“When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.” -Thich Nhat Hanh
Look at this beautiful kiwi fruit. Suppose you've never eaten a kiwi and you asked me to describe it to you. I could explain how it's small, oval shaped, and fits in the palm of my hand, or how its skin is slightly fuzzy, yet slightly rough. I could describe the bright green flesh that is speckled with tiny black seeds and how it has an almost creamy texture. Or how it tastes slightly like strawberries, banana and melons combined. I could slice one open and show you its beautiful green starburst insides, but until you actually hold one in your hand, or taste its juicy sweetness, or see its vivid color, you can never truly know what it's like to experience a kiwi. You can never really know the truth of eating a kiwi, right?
In order to understand the ultimate truth of any situation, you have to stop being an observer and become a participant. In order for true understanding to be possible, you have to remove the barrier between observer and the object being observed. You can read about, or listen to or watch something be explained, but in order to fully understand the truth about the object of your attention, you must experience it. Explanations are just notions and concepts, and notions and concepts can never be the reality. Experience is how we cultivate insight - deep intuitive understanding.
Until I had experienced true mindfulness at Thay's retreat, I only had notions and concepts about it. I studied a lot about it, I understood it on an intellectual level, but it wasn't until I experienced it first hand for an extended period of time that the truth of it awakened in me.
Our teachers (yoga and meditation, or otherwise) can describe for us the experience of a posture, breathing techniques, or what meditation is or is not, but ultimately it is up to each practitioner to take the notions and concepts that they are provided with and find their own experience and insight.
When we begin class with the bell of mindfulness, it's an invitation for us to turn our full attention to the practice of finding the truth of each moment. The bell is a powerful reminder to let go of notions and concepts and absorb the experience of the truth of being, without adding anything extra. We practice "tasting" each posture and noticing the texture of our thoughts, the richness of our breath and the weight of our awareness.
Until next time…