Our breathing is a stable solid ground that we can take refuge in. Regardless of our internal weather – our thoughts, emotions and perceptions, our breathing is always with us like a faithful friend. Whenever we feel carried away, or sunken in a deep emotion, or scattered in worries and projects, we return to our breathing to collect and anchor our mind.
We feel the flow of air coming in and going out of our nose. We feel how light and natural, how calm and peaceful our breathing functions. At any time, while we are walking, gardening, or typing, we can return to this peaceful source of life.
We may like to recite:
“Breathing in I know that I am breathing in.
Breathing out I know that I am breathing out.”
We do not need to control our breath. Feel the breath as it actually is. It may be long or short, deep or shallow. With our awareness it will naturally become slower and deeper. Conscious breathing is the key to uniting body and mind and bringing the energy of mindfulness into each moment of our life.
Sitting meditation is like returning home to give full attention to and care for our self. We sit upright with dignity, and return to our breathing. We bring our full attention to what is within and around us. We let our mind become spacious and our heart soft and kind. Like the peaceful image of the Buddha on the altar, we too can radiate peace and stability. The purpose of sitting meditation is to enjoy. Don’t try to attain anything!
Sitting meditation is very healing. We realize we can just be with whatever is within us – our pain, anger, and irritation, or our joy, love, and peace. We are with whatever is there without being carried away by it. Let it come, let it stay, then let it go. No need to push, to oppress, or to pretend our thoughts are not there. Observe the thoughts and images of our mind with an accepting and loving eye. We are free to be still and calm despite the storms that might arise in us.
If our legs or feet begin to hurt during the sitting, we are free to adjust our position quietly. We can maintain our concentration by following our breathing and slowly and attentively change our posture. At the end of the sitting meditation session, allow a few minutes to massage your legs and feet before standing up again.
We can find suggestions for guided meditations in Thay’s book “The Blooming of a Lotus”.
Wherever we walk, we can practice meditation. This means that we know that we are walking. We walk just for walking. We walk with freedom and solidity, no longer in a hurry. We are present with each step.
Walking in this way should not be a privilege. We should be able to do it in every moment. Look around and see how vast life is, the trees, the white clouds, the limitless sky. Listen to the birds. Feel the fresh breeze. Life is all around and we are alive and healthy and capable of walking in peace.
Let us walk as a free person and feel our steps get lighter. Let us enjoy every step we make. Each step is nourishing and healing. As we walk, imprint our gratitude and our love on the earth.
We may like to use a gatha as we walk. Taking two or three steps for each in-breath and each out-breath.
Breathing in: “I have arrived” – Breathing out: “I am home”
Breathing in: “In the here” – Breathing out: “In the now”
Breathing in: “I am solid” – Breathing out: “I am free”
Breathing in: “In the ultimate” – Breathing out: “I dwell”
Eating a meal is a meditative practice. We should try to offer our presence for every meal. As we serve our food we can already begin practicing. Serving ourselves, we realize that many elements, such as the rain, sunshine, earth, air and love, have all come together to form this wonderful meal. In fact, through this food we see that the entire universe is supporting our existence.
We should take our time as we eat, chewing each mouthful at least 30 times, until the food becomes liquefied. This aids the digestive process. Let us enjoy every morsel of our food and the presence of the dharma brothers and sisters around us. Let us establish ourselves in the present moment, eating in such a way that solidity, joy and peace be possible during the time of eating.
Upon finishing our meal, we take a few moments to notice that we have finished, our bowl is now empty and our hunger is satisfied. Gratitude fills us as we realize how fortunate we are to have had this nourishing food to eat, supporting us on the path of love and understanding.
We may also like to say the following gatha:
“The meal is finished.
My hunger is satisfied.
I vow to live for the benefit of all beings.”
Listening to a
The Dharma is like rain. Let it penetrate deeply into our consciousness, watering the seeds of wisdom and compassion that are already there. Absorb the talk openly, like the earth receiving a refreshing spring rain. The talk might be just the condition our tree needs to flower and bear the fruits of understanding and love.
Listen with an open mind and a receptive heart. If we listen only with our intellect, comparing and judging what is said to what we already think we know or what we have heard others say, we may miss the chance to truly receive the message that is being transmitted.