In the November Meditation & Dharma Discussion we delved into OM. One of my favorite parts was discussing the practice of an old Zen teacher (as relayed by Koshin Paley Ellison), where he would ask himself:
“Are you asleep?” and then answer…
“No, I’m awake.” then just in case…
“Are you really?”
“Yes, I’m awake.”
The teacher would do this not only upon physically waking in the morning, but throughout the day, even holding this conversation with himself in front of students and the assembly.
What I love about this story, is that second round of questioning. We can imagine how, perhaps, he only began with the first question. And that check-in would be enough to remind him to step back into being awake and present. Then, over time, his response became automatic. I think we all can relate to some practice we’ve begun that initially was strong and powerful and would easily draw us into the present, or allow the coverings that cloak the present to fall away. Then, over time, it became habit, and it was yet another part of the unconscious movement of our lives. Using my mala to meditate was like that for me.
It’s that second question which demands our attention.
I recently worked with a practice where I would say to myself as I traveled to a studio to teach:
“Consciously breathing (I would feel all the places the breath was moving in my body). Consciously _____-ing (whatever I happened to be doing in that moment).”
So I’d say “Consciously breathing. Consciously walking.” Over and over, until something changed then “Consciously breathing. Consciously feeling sit bones on the subway seat.”
It was the second part that demanded I stayed present. And it was that second part that showed where I got stuck (sometimes I’d be waiting for coffee, but I would still be saying to myself walking – and I knew that I had dropped out of attention in that moment).
Practicing in community is like that second part – it demands we bring our full attention – whether to be fully listening to your partner, speaking wholeheartedly when it’s your turn to do so, or just fully present with the teachings and the room.
I invite you to try out the “consciously breathing, consciously _____ -ing” practice the next time you’re out and about, or on your yoga mat.
I invite you to join me and the growing satsang at the monthly Meditation & Dharma Discussion at Mala Yoga – the next one delves in “Namaste” Thursday, December 19th at 7:30pm.