: What allows, encourages, aids us to more fully enter the present moment.

You are invited to join us.

As except on arriving during sitting meditation from Thich Nhat Hanh’s Peace is Every Step is below.

Registration is now open for the November 2 Sackler Gallery Tour and the November 8-10 Mindful Families Retreat. The links are below.

Warm wishes,

Mitchell Ratner

Friday, November 8 to Sunday, November 10, 2013, Joyfully Together: Mindful Families Retreat at Charter Hall

Present Moment, Wonderful Moment

From Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh

In our busy society, it is a great fortune to breathe consciously from time to time. We can practice conscious breathing not only while sitting in a meditation room, but also while working at the office or at home, while driving our car, or sitting on a bus, wherever we are, at any time throughout the day.

There are so many exercises we can do to help us breathe consciously. Besides the simple “In-Out” exercise, we can recite these four lines silently as we breathe in and out:

Breathing in, I calm my body.

Breathing out, I smile.

Dwelling in the present moment,

I know this is a wonderful moment!

“Breathing in, I calm my body.” Reciting this line is like drinking a glass of cool lemonade on a hot day—you can feel the coolness permeate your body. When I breathe in and recite this line, I actually feel my breath calming my body and mind.

“Breathing out, I smile.” You know a smile can relax hundreds of muscles in your face. Wearing a smile on your face is a sign that you are master of yourself.

“Dwelling in the present moment.” While I sit here, I don’t think of anything else. I sit here, and I know exactly where I am.

“I know this is a wonderful moment!” It is a joy to sit, stable and at ease, and return to our breathing, our smiling, our true nature. Our appointment with life is in the present moment. If we do not have peace and joy right now, when will we have peace and joy—tomorrow, or after tomorrow? What is preventing us from being happy right now? As we follow our breathing, we can say, simply, “Calming, Smiling, Present moment, Wonderful moment.”

This exercise is not just for beginners. Many of us who have practiced meditation and conscious breathing for forty or fifty years continue to practice in this same way, because this kind of exercise is so important and so easy.

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