I am reading The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh
. Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who wrote the book as a letter to a fellow monk when he was in exile during the difficult years in Vietnam. The book was recommended to me by Howard Rheingold
. I'm still reading the book, but it is a wonderful little book about why and how we meditate.
There is one interaction at the beginning of the book between the monk and a man eating a tangerine. The monk tells the man to focus on the tangerine segment that is in his mouth rather than focus on the next one before. I think this mode of focusing our attention on future rather than the present is a very common "affliction" of our times. I think that Continuous Partial Attention that I've blogged about is also another example of this "not really here" syndrome.
It also reminds me of a story that I often share. I arrived at a Tai Chi lesson once and everyone was bustling and sort of in a hurry. My Tai Chi teacher explained that one definition of "the end" or "our goal" is when we die. He mused how much of a hurry we were all in to get to the next thing. He suggested that we spend too much time worrying about being more efficient and quick and that maybe the most "efficient" thing to do was just to die right now. In fact, most of us probably don't want to die just yet and all the stuff in between is can be viewed as an inefficient path to our death.
So much of our life is focused on making things more efficient and efficiently efficient that we might spend our whole lives shaving a yak. In fact, I think we probably need less efficiency and more meaning. On the other hand, if you're happy shaving yaks or hacking code, I think that can be meaning. I think the trouble is for people who aren't happy because it's just not efficient or perfect enough. There are always little things, little people, little events that "ruin" the moment, the day, our lives. Our days end up as a endless series of annoying events.
One things about meditation and going "meta" is that even some of the most annoying things become cute, quaint, funny and irrelevant, if not enjoyable.
This morning was a particularly beautiful morning with the chirping nightingales and the morning dew. As usual, our two dogs came running over to me and licked me and barked and tried very hard to prevent me from meditating. Then Mizuka's mom heard the dogs bothering me and actually increased the distraction by whispering very loud to the dogs trying to get them off of me.
For a moment, I got a pang of discomfort. It was the feeling of despair, the feeling of trying to blame someone else for my failure to meditate. It had the feel of minor displaced aggression - the tendency for primates to lash out and bite the nearest creature for a pain from an unrelated source such as an electric shock or a stubbed toe. However, I identified this simple and base reaction and laughed at myself and my human condition.
I remembered the monk writing about how it was easier to practice meditation at home than in a pagoda. The challenge comes when trying to be focused and mindful in the presence of distractions. If we want to practice and learn meditation, it was important to challenge ourselves. As I laughed and enjoyed this "human moment" I thought about the book again and this blog post started to come to mind. Then I realized that it was you, my friends on the Internet, who were now getting in the way of my meditation. At that moment, I promised to write this blog post after I had finished my meditation and my chores and that I didn't need to figure it out right then. With that promise, I stopped thinking about this blog, the Internet and the book. After that, I slipped into a nice space.
So here we are. I've completed the promise to myself. I was "there then" and I am "here now". ;-) This post reads a bit like the ramblings of some new age hippy. My apologies. It's a bit weirder than I would normally post, but I figure I should probably be respectful to the spirit of the promise with the "meditation me" so that I'll continue to trust my requests for deferred yak shaving during my meditation.