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Being: Lessons in the present moment (the “missing” Monday post) January 25, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Dharma, Faith, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Hope, Karma, Life, Loss, Love, Meditation, Mysticism, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Suffering, Super Heroes, Tragedy, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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This post practice post for Monday, January 24th. Some links in this post will connect you to other websites. You can request an audio recording of Monday’s practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.

Check out the “Class Schedules” calendar for upcoming classes.

“‘And further, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu, in going forwards (and) in going backwards, is a person practicing clear comprehension; in looking straight on (and) in looking away from the front, is a person practicing clear comprehension; in bending and in stretching, is a person practicing clear comprehension; in wearing the shoulder-cloak, the (other two) robes (and) the bowl, is a person practicing clear comprehension; in regard to what is eaten, drunk, chewed and savored, is a person practicing clear comprehension; in defecating and in urinating, is a person practicing clear comprehension; in walking, in standing (in a place), in sitting (in some position), in sleeping, in waking, in speaking and in keeping silence, is a person practicing clear comprehension.

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“Thus he lives contemplating the body in the body internally… and clings to naught in the world. Thus, also, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu lives contemplating the body in the body.'”

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– quoted from “The Four Kinds of Clear Comprehension” in Satipatthana Sutta (The Foundations of Mindfulness) translated by Nyanasatta Thera

As I was getting ready for class on Saturday, I read that Thích Nhất Hạnh, the renowned Vietnamese Thiền (Zen) Buddhist monk had passed. He was 95, and while his life was not easy or – in some ways – peaceful, he had some ease and peace in his heart. He practiced and preached tapping into that ease and peace and he inspired others to do the same, regardless of their external circumstances. The world is lighting up with tributes to him that include details about his interfaith relationships with people like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jim Forest, and Thomas Merton. People are talking about how he was exiled from his home for 39 years; how he founded Plum Village Tradition; and how, in the process, he founded one of the largest (if not, the largest) monastic Buddhist orders in the West. People are remembering that his peace activism included an investment in the ecology. People are also talking about his books, which is part of what I’m doing here.

Thích Nhất Hạnh wrote over a hundred books, including at least one book for kids, and even more articles. His writings, like his dhamma talks, workshops, and presence-in-the-world inspired billions of people to examine how they live day-to-day. Like so many people around the world, my life was impacted by this great teacher that I never had the pleasure of meeting in-person. But, never doubt that he was very definitely one of my teachers.

As I have mentioned before, I used to carry one of his books around in my backpack and I would give it to random people who expressed an interest in beginning a meditation practice. I have read some of his other books – just as I have read and practiced with related books by other authors – but one little book (published in 1975) keeps coming up. When Dr. Thomas J. Bushlack extended me a great honor, several years in a row, by inviting me to share my practices with his J-term students, I took the same little book along. And, of course, when I answered some FAQ’s as part of my 2017 Kiss My Asana offering, the book came up.

For Monday’s class, I shared some related stories from this little book. I shared vignettes about washing dishes, drinking tea, and eating a tangerine – first during an easy time with a friend (Jim Forest) and then during a time when that same friend was imprisoned because of political activism during the Vietnam war. These passages were just a few of my favorites, and I considered sharing more. But, ultimately, I realized what that just sharing those bits was like friends sharing slices of a tangerine: it was enough. It was a lesson in the moment and of the moment.

“While washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes, which means that while washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes. At first glance that might seem silly: why put so much stress on a simple thing? But that’s precisely the point. The fact that I am standing there and washing these bowls is a wondrous reality. I’m being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There’s no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves.”

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– quoted from “1. The Essential Discipline – Washing the dishes to wash the dishes” in The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Manual on Meditation by Thích Nhất Hạnh (English translation by Mobi Ho)

The following is an excerpt from a post dated April 15, 2017, in response to three FAQs about book recommendations.

My similar dilemma regarding a book on meditation could be resolved by recommending a book on yoga mediation… and a book from each of several different Buddhist traditions…plus a book on the Kabbalah…and a book on Catholic contemplation and…..You get the idea. But, when it gets right down to it, there’s one book I am continually giving away – and it’s the same book used when I guided meditation with Dr. Thomas J. Bushlack’s University of St. Thomas classes: The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Manual on Meditation by Thích Nhất Hạnh.

I first came across The Miracle of Mindfulness when I was babysitting for some friends in Minneapolis. One day, when the kids were napping, this little violet paperback on the bookshelf in the living room caught my eye. I pulled it down, and found…stillness.

OK, I’m being dramatic. I had, of course, already experienced stillness in both yoga and seated meditation. However, Thích Nhất Hạnh’s The Miracle of Mindfulness made me pause, sit, and contemplate my overall practice and its connection to meditation. Over the last ten years, it has played an instrumental part in my re-commitment to the physical practice of yoga as a form of meditation.

Let me be clear: Thích Nhất Hạnh is not known as a yoga teacher and The Miracle of Mindfulness is not a book related to hatha yoga (the physical practice of yoga). Thích Nhất Hạnh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk most commonly associated with Zen Buddhism, but whose training includes several traditions. His Miracle of Mindfulness is based on Buddhist principles and practices, but is not teaching Buddhism, per se. Some might argue that it is not even teaching meditation (but, rather, mindfulness). Still, it accessible to people regardless of their background or experience and includes personal anecdotes as well as a series of practices that are simultaneously simple and profound.

To answer E’s final question, The Miracle of Mindfulness definitely has the tools to help a beginner establish a daily practice. Tools, however, do not build a mansion – and the mansion will not be built overnight.

“If we are are not fully ourselves, truly in the present moment, we miss everything.”

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– quoted from “PART ONE: Breathe! You Are Alive – Breathing and Scything – Flower Insights” in Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thích Nhất Hạnh (edited by Arnold Kotler)

There is no music for the Common Ground Meditation Center practice.

[NOTE: Music referenced in relation to the date can be found towards the end of the Sunday post.]

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“How long am I going to live?

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Here is some good news. If you look deeply into everything, you can see that you will live forever. You will never die; you will just change form. You are like a cloud. A cloud can become snow or rain, but it can’t die. You are like a wave in the ocean. After you rise and fall as a wave, you will still be part of the ocean. Your shape will change but you won’t disappear.”

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– quoted from Is Nothing Something? Kids’ Questions And Zen Answers About Life, Death, Family, Friendship, And Everything In Between by Thích Nhất Hạnh (edited by Rachel Neumann, Illustrated by Jessica McClure, with Cover and Interior Design by Debbie Berne)

For more about the tangerine meditation, check out this article by Thích Nhất Hạnh, posted at mindfulnessbell.org.

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### “Half-Smile When You First Wake Up In the Morning” ~TNH ###