Day 5 of 30: A Commitment to Positive Change
One of my favorite books is Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. I return to it on a regular basis because it is filled with wonderful reminders. As my practice has grown over the years, I get something different each time I re-read it. It is a quick read. But its brevity does not sacrifice much in terms of accuracy & completeness.
So I’ll take this opportunity to share a passage from it (note: I added the highlights in bold):
“Seated meditation is the arena in which the meditator practices his own fundamental skills. The game the meditator is playing is the experience of his own life, and the instrument upon which he plays is his own sensory apparatus. Even the most seasoned meditator continues to practice seated meditation, because it tunes and sharpens the basic mental skills he needs for his particular game. We must never forget, however, that seated meditation itself is not the game. It’s the practice. The game in which those basic skills are to be applied is the rest of one’s experiential existence …
One of the most memorable events in your meditation career is the moment when you first realize that you are meditating in the midst of some perfectly ordinary activity. You are driving down the freeway or carrying out the trash and it just turns on by itself. This unplanned outpouring of the skills you have been so carefully fostering is a genuine joy. It gives you a tiny window on the future. You catch a spontaneous glimpse of what the practice really means. The possibility strikes you that this transformation of consciousness could actually become a permanent feature of your experience. You realize that you could actually spend the rest of your days standing aside from the debilitating clamoring of your own obsessions, no longer frantically hounded by your own needs and greed. You get a tiny taste of what it is like to just stand aside and watch it all flow past. It’s a magic moment …
We specifically cultivate awareness through the seated posture in a quiet place because that’s the easiest situation in which to do so. Meditation in motion is harder. Meditation in the midst of fast-paced noisy activity is harder still. And meditation in the midst of intensely egoistic activities like romance or arguments is the ultimate challenge. The beginner will have his hands full with less stressful activities.
Yet the ultimate goal of practice remains: to build one’s concentration and awareness to a level of strength that will remain unwavering even in the midst of the pressures of life in contemporary society.“
My caveat to the above excerpt from my coaching experience is that meditation in motion is easier for some people. For all we share, there is also a great diversity in our human dispositions and experiences. Some people are comfortable sitting still. For others, attending to the body in motion feels much more accessible and natural. I have known plenty of people who have cultivated effective mindfulness practices through yoga or Qigong. Going back to the source, I will paraphrase the Buddha from the discourse on mindfulness (the Satipatthana Sutta): mindfulness is knowing when you are sitting that you are sitting, knowing when you are lying down that you are lying down, knowing when you are walking that you are walking, and so on.
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See you tomorrow!