I read online somewhere that before they enter kindergarten kids are exposed to thousands of commercials. I remember when our son was just four he told me most emphatically “Daddy we need to buy that toothpaste — next time, tell Mommy.”
Popular and social media mesmerize many with 24/7 slogans, sound bites and odd notions of normalcy. The problem is that those who craft these messages are pretty good at what they do, and before we know it, we have let the messages occupy some precious real estate in our mind.
Back in the 12th Century, in Germany, lived an extraordinary woman, the Benedictine abbess Hildegarde Von Bingen – “a poet, author, philosopher, theologian, singer, musician, composer, playwright, artist, architect, doctor, botanist, herbalist, visionary, preacher, seer, and canonized Catholic saint” according to one biographer.
Responding to the popular, restrictive and corrosive messages of her day, she wrote:
We cannot live in a world that is not our own, in a world that is interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a home. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening, to use our own voice, to see our own light.
Lots of these messages, like the one about the new, improved toothpaste that got my son’s attention back then, play on our sense of needing more, better, faster. It’s a major feature of our times. It organizes the way a lot of us live. It conditions much of our thinking and interactions more than what we may be open to realize.
Another remarkable nun, from our time, commented:
One of the advantages of being born in an affluent society is that if one has any intelligence at all, one will realize that having more and more won’t solve the problem, and happiness does not lie in possessions, or even relationships: The answer lies within ourselves. If we can’t find peace and happiness there, it’s not going to come from the outside.
~ Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, American Buddhist nun.
Look at our constant low level anxiety around keeping all our various apps, drivers and devices all running the latest and greatest new versions.
But those moments of silent gratefulness – of welcoming each breath, each sound, each smell, and each rubber slipper step — calm this frenzy.
In each mindful moment we occupy home.
Step by step, the path of mindfulness reveals the splendor present here in just this moment.
I did not read books the first summer; I hoed beans. Nay, I often did better than this. There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of the head or hands.
~ Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Tara Brach reflects on when Munindra, a Buddhist meditation teacher from Bengal (now deceased) was asked why he practiced meditation, his response was,
“So I will see the tiny purple flowers by the side of the road as I walk to town each day.”
Mindfulness allows us to simplify our life, moment by moment we are simply present with what is presented to us by our senses. When we experience the tug and push of compelling thoughts or emotions we gently acknowledge them and come back to the utter simplicity of this breath, or this sound, or the touch of our feet in “rubbah slippahs” as we walk.
We come back again and again, gently, kindly, by simply letting go of everything that is not this breath, this sound, this touch, this smell.
And in this letting go sometimes we get a glimpse, an intuition, that this moment is enough, just as it is.
I’ll let Saint Hildegarde Von Bingen have the last word this week:
“Dare to declare who you are. It is not far from the shores of silence to the boundaries of speech. The path is not long, but the way is deep. You must not only walk there, you must be prepared to leap.”
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.