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.
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.
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.
Sweeping Heart Zen has taken root in Gloucester in 2017. We’ve grown as a website and settled in as a center for meditation and Buddhist practice. Consequently, I think it’s a good time to write a post to (re)introduce SHZ to our growing community of members, readers, and friends. The Buddha described his teachings as, “…visible here and now, immediate…, to be experienced by the wise.” That is, he invited us to inspect, test, and experience his teachings firsthand. The Buddha did not offer his teachings as dogma. They’re not a catechism-like checklist of ideas to believe. On the contrary, the teachings are experiments in living to be tried and tested. One asks, “Do I grow in joy, peace, and contentment as I practice these teachings? Do the people close to me suffer less as I grow in this way of life?” Testing the merits of the teachings and the value of the techniques can be likened to mindfulness in action, to compassion in action. Consequently, the Sweeping Heart Zen Way is practical, experiential, broad minded, and nonsectarian.
Surely planet Earth is a miracle. The Earth and it’s place in the universe still seems like a miracle despite centuries of scientific probing, conjecture and theory. Don’t worry, since I have little training in science, I don’t aim to get deeply scientific in this post. What I will do is use some jaw-dropping conclusions from science to remind us that you and I are miracles. Furthermore, I want to encourage you to remember to rest in the miracle you are.
“Develop a mind that is vast like space, where both pleasant and unpleasant experiences can appear and disappear without conflict, struggle or harm. Rest in a mind like vast sky.” ~The Buddha
In my last post, I talked about physical rest and bodily relaxation within the broad context of practice. I suggested that rest and relaxation are not optional. A skillful and accomplished yogis knows when, where, and how to rest. On the mat or meditation cushion? Yes. In all of life’s play, work, and relationships? Check. By the same token, the skilled yogis also knows that relaxation and rest must also be found in the sky-like, innate awareness she was born with. Relaxing in innate awareness is another key to making progress in life, in yoga or along the Buddhist path.
A shift in the quality of our attention, and in what we pay attention to, is at the heart of mindfulness practice. In part one of this post, I cleared up three misconceptions that could prevent someone beginning a mindfulness meditation practice from getting a sustainable start. This post will briefly review those misconceptions, then extend our discussion by focusing on the importance of developing the capacity for nonjudgmental attention in mindfulness practice.
I find nothing as calming as the feel of my body touching what the Buddha called the “earth element.” Of course, it’s the solid, steadfastness of the way earth element feels that I find so settling, so stilling . But what is earth element?