- The Farm
- The Alliance
So here’s the thing: will you be here for your life, or will you miss it?
Do you remember, perhaps, how summer days were in childhood? Did you wake in the morning with a whole day in front of you, go out the door to play with friends or to wander outdoors? Occasionally chores? And when evening came, you could barely remember morning, it was so long ago?
There’s an expression from a Zen teacher about sesshin (meditation retreat): “the days are as long as they were in childhood.” We sit facing a wall, with structured breaks for walking, eating, chanting, talks, and maybe a work period. With no escape except the daydream, the days are long, the minutes move slowly. That could be a blessing or a curse, but it’s mind’s habits that make it a curse.
Mindfulness is about becoming free from those habits. I could say changing those habits, and that would also be true. Develop the habit of calm, of readiness, of openness, of interest, replacing habits of fear, escape, or complaint.
One training is to sit still and upright, and let the mind follow the breath: sitting meditation. Of course the mind wanders, and the training is to bring it back. It can feel like work, because the mind’s wanderings seem fascinating, and the present seems boring. This is the cognitive mind, which only knows thoughts. But thoughts are just another experience, known in Buddhism as one of the six senses.
The mind of awareness knows more. The body itself is an infinity of sensations, when we notice them. Even just sounds – stop for a moment and listen, listen, listen. Even the most subtle movements of the body, proprioception. Heat and cold, the movement of air on the skin, the touch of clothing or objects. And the cognitive mind is a vast ocean, thoughts arising and falling, arising and being pursued, arising and being avoided. All the senses – sight, smell, taste as well as sound, touch, and thought – offer vast entertainment for the calm mind, and that calming eventually leads to the delight of deep calm called samadhi, or one-pointedness.
Every action, even stillness, becomes an ocean of sensation for the mind of awareness. And then you are alive.
Writing this is not to deny the thing called work, meaning taking an action with the intention of a result. That requires its own writing. Another time.
And here is something I’m aware of right now, in world events.
May you be here for your life.