Happiness is here and now
I have dropped my worries
Nowhere to go, nothing to do
No longer in a hurry
Happiness is here and now
I have dropped my worries
Somewhere to go, something to do
But I don't need to hurry
(Plum Village song)
(The mindfulness bell at Magnolia Grove Meditation Center)
After arriving at Magnolia Grove Monastery last week, we were greeted by the many smiling, peaceful faces of the monastics who live, work and were visiting there. We were a few hours early and were invited to set up our campsite and settle in. Being early we were surprised to note that at no time could one discern that 900 people were about to descend. There was an air of mindful work and peace surrounding the monks and nuns. No scrambling, no shouting, no panicked last minute preparations, just calm abiding.
Once we registered, went through orientation and prepared for our first meal, we heard the peal of a warm-toned bell. As the bell rang, we noticed that everyone mindfully stopped what they were doing and enjoyed three deep breaths in and out together before returning to their tasks. It wasn't long before we realized that this bell rang periodically (about every 15 minutes or so).
As I looked around the first several times the bell rang and I stopped to breathe, I was profoundly moved by the vision of so many people moving in different directions, doing different tasks, stopping and mindfully existing in the present moment. It was powerful.
I don't consider myself someone who zips around or is bursting with hyper energy, but after a day at the monastery, surrounded by the energy of mindful activity, I could distinctly feel the deeply rooted presence of rushing in me. The realization that, in the course of our daily lives we become numb to the momentum and pace of the world around us, hit me like a ton of bricks. Without being aware that it's happening, we start to vibrate with the forward surging energy that surrounds us. To have had the opportunity to step away from that energy and observe the tendency to hurry and rush was indeed a gift with profound benefits.
Thay says: "We often become so busy that we forget what we are doing or even who we are. I know people who say they even forget to breathe! We forget to look at the people we love and to appreciate them until it is too late. Even when we have some leisure time, we don't know how to get in touch with what is going on inside of ourselves. So we turn on the television or pick up the telephone as if we might be able to escape from ourselves.
To meditate is to be aware of what is going on - in our bodies, our feelings, our mind, and in the world. When we settle into the present moment, we can see beauties and wonders right before our eyes - a new born baby, the sun rising in the sky. We can be very happy just by being aware of what is in front of us."
By repeatedly returning back to the present moment and slowing down, you continuously come back to the wonders of life that are only available in the here and now, and your relationship with life takes on a whole new, deeper meaning. You soon discover that eternity is available in the present moment.
Spending a week vibrating at this slower, more mindful energy was truly a gift that planted deep-seated seeds. What I realize now is that we don't need to go off to spend time at a zen monastery, go away on vacation, or close ourselves off from the world to experience this stillness of being. It's available right here. Right now. So simple. All it takes is for us to be willing to see that we're the ones creating the hustle and bustle, often in an attempt to outrun ourselves. If we wish to slow down, we can indeed... slow down.
Next time you're in a hurry, take a moment to close your eyes and take three full, long, slow breaths in and out. Slowly open your eyes and feel the difference those three breaths made.
Until next time...
"Driving the Car Meditation"
(From: Present Moment, Wonderful Moment)
Before starting the car,
I know where I am going.
The car and I are one.
If the car goes fast, I go fast.
If we are mindful when we start our car, we will know how to use it properly. When we are driving we tend to think of arriving, and we sacrifice the journey for the sake of the arrival. But life is to be found in the present moment, not in the future. In fact, we may suffer more after we arrive at our destination. If we have to talk of a destination, what about our final destination, the graveyard? We do not want to go in the direction of death; we want to go in the direction of life. Life can be found only in the present moment. Therefore, each mile we drive, each step we take, has to bring us into the present moment.
When we see a red light or a stop sign, we can smile at it and thank it, because it is a bodhisattva (teacher) helping us return to the present moment. The red light is a bell of mindfulness. We may have thought if it as an enemy, preventing us from achieving our goal. But now we know the red light is our friend, helping us resist rushing and calling us to return to the present moment where we can meet with life, joy and peace.