Sally in the Zen

Confessions of a Befuddled Zen Buddhist

Introspection: Mindful Awareness

Life is a succession of moments.  To live each one is to succeed.~ Corita Kent

I’ve been pondering this — mindful awareness — for awhile, and I still don’t quite know how to tackle this topic.  Have you ever had those moments where you know what you want to say but you just can’t find the words to say them?  That’s where I am with this.

I’m trying to find the words to convey how mindful awareness, such an intangible concept, is an everyday way of life and living for me.

It’s like trying to describe how a body needs air.

I think.

So I do what I normally do when I’m puzzled, baffled or just go blank.

I Google.

(Sidebar:  what in the world did we ever do in those pre-Google days?)

Ready are you? What know you of ready? For eight hundred years have I trained Jedi. My own counsel will I keep on who is to be trained. A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless.  ~ Yoda

What?  Sometimes I seek wisdom from Master Yoda too.  What of it?

Anyway.

So I’ve been looking for examples of moments.

Why am I bothering, you ask?

Because mindful awareness is all about moments for me.

Moments.

Of time.  Of feeling.  Of awareness.

Before we go any further, I need to throw out this reminder again. 

Although I am a Zen Buddhist, I have absolutely no formal training in this religion and philosophy.  Zen Master – my father – is my teacher.

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment. ~ Buddha

Bingo.  Finally something I can wrap my hands around.

Concentrate the mind on the present moment.

But how? 

Through mindful awareness.

According to Wikipedia, now I’m paraphrasing here, mindfulness is part of Buddhist meditation.  But honestly, after reading the link three times, I still don’t quite grasp what it’s describing.  From the Terminology section on the Wikipedia page:  “The state or quality of being mindful; attention; regard, with obsolete meanings of “memory” and “intention, purpose.”

Huh?

And as I read further along on the page, I become uncertain and unsure of what I already know from Zen Master.  This is not good because the whole reason why I’m Googling in the first place is to find clarity.

So what do I do?

I pull a Neo from The Matrix, and go back to the source.

Don’t get me wrong.  This booklet didn’t bump Zen Master down the ladder in knowledge and wisdom. 

No…no, not at all.  As if a booklet can displace him.  And NO, this is not an advertisement for this book.

Ok, let’s focus here, people.

Zen Master may be the source of knowledge, wisdom and guidance of all things Zen for me, but I have to admit, that sometimes I just don’t get him.  Sometimes his wisdom is too cryptic.

Newsflash:  bafflement doesn’t lead to enlightenment.  No siree.

Ask him to clarify, you say?  Oh HO, easier said than done.  I’ve tried many, many, many times.

Zen Master:  Life is suffering and you need to embrace mortality.

Me:  Wha?

Zen Master:  Time is finite and your hands are your instruments.

Me:  Can’t you just speak in little words?  I don’t understand what you’re trying to say.

Zen Master:  Bah!  College-educated, and you can’t understand something so simple!  Phoo on you!

So you see, it’s no use asking for clarification on such things. 

I, Grasshopper, must venture on uncovering its true meaning on my own.

Hence, this booklet.

It speaks in clear and concise words and it’s easier to understand than my Zen Master.

But let’s get back on point here, shall we?

I was speaking of moments.

More specifically, mindful awareness.

Mindfulness, mindful awareness is part of me.  It’s part of Buddhist meditation and it’s something I actively practice.  I love my little booklet, Everyday Meditation, because it translates this complex topic into bite-size ideas.  I’ve had it for years and I’ve pondered over it off and on for years. 

On page 40, there is a section called Awareness in Every Moment.  The gist of this section speaks about actively being aware of your thoughts and actions in everyday moments of living.  Observing yourself, watching your breathing, watching your reactions to given situations.

All to gain personal insight.

All of my posts are about moments.  When I meditate, I’m in the moment.  When I’m sweating at the gym, I’m in that moment. 

And when I mean I’m in that moment, I mean that I’m vividly aware of:

*  My heart pounding in my chest as I struggle with the dumbbells.

*  My hands perspiring through my fingerless gloves.

*  My back of my head soaked and dripping with sweat.

*  My muscles so fatigued that I can’t even lift myself up.

*  The heavy stench of sweat from other bodies attacking my nose.

I’m not thinking, Gee, what’s for dinner tonight?  or Damn, that guy’s a hottie.

My focus is in that moment, 100%.

That’s what mindful awareness is to me.

What’s the end game for this entire exercise, mindful awareness?  Why am I going through the trouble of trying to be mindful of all my actions?  Why bother in becoming acutely aware of every single moment for the rest of my life?

WHY?

Simple.

Because I am a Zen Buddhist, and I want Enlightenment.

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Meditation

There’s nothing like when a day ends.

When the sun sets and the night rolls in, when the dinner dishes have long been washed and put away, when the house finally comes to rest from the daily activities, there’s really nothing like the feeling of calm that settles over everything at day’s end.

And this is when I meditate. 

I have read about group meditations, and occasionally Zen Master and I do group meditations.

However, ultimately, meditation is a solo act.

It’s in this one act where the world around me fades away when I close my eyes. 

It’s when I’m acutely aware of my breathing, focusing on the deep pull of air that enters my nose, filling my body to capacity before slowly exiting my mouth.  My Tai Chi instructor labels the inhale as “breathing in the flowers” and exhale as “blowing out the candles.”

This is when I focus on calming the constant stream of random thoughts in my mind, lulling them to rest.

And this is the only act that gives me the strength to shelf all the troubles that may ache my heart, at least for awhile.

Sometimes I still struggle with calming my thoughts, especially when it was a doosie of a day. 

Meditation is a living, breathing personal work in progress.

Let’s put it in another way. 

You know how you can appear calm on the outside but in the inside, your heart is torn up, in turmoil?  Meditating is about getting the mind and heart in sync with each other so that you actually are calm.  You don’t need to project an image of calm.  You are calm. 

Hence, that’s why I say meditation is a work in progress.  It’s easy to say but extremely hard to do.  But given time and practice, it becomes natural. 

Zen Master tells of a Chinese legend of an evil Zen Master, who when he sits down to meditate, when he’s truly in the zone, nothing could break his concentration.  Even when he was surrounded and was physically being attacked by others armed with swords and weapons, he was untouchable.  It took the combined efforts of three good Zen Masters to take him down.

Now that’s something to strive for.  Except the evil part, of course.

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