Our focus for the group this week is the causes of dukka (unease). Things like grasping for something solid, wanting things not to change, aversion to parts of ourselves or of the world.
Traffic, telephones and the calm center
With mindfulness practice, there are many gathas and simple methods of bringing the awareness into the moment. As we move through the day, we can practice remembering to come into the present moment. The Sanskrit root of mindfulness can be translated as “remembering”. Here we find freshness and lightness, letting go of rushing around and playing reruns of thoughts and feelings.
When the telephone rings, allow it to ring twice before picking up. Let the two rings of the bell be a reminder to let go of preoccupations, remembering to be aware of how you are just now, physically and mentally. Taking this moment to center and ground, you can be really present to the person calling on the phone.
Hurrying to an appointment, I am often caught by a red traffic light or three. I can obsess about how many minutes I am from arrival and the lethargic change in the signal. Or I can choose to remember to enjoy this moment of stopping. Locating the breath and taking it deep into the abdomen, I observe the conditions in the body the breath touches. I invite calmness with the in-breath and allow release of stress with the out-breath. Then a little miracle occurs. The traffic moves in unison and clears a path to my destination. I arrive refreshed and available for listening.
Sometimes, when I notice stress pulling me around or I hear myself grumbling with anxiety, I remember a simple song. The words are: “In, out. Deep, slow. Calm, ease. Smile, release. Present moment, wonderful moment.” The song is my cue to rediscover the ease of mindfulness practice, bringing the awareness into the center of the body at the solar plexus. There, I establish the breath in the body. The area of centered awareness expands beyond the physical body. Now there is space for the stress or anxiety to rest and let go of its grip.
Going to and coming back from lunch, we can enjoy walking meditation. Centering the breath, I notice how things are in the body right now, observing the physical sensations associated with my thoughts and feelings. Am I captured by a story or riding away into a drama? Are there echoes in my gut? Focusing there, I note, observe and cradle the physical and emotional sensations. Gradually, I turn my awareness to the movement of my feet, lifting from and touching the earth. Often, it is enjoyable to slow down and just walk, feeling the support of the earth, solid and firm beneath my feet. Usually, there are flowers and green leaves along the path to delight the eyes. Letting go from the center of the body and being here, there is a lightness to my step.
Bringing the freshness and liberation of mindfulness into our daily lives is a kind and generous reward for the time we may spend meditating on the cushion. Having a regular meditation practice, preferably including a weekly group sitting, develops the skills for remembering to be mindful. What we have discussed above are samples of the practice tools available. To use these tools skillfully, we need the continuity of sincere practice.