mindfulness and the tiny purple flowers by the side of the road

We already have what we need – your brain and your heart are your temples, and your philosophy, kindness.

It seems many of us get hooked by trying to get somewhere in our mindfulness meditation practice.  We evaluate where we are now and feel there is some ultra-cool place over the rainbow where meditation, if done correctly, will eventually take us.

Where all our frustrations, hassles and malaise are once and for all put to rest.

Couple things: what if

1) we fully relax into the reality that we can’t do mindfulness meditation wrong, and

2) the striving to get to that magic place is compounding our subtle (and not so subtle) discontent?

This is assuming, of course, you experience even a smidgen of discontent or disappoint in your life.

And if you don’t, and start practicing, well … you just might run into some, as mindfulness starts to percolate down into strata of our minds many of us have conveniently disregarded for years and decades.

So here we are.

As it says in the Zhuangzi , the ancient Chinese text from the late Warring States period (476–221 BC):

“Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness.”

Some folks I talk to seem to be unconsciously insisting they need certain things to get started with mindful meditation, such as the right book (or set of books), mp3s, DVDs.

To say nothing of understanding challenging theories and philosophies.

Consider a remark by no other than the Dalai Lama:

“There is no need for temples. No need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples. My philosophy is kindness.”

Such a striking statement I feel shows that indeed, as Don Cupitt notes in his remarkable book The Great Questions of Life:

“We are at the beginning (possibly in the middle, but definitely not at the end) of a global shift in the concept of religion, a shift away from the view of religion as a way of transcending the human condition and toward a view that religion is about embracing the human condition.”

This “No need for temples and complicated philosophies” sounds a lot like John Lennon:

“Imagine there’s no heaven

It’s easy if you try

No hell below us

Above us only sky

Imagine all the people

Living for today…”

We already have what we need – your “brain and your heart “are your temples, and your philosophy, kindness.

With your brain and your heart, and with kindness and mindfulness meditation, we can truly “embrace the human condition” as Don Cupitt says.

When we embrace with mindfulness what is actually happening in the moment, be it stubbing your toe or your pride, we learn again and again that the fuller we can embrace “what is,” the fuller mind and body can relax and rest.

And in that rest there may be found a juicyness, fullness, some call it a joy, in just experiencing, without grasping or rejecting, what arises, completely.

This is a quiet and deep joy that, in a way, has always been there, covered over by strata of reactivity and compulsiveness which subtly rule our lives, in one form or another.

In our meditation practice, the goal is not the deal, it’s the steps on the path. Each step, actually.

As Thich Nhat Hanh says, in the title to one of his books,

“Peace is every step.”

One teacher I was very fortunate to sit a retreat with early on in my practice was Munindra, a Bengali teacher who trained in Burma.

One of his students, Sharon Salzberg, recounts that when Munindra was asked once why he practiced his response was,

“So I will see the tiny purple flowers by the side of the road as I walk to town each day.”

Can we practice like this?

Katina and I are here to support your meditation practice in any way we can, just contact us through the Contact Page on this site. Or if you live in Honolulu, or ever visit, feel free to drop by our free, weekly meditation evenings.

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  1. Many years ago as a Catholic nun for six years we did daily hour long meditations. Actually, they were more contemplations, that is with points from various written sources. They included Jesus quotes, biblical quotes and quotes from other wisdom writers or mystics. We were to think on the thoughts and visuals from these. We were then to meditate on how they impacted oneʻs own life. We would then come up with actions that one would follow and practice daily. We also had small books called examinations of conscience that we looked at first thing in the morning to see what we should be doing that day to support our points of meditation, then before we retired in the evening check to see how we did that day with our actions in accord. I write all of this because after leaving the convent, I began to study East West belief systems of meditation, I began to see how simple Simple Meditation really is. Just breathing in the moment as fully as possible no matter what I was doing seemed more peaceful than what was really contemplation of ideas in the convent. Both seem to have value in and of themselves. But mindfully looking at a flower, the ocean, a tree, a baby, my hand or clouds drifting by, all with mindful meditation is truly a full-on inner joy. Spending whatever time we can make each day to just sit and breath in and out, following oneʻs breath, anywhere at all, with eyes open, or slightly closed, or completely closed, mindful of the moment, each one without any thoughts is truly wonderful.

    I look forward to coming to the Aloha Sangha sometime in the near future to sit with a group of people who also know the joy of mindful meditation and share this joy with you and all of them. Thanks for being there! So glad I found your sangha. Mindful blessings be yours. Aloha nui!

    1. Dear Mele — I am so sorry, due to a glitch (now fixed) this website was not directing comments back to me, so I am very sorry I missed this comment of yours. I am deeply moved by your words. I can truly appreciate the depth or your words and the experience they convey. Such a privilege and a blessing to have spent fruitful time as a monastic! Again I am so sorry I am only now seeing this! Wishing you well — tom

  2. This morning while meditating, I saw a bunch of small purple flowers. I even wrote in my journal, “like the kind you would see on the side of the road – wild flowers.” Later, I did a Google search for “purple flowers when meditating,” to see what the possible meaning was. The first thing to come up was this page. Wow! It is exactly what I needed to hear! I have been studying and expanding my spirituality over the past year and have been thinking a lot about why I can’t achieve that “state” during meditation that I feel I should be achieving. I constantly question whether I am doing it “right,” or whether I should use guided meditation, silence, breathing, mantras, etc. As you can see, this post of yours was right up my alley! I never cease to be amazed how God/Source gives me the right messages at the right time. Just wanted to share!
    PS, we just took a week’s vacation over spring break to Oahu/Honolulu…..loved it! Felt that it was a very spiritual place and a special time (flew in on Easter day) to be there.

    1. Hi Allison. This kind of blows my mind. But then again, there seem to remain many unknown processes in what most of us agree as being consensually validated notions about reality. In any case, this is still a little mind blowing! Thanks so much for getting in touch with me. If you ever feel like starting an email discussing related to your meditation practice — don’t hesitate to contact me at tdmarx [at] gmail [.com] Very happy you enjoyed your tome on our Islands. Sending you lost of warm aloha! –t.

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