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Posts Tagged ‘nature’

4 am: I woke up – and the very first thought that entered my consciousness was ‘mindful’. I blinked my eyes open, and the next thought that I had was ‘breath’. Then ‘lungs’, then ‘present moment’, then ‘mindful’.  Holy crap, my attempt to establish mindfulness last night actually worked!  I woke this morning with mindfulness!

4:01 am: And then my mind wandered on to thoughts of packing, and a to-do list quickly formed in my consciousness.  But for a good minute, at the very beginning of my day, I was totally mindful.  It’s a decent start.

5:45 am: I was at my car, placing my suitcase in the trunk, and about to make my way back to the meditation hall for our 6 am sitting, when I saw Bhante approach from his hermitage.  Wrapped up in a big brown coat over his maroon robe, wearing a maroon stocking cap and scarf, he struck me as a tiny, spry, wise old man – full of peace, but also common (worldly) sense.  I love it.

6 am: Sitting meditation.  This session was rocky for me as far as concentration was concerned, but beautiful as far as decreased self-judgment, and increased acceptance of what is.  It’s not complacency, but instead a simultaneous non-judgmental acceptance of the present state of affairs, coupled with an earnest, wholesome desire to want to do better, get better, be better.

7 am: Breakfast.  The sun came out for the first time since we arrived at the retreat; and before he walked upstairs to the kitchen, Bhante stood at the big bay window overlooking the lake where I had stood yesterday, and gazed at the sunshine, enjoying the view.  I agree.

8 am: Schedule change.  Originally we were supposed to have a teaching at this time, but it got moved to 9 am – and we weren’t given any explicit instructions for how to spend our hour from 8-9 am.  The most obvious choice would be to meditate (either sitting, walking, or doing yoga); but I had done about all of the meditation my mind could handle these past two days – so I engaged in stare-out-the-bay-window-and-watch-birds meditation.  (And I thought of my mother-in-law while I did this [as I nearly always do every time a bird catches my eye], and sent her well-wishes while I gazed.)  During the 45 minutes I was at the window I saw a very red robin, a very blue jay, a small black-and-white spotted fellow, and a tiny brown sparrow.  I also heard a woodpecker intermittently, but I never was able to see him.

9 am: Teaching.  The theme of this session was metta (loving-friendliness) and mindfulness, and the relationship between the two.  During this talk Bhante made three key points:
1) A meditator should not practice metta without also being mindful as well, lest the wholesome friendliness of metta turn into an unwholesome state of clinging.
2) Metta/loving-friendliness practice is a practice – so this state should be cultivated in our thoughts (meditation) as well as in our spoken/written words and our physical actions.  Metta should be cultivated both on our cushion, as well as out in the world as we live our lives.
3) Metta should be practiced for our own benefit, not for anyone else’s.  Other people will be just as they are; the world will be just as it is; and we can’t change every single person, nor can we change every single factor in the world.  What we can do is change ourselves – and in changing ourselves, we will certainly benefit, but we will also slowly change the world.  Now how’s that for a terrific koan?  : )

9:30 am: Meditation.  I felt restless and antsy, yet also focused and committed to practice.  I want to go home, but I also want to maintain the deeper meditative states I have experienced/cultivated while here on retreat; and I’m not confident that I will be able to do that (or, perhaps more accurately, remain willing to do the very hard work it takes to maintain them) once I return to my busy, everyday, householder life.  I felt conflicted, and vacillated between relief and anxiety, calm and fear.

10 am: Q&A.  I asked Bhante, “You’ve told us so many good things these past thee days.  But if we are feeble-minded and can only remember one of them, what is the one thing you would have us do when we leave here and return to our everyday lives?”  Bhante’s answer: “Be mindful.”

It couldn’t be any clearer, or simpler.  Certainly not easy – but I shall do my best.

With that, I picked up my meditation cushion and blanket, walked to my car, started it up, and drove down the unpaved driveway, headed for home.

Stef

(Click here to go to the afterward – if you are so inclined.)

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