Immersion in the Moment (written 2016)
I'm thinking about practice. How it threads through my days. Not just the formal stuff...the sitting, the chanting, the sutta studies and Dhamma talks. But mostly how this ongoing journey on the eightfold path informs every encounter, activity and moment of my day, like wearing sunglasses that tint everything a certain shade. This is my world view.
I notice when the glasses slip or the lenses smudge. These are the moments when I forget where I put down the keys. Or open the fridge instead of the cupboard and then wonder what I'm doing, what I'm looking for. There was a time when this sort of forgetfulness was frequent, just something I accepted in a too busy world, and a life with too much multi-tasking. Aging may impact memory and these days I might encounter someone I used to see often and find I can't recall their name. But the loss of the moment as it passes is less frequent then it was in my 20's. That's something.
Throughout the day the flow of body and mind is threaded together. Moving here, lifting this, closing this, stirring this, opening this, kneeling here. And out of this presence arises a sense of contentment and peace. A central characteristic of unhappiness, perhaps, is the lack of presence. Or is it that lack of presence is marked by unhappiness in some form?
When you are feeling blue next time, notice whether you are in touch with this moment, with body and mind. Perhaps you explore the “weather” of the mind and find it stormy. But if you move below this and into the body, to the tension, the aching of the heart, then something shifts. And as you make contact with pure sensation, a lighter mood emerges. That's the way it seems to me.
My teacher explains that “moods” feed on themselves, and a little investigation shows this to be true. Feeling sad, you conjure sad memories and sorrowful visions of the future and sadness grows. Feeling happy, the sky is a brighter blue, even the rain smells delicious and makes the world new, what you anticipate is promising, what you remember makes you smile. But you don't have to be a helpless victim of “mood”.
Practice teaches us to notice and interrupt the negative. To dig into the closet, throw open the shutters, empty the bins and find something that sparkles, something to start from. For me, most often, this something is in the body. In the smooth and involuntary movement of the breath. In the touch of the earth. In the feel of the air. In a drink of cool water. In the sound of silence. Not escape from this moment but immersion in it.
Living this practice means to be devoted to the ongoing cultivation of gratitude, appreciation and joy. It means keeping my eyes open when things are bleak, and looking closely. Then stepping back for the wider view that shows this moment for what it is...a single pixel in the big picture.