It’s great to go on retreats and have the privilege of being in the presence of great teachers like Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach, Jonathan Foust and Rick Hanson. It’s good to be home with my loved ones, despite the rain, and leave the beautiful memories of sunny California, my wonderful Sangha and the magnificent Redwood trees behind.
In order to re-align myself, I have to think about my purpose in life. My life is full of its own sweet challenges this year – with something big happening every other month. What I find most helpful is to be centered and anchored in the present moment.
“The only time you ever have in which to learn anything or see anything or feel anything or express and feeling or emotion or respond to an event, or grow, or heal, is this moment, because this is the only moment any of us ever gets. You’re only here now; you’re only alive in this moment.” -Jon Kabat-Zinn.
At the retreat, in the presence of great teachers, surrounded by 300 like-minded beings, it was easier to stay peacefully in the present moment, aware of my thoughts and emotions. Post-retreat, I cringe when people comment “you must be all Zen and calm now”. This brings me to “No Change” by the Zen monk Ryokan:
Last year, a foolish monk;
This year, no change!
Back to real life with a whining puppy, a 14 and an 8 y/old, both well-versed in pressing my buttons, stresses of work and studies, and (or despite) an-ever-so patient husband – I am not so calm anymore. It was only 12 hours ago I was weeping at the sight of two children crying as they said goodbye to a family member at the airport.
As Zen master Shunryu Suzuki said: “It is easy to have calmness in inactivity, it is hard to have calmness in activity, but calmness in activity is true calmness.”
At 1440 Multiversity’s idilic setting, enveloped by majestic Redwood trees and bird call from the woods – life was serene. It is easy to be disciplined when life is organised for you, with yoga and meditation at 5:45 am, then teaching and reflection ending at 9 pm – to slip into the heavenly bed for a peaceful night.
Does calmness of mind mean we should stop our activities? Can we find calmness in the activity itself?
The 7th century Zen master Seng-tsan taught that true freedom is being “without anxiety about imperfection.” This means accepting life as it is. Can we include difficult experiences and remember life’s inherent wholeness and mystery?
What helps you anchor in the present moment? Your loved ones? Your pet? Your work?
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land, there is no other life but this.” Henry David Thoreau
humour: A holyman is chanting om….
Two cows nearby: “the holy dude has got it all backwards!”