Friday, January 10, 2003
Right Thinking and Being Present
Last year, one of my charming friends gave me a calender of the "365 Stupidest Things Ever Said." Never mind that in the light of unbounded awareness there is no distinction between wisdom and stupidity (according to the Vissudhi Magga), there were some pretty stupid statements immortalized on the pages of the calender that were good for a smile or a chuckle. For instance, how about the U.K. Labor Party's leader Neil Kinnock saying, "There are more crimes in Britain now, due to the huge rise in the crime rate." At least we are not the only country with leaders who found themselves quoted in this calender! Here's one from our very own President, "I want to keep the peace, to keep the peace. When I was coming up, with was a dangerous world, you knew exactly who they were. It was us versus them and it was clear who the them was. Today we are not so sure who they are, but we know they're there." (There is no typo in that quote, I swear!) Aside from everything else one might say about it, that quote certainly gives us some insight into the simplistic world-view and nostalgia President George W. Bush is influenced by.
But not all the quotations listed in this "studidest" calender were in fact stupid. On Dec. 27th, we were offered a quotation from the transcript of a lawyer's questioning in an Oregon courtroom: "Were you present in court this morning when you were sworn in?" On the surface this may seem stupid, but any Yoga teacher or practitioner will understand this as a profound statement of Raja Yoga or a Zen Koan. After all, for how much of our life are we really present? The practice of Yoga is the practice of becoming present, body, breath and mind. It's considered a practice and a discipline just because it is difficult, and a rare thing, to be truly present.
For one thing, our very thoughts intrude into our experiencing of life and take us away from the lived moment to moment awareness we are cultivating in our practice. So the Buddha taught the importance of Right Thinking and Thich Nhat Hanh has offered several practices to encourage Right Thinking. The first is "Are You Sure?" If there is a rope in your path and you perceive it as a snake, fearful thinking will arise. The more erroneous our perceptions, the more incorrect our thinking will be. If we perceive ourselves to be separate from others, that will lead to some seriously incorrect thinking and behavior -- and the shape of our world, environmentally, economically, politically and spiritually is the best proof of this! Whenever you find yourself attached to a thought about someone or something, ask yourself this question, "Am I Sure?" and ask it over and over. With practice, "Don't Know Mind" becomes a reality, along with its spaciousness and generosity of mind rather than a mere Zen concept that sounds esoteric and strange.
The second practice is "What Am I Doing?" This can help us to free ourselves from being caught in our thinking of the past or fantasizing about the future while ignoring what it is we are doing in the present moment. It is a great practice for when we are so attached to the outcome of what we are doing that we become neglectful of what it is we should be paying attention to now. For instance, in Yoga classes, I often see students straining to get to where they want to be in an asana and in the process they are oblivious to what they are doing and may even be potentially causing harm. "What Am I Doing?" creates a gap within which we can stop and take stock of what we are doing.
The third practice is "Hello Habit Energy." Our way of acting depends on our way of thinking and our thinking depends to a large extent on our habit energies. This practice allows us to recognize when our thinking and actions are being conditioned by our habit energy and thus they lose some of their force over us. Remember, Right Thinking leads to Right Action.
Finally, "Bodhicitta" or the cultivation of our "mind of love" is the deep wish to cultivate understanding in ourselves so that we can bring happiness and peace to all beings. This is the motivating force behind our practice of mindful living. And the whole-hearted cultivation of Bodhicitta is the only New Year's Resolution we need. With the strong intention to be aware, to be awake, and to stay awake and aware, the moments when we are Truly Present become more and more, and Right Thinking and Right Action arise within True Presence.
Here at the beginning of a new year, I wish all of you, and all beings in the ten directions happiness, well-being, and freedom from the suffering of aversion, craving and unawareness.
.: posted by Poep Sa Frank Jude 3:19 PM