Friday, February 5, 2010


At Christmastime a few years ago, a colleague sent me a card which was inscribed, "If you are not in awe, then you're just not paying attention." This sentiment succinctly describes introspective practices, such as meditation.

At its most fundamental, when we meditate we are practicing paying attention to one object in order to allow the mind to collect in the present moment. Being more present, in turn, helps make us more available to the awe-inspiring experience of being alive.

In the practice of vipassana meditation, this cultivation of awe starts with the body, a most worthy and interesting object of attention. The Buddha considered mindfulness of the body to be the path "to the supreme peace" (quoted in The Heart of Buddhist Meditation, by Nyanaponika Thera, p. 158). Therefore, the body is a great place to begin any practice. It is the platform from which we experience everything in this lifetime.

Awe literally means, "wondering reverence, tinged with fear, inspired by the sublime" (Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, 1973 ed., p. 79). If we are paying attention, then the simple fact that we are alive and in a body can inspire awe. Thich Naht Hanh put it this way, "To take human birth is miraculous, but to know that you are alive is even more of a miracle."
Awe is the salve
that will heal our eyes. ~ Rumi


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