Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Month of Living Mindfully

Today I led a silent meditation retreat in Temescal Canyon near Malibu. I was one of two teachers, so I had the opportunity to get in on a little of the stillness myself (why should the retreatants have all the fun?). I luxuriated in the exquisite, palpable silence of the sitting practices, and reveled in the joys of the walking meditation.

During one walking practice, it came to me that I should devote the month of November to living as mindful a life as I can. I have been feeling the need to devote more wholeheartedness to my practice, so each morning will begin with a minimum 30-minute sitting, followed by 10 to 15 minutes of mindful walking. For each week, I will choose one everyday activity that I will do with mindful awareness (this week: I will be present every time I open a door). During difficult times, whenever I can remember to do so, I will disengage from the thinking mind and bring awareness to a physical, sensory reality -- a sound, a taste, a sensation, an object of sight, or a smell.

The lesson here for me is that even though I teach this stuff just about every day in some form, there is no substitute for personal practice.

We are householders, not monastics, and most of us can't drop everything whenever we want to and attend retreats for extended periods of time. We have to find a way in our daily lives to connect with the present moment without renouncing our lives. A Month of Living Mindfully may be a way to start.

From The Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot:
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light and the stillness the dancing.

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