simple, clear and delicious

Updated On — 23rd Aug, 2020

Our simple practice of sustaining mindful attention on the most ordinary happenings in our everyday life, can bring this feeling of really being alive.

 

We meditate for many different reasons. Often, our original motivations morph as we move forward on this path. It’s juicy to reflect on why we keep this up.

Maybe we meditate for stress relief, maybe to lower our blood pressure, feel less anxious, or just to feel better physically. Or perhaps existentially.

 

an existential motivation

I think this last wrinkle is what set the Buddha on the path of meditation some 2600 years ago.

When asked why she keeps meditating, the noted Buddhist author Dorothy Figen replied:

There are many reasons. But those that stand out most strongly are learning to think clearly, and to dispel ignorance, illusion, greed, hatred and craving.

a new dimension to life

Many report discovering a new dimension to life, similar to what Emily Dickenson describes:

Life is so astonishing; it leaves very little time for anything else.

When asked a similar question, the 13th century Japanese monk Dogen said it allowed him to feel an intimacy with all things. 

Mindfulness allows us to intimately see a flower, or watch a sunset, or eat a mango, with nothing in between us and the experience.

 

the judging mind

But at the start, far from fresh and marvelous discoveries, we discover our minds are actively judging, evaluating and comparing ourselves and our experiences.

The judging mind, that meditators are so familiar with, takes us far away from this intimacy Dogen spoke about. Although we may long for a deeper connection with the world and its often uncooperative inhabitants, we are powerfully conditioned to judge.

 

practice non-judgment

Consciously practicing non-judgment in meditation allows us to open up to whatever arises, and rest deeply in the mindful presence that judging blocks out. Doing this relieves us of having to do anything in particular in the present moment.

We just give up grasping for more of the pleasant, resisting the unpleasant, and ignoring our life as it unfolds moment by moment.

As Larry Rosenberg puts it, by practicing non-judgment we come into the space where we are “being with life, not just dealing with it.

Mindfulness cultivates a profound acceptance of things as they are. All the stuff that irritates, disappoints, or saddens us just needs to be given a seat at the table, to be lovingly received as if returning home from a long journey.

 

mindful attention is like love

Tara Brach, Ph.D describes the magic of mindful attention this way:

Attention is the most basic form of love. By paying attention we let ourselves be touched by life, and our hearts naturally become more open and engaged.

As you pay attention to more and more aspects of your everyday life, you will see progress. As Joseph Campbell once noted, it is not so much the meaning of life that we want, but rather the feeling of really being alive

We get little tastes of this when we notice the hues of colors in a sunset, the feel of your partner’s hand as you walk on the beach, or the sensations of eating a bagel and finishing it off with a hot cup of java, of playing with dogs, or watching birds.

 

natural, every-day mindful attention

These are all natural, everyday happenings. What makes the difference are the qualities of heart our practice of mindful attention can bring to these experiences. 

Mindful attention cuts through the radio noise the ego transmits, and discovers something new, something fresh in the shifting sensations and mental pictures we would normally take at face value.

 

catch the freshness as it arises

One trick—catch the freshness as it happens. And it’s always happening, it’s just we often arrive late to the present moment party. So what is freshness and how do we catch it? 

In any moment we are sensing something, be it a sound, an itch or a thought. In the first moments of perception, when we get still and silent inside, we discover the utterly simple is-ness of the moment. 
It’s a seeing, a knowing, that is utterly pure. It’s without thought, without associations. It’s nonverbal, completely intuitive.

Some say it is pre-verbal.

 

it’s like surfing your mind waves

And we catch this much as we would catch of wave while surfing, a wave here of the undulating sensations that crest into “seeing a bird” or “feeling an itch” or the sensation “I need to pee.”

But then almost instantly the thinking mind jumps in and puts a spin on everything, and begins a tale about it, and how we don’t like this or that, and this is-ness is lost. 

Or so it seems. If we are patient, we see that all life is just this is-ness, arising and passing away. That’s a huge milestone in this practice.

 

this is our practice of mindful attention

This work we are doing, says Buddhist-inspired psychoanalyst Mark Epstein, MD, is of:

Coming back to the breath or to body sensations as soon as we forget, coming back over and over again, begins to prolong the openness that is pure mindful attention. In that split second of pristine openness, the tangles of the mind release. There can then be a vividness, an intensity of the most ordinary things of every day.

Our simple practice of sustaining mindful attention on the most ordinary happenings in our everyday life, can bring this feeling of really being alive. 

The flow of our life then is simple, clear, and delicious.

 

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About Tom Davidson-Marx

Former Buddhist monk, now father of two and full time registered nurse, my passion is sharing what I have learned from a life-long love, study and practice of the early Buddhist teachings. Thanks for reading.

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