Mindfulness – July 21 2020

Mindfulness – July 21 2020

Sayadaw U Pandita came to Barre to teach a three-month retreat when I first met him. As a student, I diligently wrote down brief notes after each period of sitting and walking meditation. I wanted to describe my experiences clearly in our interviews. When I began relating my experiences, U Pandita said, “Never mind that. Tell me everything you noticed when you put on your shoes.” I hadn’t really paid attention to putting on my shoes. He told me to try again. That was the end of the interview.


The next day I went into my interview ready to report on sitting meditation, walking meditation and my experience while putting on my shoes. U Pandita said, “Tell me everything you noticed when you washed your face.” I hadn’t really paid any attention to washing my face. My interview was over. 


Every day U Pandita would ask me a different question. Soon I was practicing mindfulness in everything I was doing. I discovered that when I stopped resisting this continuity of awareness, it opened up a deep and clear understanding of what meditation actually is. U Pandita’s precision and ardency regarding meditation practice raised my efforts to a whole new level.

from Sharon Salzberg, Influences


We meditate to find peace, to get closer to ourselves, to get closer to God, to become more aligned with nature, to work on our spiritual life, to quiet our mind. All good and legitimate reasons to meditate. But our practice is for twenty minutes, twice a day. Is this enough to change our life, to give us what we’re looking for? Or is it just another version of an earlier generation practicing spirituality for one hour on Sunday morning, then crashing through life for the other six days, 23 hours per week?


The answer, of course, is that yes, meditation will change your life. Slowly, over time. But if these two sessions of twenty minutes are the only time we spend seeking a sense of peace within, our progress will be lessened by the other 163 1/3 hours per week we spend attending to relative world issues.


What can we do?


Read something daily that is of a spiritual bent, that speaks to us in a helpful voice.


Find our way to be present in our life, in our body, as fully and as often as we can. “Mindfulness,” as it is called today. A teacher like Sharon Salzberg has spent her life studying and teaching meditation and mindfulness, and writes about it with subtlety, grace and humility. Like any great teacher, she’s also a role model for what spiritual work might look like.


And the payoff? Life. Joy. Present moment awareness. The possibility of seeing God in our world and an ever-increasing capacity for love and compassion for our fellows.


Today I will remind myself to be present when I tie my shoes, when I do the dishes, when I drink my coffee, on my way home from work. I will follow the model of Sharon Salzberg or Pema Chodron or Buddha himself and allow myself to be in the world fully and fully available to be about the business of the joy of living.

Buddha in the backyard, tintype