I’d like to encourage everyone on the North Shore to join in the 5th Annual Pete Seeger Legacy Sing this evening Sunday, March 18, from 6 to 8 o’clock at Magma, 11 Pleasant Street in Gloucester. It’s free and all freewill donations from the sing will go to March For Our Lives. This promises to be a heartwarming, good time and I’m sure you’ll agree that March For Our Lives is something that deserves our support. Here’s a link with the details: magma.center/event/pete-seeger-legacy-sing/
One of the things we’re learning in meditation is to live in the always present, unspeakably spontaneous, unpredictable liveliness of each moment. After our early morning meditation at Sweeping Heart Zen we chant “May the mind flower bloom in eternal spring.” That is, we remind ourselves that human beings can touch the eternal spring in each moment.
Two memories really got me thinking about Zen and mopping floors this week. But before I go into that, I want to talk about one aspect of Zen. You’ve heard the expression “Chop wood, carry water.” Zen’s flavor is earthy and this saying captures that perfectly. This simple phase could just as well say, “Mop floors, wash dishes.” One thing this saying does is give full-throated encouragement to a Zen practitioner who aims to cultivate mindful attention in everything she does. This is how we practice. In addition, the saying is encouragement to unhesitatingly do what needs doing. Without doubt or fear. Mopping floor Zen is down-to-earth, affectionate, and intimate.
We just entered our first 6-week practice period here at Sweeping Heart Zen. Before we started the period, people who formally entered this time of invigorated practice submitted what’s called a Practice Period Intention Form. One questions on the form asks, “What theme or issue do you intend to focus on during this Practice Period?” I intend to deeply rest and relax in awareness.
Even before the Buddha’s lifetime, Indian spiritual seekers spent their lives wandering the countryside alone or in small groups. Also, individual seekers sometimes lived solitary lives in the forest. Yet, once a year they gathered in larger groups during the three-month-long rainy season.
These days I’m driving much less than I used to. Many people would like to drive less but for various reasons cannot. So I know I’m lucky. It can be intense on the road, right? One reason I’m driving less is because I’d like to increase the peace in my life. And, since peace is the ultimate goal of practice, when I need to drive I aim to get where I’m going in peace.
Beyond optimism and pessimism the Buddha taught possibilism. You say, “Possibilism, what are you talking about, Mark?” What I’m talking about is that no matter how hopeless anyone feels, one can connect with an inner core of life energy, vibrancy, the source of life affirming change. It’s always there within reach. Possibilism! That’s the Buddha Way!
Why meditate? Why practice mindfulness? The general consensus today is that meditation and mindfulness reduce stress. Fortunately, if we simply stop, sit down, and pay attention to our breath, we find relief from stress—for sure. Yet, there is much more to meditation and mindfulness. So this post is about how meditation and mindfulness can heighten our awareness of something called Inattentional Blindness. A force that hinders our happiness and our ability to make human connections.
The Buddha wisely recommended a relaxed, calm body and a non-harming frame of mind for meditation. The Buddha said he found this path of gentle practice through reflecting on a delightful memory of safety and ease from his childhood.
Meditation and mindfulness literally change the human brain. Therefore, virtually anyone who practices consistently becomes less reactive, less stressed out, and less fearfully and defensively self-centered. What’s more, meditation practitioners progressively begin to see the interdependent nature of life more clearly. This is because a meditator’s heart begins to accept natural limits. She becomes simpler, less biased, more open hearted over time. Consequently, unfrozen from biases and fearful hesitation, she can act rightly when action is needed.