The Miracle of Mindfulness

 

Intro:  In Unity, Meditation and prayer are tools of spiritual practices for accessing the comforting, healing, inspirational presence of our Higher Power/God.  In Unity Affirmative Prayer is practiced as Jesus taught, but there are countless methods of meditation and Unity is open to those practices that work best for the individual.  What I’m discovering is that Mindfulness Meditation is an excellent meditation method for me to use, to go beyond my busy mind to the deeper source of Spirit within me

Meditation:  Short Breath in, Short Breath out; Long breath in, Long breath out.

Solo:  Divine Order and Harmony

Scripture:  Matthew 6:25-34

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 

“Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothes like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you – of little faith?

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’  For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things: and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 

“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own.  Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

This advice from Jesus is as appropriate today as it was over 2,000 years ago, perhaps even more so in our chaotic world.  Following Jesus’ advice requires us be present in the moment for clarity, inspiration and faith in the powerful presence of God with us.

The most basic mindfulness practice is ‘sitting meditation’:  You sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and focus your awareness on your breath and other bodily sensations.  When thoughts come, you gently let them go without judgment and return to the focus on the breath.  Over time this practice helps people connect with a deeper, calmer part of themselves and retrain their brains not to get stuck in pointless, neurotic ruminations about the past and future that leave them constantly stressed, anxious, or depressed.

Background of Mindfulness Meditation:  In the 1960’s, Thich (teacher) Nhat Hanh, had founded the School of Youth for Social Service in South Vietnam as an outgrowth of ‘engaged Buddhism’.  It drew young people deeply committed to actin in a spirit of compassion.  Upon graduation, the students used the training they received to respond to the needs of peasant caught in the turmoil of the war.  They helped rebuild bombed villages, teach children, set up medical stations, and organized agricultural cooperatives.

The worker’s methods of reconciliation were often misunderstood in the atmosphere of fear and mistrust engendered by the war.  They persistently refused to support either armed party and believed that both sides were but the reflection of one reality, and the true enemies were not people, but ideology, hatred and ignorance.  Their stance threatened those engaged in the conflict…Continuing to work in a spirit of love and understanding required great courage.

From exile in France in 1974 Thich Nhat Hanh wrote to encourage the workers during this dark time.  He wished to remind them of the essential discipline of following one’s breath to nourish and maintain calm mindfulness, even in the midst of the most difficult circumstances.  The result was later compiled into the book “The Miracle of Mindfulness” – a Zen Master’s Method of Meditation, Concentration, and Relaxation.

Fast forward to today.    The mainstreaming of Mindfulness comes from stressed-out Americans – war veterans to Silicon Valley tech geeks – e embracing Mindfulness Meditation.  Does it really work?

Mindfulness is a meditation practice central to the Buddha’s teachings which has now been adapted by Western teachers into a secular self-help technique. The core of mindfulness is quieting the mind’s constant chattering – thoughts anxieties, and regrets. Practitioners are taught to keep their attention focused on whatever they’re doing at the present moment, whether it’s meditating, eating, exercising, or working.

Scientific research has shown that mindfulness appears to make people both happier and healthier.  Regular meditation can lower a person’s blood pressure, increase the body’s immune response, improve a person’s emotional stability and sleep quality, and even enhance creativity.What is fundamentally a spiritual practice is being appropriated by business – but perhaps that is a good thing – a way of connecting to the Divine without naming it as such.

Mindfulness Insights from “The Miracle of Mindfulness” by Thich Nhat Hanh:

“One’s mind is inevitably distracted by many thoughts, and so if one really wants to keep one’s consciousness alive (mindfulness = keeping one’s consciousness alive to the present reality), then one must practice right now in one’s daily life, as well as during meditation sessions.

Ex: “ When you’re walking along a path leading into a village, you can practice mindfulness.  Machine Thinking is the opposite of mindfulness.  If you’re really engaged in mindfulness while walking along the path to the village, then we will consider the act of each step we take as an infinite wonder, and a joy will open our hearts like a flower, enabling us to enter the world of reality.

(Thich Nhat Hanh liked to walk alone on country paths, putting each foot down on the earth in mindfulness, knowing that he walked on the wondrous earth.  In such moments, existence is a miraculous and mysterious reality.  He believed that the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but too walk on earth.  Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize:  a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, our own two eyes.…all is a miracle.)

“Zen Master, Doc The says that when sitting in meditation, one should sit upright, giving birth to this thought, “Sitting here is like sitting on the Bodhi spot.”  (The Bodhi spot is where Lord Buddha sat when he obtained Enlightenment.)  Sitting on the same spot in consciousness as a Buddha gives rise to happiness, and sitting in mindfulness means itself to have become a Buddha (awakened).

“But active, concerned people don’t have time to spend leisurely, walking along paths of green grass and sitting beneath trees.  One must prepare projects, consult with the neighbors, try to resolve a million difficulties; there is hard work to do.  One must deal with every kind of hardship, every moment keeping one’s attention focused on the work, alert, ready to handle the situation ably and intelligently,

“How are we to practice mindfulness?  “Keep your attention focused on the work, be alert and ready to handle ably and intelligently any situation which may arise – this is mindfulness. During the moment one is consulting, resolving, and dealing with whatever arises, a calm heart and self-control are necessary if one is to obtain good results.  If we are not in control of ourselves but instead let our impatience or anger interfere, then our work is no longer of any value.

*Mindfulness is the miracle by which we master and restore ourselves.

 *Mindfulness is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life.  Mindfulness frees us of forgetfulness and mental dispersion and makes it possible to live fully each minute of life.  Mindfulness enables us to live.

*Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts.  Breathing is a natural and extremely effective tool which can prevent dispersion.  Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.  Use breath as a tool to stop mental dispersion and to build up concentration power.  Concentration power is the strength which comes from practicing mindfulness.  It is the concentration which can help one obtain the Great Awakening.  In order to maintain mindfulness throughout a long period, we must continue to watch our breath.

*To master our breath is to be in control of our bodies and minds.  Each time we find ourselves mentally dispersed and find it difficult to gain control of ourselves by different means, the method of watching the breath should always be used.

*Our breath is the bridge from our body to our mind, the element which reconciles our body and mind and which makes possible one-ness of body and mind.

 *Breath is aligned to both body and mind and it alone is the tool which can bring them both together, illuminating both and bringing peace and calm. 

 *A person who knows how to breathe is a person who knows how to build up endless vitality:  breath builds up the lungs, strengthens the blood, and revitalizes every organ in the body.

 (Years ago, Thich Nhat Hanh was extremely ill.  After several years of taking medicine and undergoing medical treatment, his condition was unimproved.  So he turned to the method of breathing and thanks to that, was able to heal himself.)

*Why should you meditate?  “First of all because each of us needs to realize total restEven a night of sleep doesn’t provide total rest.  You cannot go as far in meditation by lying down as by sitting.  It is possible to find total rest in a sitting position, and in turn to advance deeper in meditation in order to resolve the worries and troubles that upset and block your consciousness. If you sit correctly, it is possible to find total relaxation and peace right in the position of sitting.

 *Is relaxation then the only goal of meditation?  “While relaxation is the necessary point of departure, once one has realized relaxation, it is possible to realize a tranquil heart and clear mind.  To realize a tranquil heart and clear mind is to have gone far along the path of meditation.

*To take hold of our minds and calm our thoughts, we must also practice mindfulness of our feelings and perceptions.  You must know how to observe and recognize the presence of every feeling and thought which arises in you.  If you want to KNOW your own mind, there is only one way:  to observe and recognize everything about it.  This must be done at all times, during your day-to-day life no less than during the hour of meditation.

*Breath remains the vehicle to unite body and mind and to open the gate to wisdom.  Join mindfulness of the breath with mindfulness of feelings and thoughts. When a thought or feeling arises, simply acknowledge their presence.  The essential thing is not to let any feeling or thought arise without recognizing it in mindfulness.  If there are no feelings or thoughts present, then recognize that there are no feelings or thoughts present.  Practicing like this is to become mindful of your feelings and thoughts.

*While practicing mindfulness, don’t be dominated by the distinction between good and evil, thus creating a battle within oneself.  Whenever a wholesome thought arises, acknowledge it:  “A wholesome thought has just arisen.”  And if an unwholesome thought arises, acknowledge it as well:  “An unwholesome thought has just arisen.”  Don’t dwell on it or try to get rid of it.  To acknowledge it is enough.  Once you have reached such an awareness, there will be nothing you need fear anymore.

Feelings, whether of compassion or irritation, should be welcomed, recognized, and treated on an absolutely equal basis; because both are ourselves.  Nothing should be treated more carefully than anything else.  The sadness or anxiety, hatred or passion, under the gaze of concentration and meditation reveals its own nature – a revelation that leads naturally to healing and emancipation.

*Our thoughts and feelings are us.  They are a part of ourselves.  There is a temptation to look upon them as an enemy force which is trying to disturb the concentration and understanding of your mind.  We are both the mind and the observer of the mind.  Mind can only observe itself.  Mind contemplating mind is like an object and its shadow – the object cannot shake the shadow off.  The two are one.  Wherever the mind goes, it still lies in the harness of the mind.

*True mind is our real self:  the pure one-ness which cannot be cut up by the illusory divisions of separate selves, created by concepts and language.

 *In the first six months try only to build up your power of concentration, to create an inner calmness and serene joy.  You will shake off anxiety, enjoy total rest, and quiet your mind.  You will be refreshed and gain a broader, clearer view of things, and deepen and strengthen the love in yourself.  And you will be able to respond more helpfully to all around you.

*Sitting in meditation is nourishment for your spirit and nourishment for your body, as well.  Through sitting, our bodies obtain harmony, feel lighter, and are more at peace.

 *The path from the observation of your mind to seeing into your own nature won’t be too rough.  Once you are able to quiet your mind, once your feelings and thoughts no longer disturb you at that point your mind will begin to dwell in mind.  You mind will take hold of mind in a direct and wondrous way which no longer differentiates between subject and object.  When mind has taken hold of mind, deluded mind becomes true mind.

 *When your mind is liberated, your heart floods with compassion:  compassion for yourself, for having undergone countless sufferings because you were not yet able to relieve yourself of false views, hatred, ignorance, and anger; and compassion for others because they do not yet see and so are still imprisoned by false views, hatred, and ignorance and continue to create suffering for themselves and for others.

Now you look at yourself and at others with eyes of compassion, like a saint who hears the cry of every creature in the universe and whose voice is the voice of every person who has seen reality in perfect wholeness. No matter where you go or where you sit, remember the sacred call:  Look at all being with the eyes of compassion.”

 Work is only a part of life.  But work is life only when done in mindfulness.  We need to light our own torch in order to carry on.  But the life of each one of us is connected with the life of those around us.  IF we know how to live in mindfulness, IF we know how to preserve and care for our own mind and heart, THEN thanks to that, our brothers and sisters will also know how to live in mindfulness.

 Closing Prayer.  May your week be blessed and your inspirational meditations be deepened.  Rev. Jan

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