Touching Who We Really Are

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Dear Still Water Friends,

When I started to sit this morning at home, after putting down the bell inviter and listening to the very soft ending of the bell, I found myself directing my attention down deep into my abdomen, as I often do. Meditation for me involves focusing my energy, and it usually feels like an inward practice where I center in my chest or abdomen. But this morning, my solar plexus seemed to act like a trampoline, and my attention popped right up through my chest and out my head into the world around me. I was still centered, focused, calm, but my awareness was very much outside and around my body, not cloistered within. I enjoyed sitting, aware of the lack of boundaries I was experiencing.

The likely reason that happened this morning is I’d done some mindful movement before sitting. Doing these movements is one of my favorite aspects of mindfulness practice because physical practices can help ground me, calm my mind, and open up my heart to my surroundings.

This week, we’ll practice the Three Touchings of the Earth, which, as Thich Nhat Hanh explains below, are aimed at bringing us back to our true nature by getting us out of our collection of habits, emotional triggers, and other assorted mental baggage. For me, the physicality of the practice is as important as the words being said.

We’ll also practice the ten mindful movements, a form of qi gong that Thich Nhat Hanh offers. A video showing the movements can be found below.

There is nothing magical about these precise movements, so you can adapt them to your abilities and needs. Many people find them helpful as a complimentary form of mindfulness along with our sitting, walking, and other daily practices.

I hope you can join us to practice these and share your experiences.

Scott Schang


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Lotuses, Food, and Mindful Friends. Sunday, July 15, 2012, at the the National Park Service’s Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens.

Coming Home to Ourselves: A Day of Practice. Sunday, July 29, at Blueberry Gardens in Ashton, Maryland.

From Touching the Earth, a dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh

As more and more people suffer the pain of being uprooted from their culture, we need more than ever to come into contact with our own heritage and with the positive seeds of our tradition. The moment we feel happy, society already begins to be transformed, and others feel some happiness too. When someone in society discovers his true identity, we all find our identity. This is the principle of interbeing. Even though our society has caused us pain, suffering, internal formations and illness, we have to open our arms and embrace society in complete acceptance. We have to go back to our society with the intention to rebuild society and enrich its life by offering the appropriate therapies for its illnesses. I would like to offer an exercise that can help to do this. It is called Touching the Earth.

In each of us, there are many kinds of ideas, notions, attachments, and discrimination. This practice involves bowing down and touching the Earth, emptying ourselves, and surrendering to Earth. You touch the Earth with your forehead, your two hands, your two feet, and you surrender to your true nature, accepting any form of life your true nature offers you. Surrender your pride, hopes, ideas, fears, and notions. Empty yourself of all resentment you feel toward anyone. Surrender everything, and empty yourself completely. To do this is the best way to replenish yourself. If you do not exhale and empty your lungs, how can fresh air enter?

In this practice, the body and the mind work together in harmony to form a perfect whole.

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