"Our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world
but to unglove ourselves so that the door knob feels cold
and the car handles feels wet
and the kiss goodbye feels like the lips of another being
soft and unrepeatable."
~ Mark Nepo, Book of Awakening
The Mindfulness Study Group has been working its way through Joseph Goldstein's Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening.
We visit and share as we arrive, settle-in with a short meditation, and then read together-pausing as we go to comment, question, discuss and contemplate. We conclude with another short meditation. There's no homework, and we all prefer it that way.
We have been studying this particular book, an exploration of the Buddha's teachings on mindfulness, for over a year. Our interest is in the lessons on mindfulness, rather than in Buddhism per se.
While this may seem like a slow pace it has actually been a pretty natural one. That is, natural for studying-for devoting time and attention to deepening our understanding of mindfulness and its practice in meditation and in life.
Our pace is all the more measured due to the absorbing conversation. The teachings and Goldstein's commentary invite rich, thoughtful discussion, and our study becomes experiential. We try to bring the teachings off the page and into our own practice. We examine them as they apply to our lives, relating them to our own experiences, emotions, thoughts and struggles.
And as we inquire and discern the veracity of the teachings, it seems that we can "unglove ourselves" as Mark Nepo calls it. We get more real, more mindful with ourselves, with each other and with life.
Here are just a few insights and observations from our time together...
precent highlights from the teachings, how the book has applied to my own mindfulness-meditation practice, and the exquisite gift of practicing mindfulness with others.
From the teachings...
Short Moments, Many Times
As one Tibetan teacher described the practice of mindfulness, it's "short moments, many times." Present moment awareness-with kindness, curiosity, and allowing-is always available to us. The invitation is to build a momentum and continuity of mindfulness by practicing "short moments, many times."
We can return over and over again to rest in awareness, knowing what is present in this moment in the body, mind, heart and experience. It's already here. Can we recognize it and allow that it is here?
This practice cultivates insight into our relationship with whatever is arising-into how we open to or push against life. It may reveal attachment or aversion or non-acceptance. It will illuminate habits of the mind, emotions, and behavior as well as the nature of our own struggling. It is a caring, authentic self-honesty.
In the same way, "short moments, many times" can over time make it possible for us to loosen our grip on struggle and let go of things that cause unnecessary suffering.
About my meditation-mindfulness practice...
Body, Feeling, Mind & Experience: Impermanent, Imperfect, Impersonal
Goldstein's Mindfulness book explores teachings on the four foundations of mindfulness: body, feeling, mind and experience. Each is given its full due, emphasizing how skillful-even fruitful-it is to practice mindfulness of each and of all.
Delving into each more thoroughly has enriched my own practice, not only because I find myself bringing more awareness to each (body, feeling, thought, experience) but because the teachings provide an array of tools with which to apply awareness. Sometimes this means knowing things in the body or heart or mind as they arise and pass away, seeing impermanence. Often it can mean exploring the relationship with whatever is-is there acceptance, or wanting something other than what is happening?
And above all, as I include all four foundations of mindfulness, I am more and more able to observe an impersonal nature to things. I may be caught in fear or anger over a pain in the body or a slight by a friend, but as I apply mindfulness to the present moment the simple happening of things reveals itself to be less and less personal. Less about me, mine or I.
About the gift of practicing with friends...
Belonging & Wisdom
There is a sense of connection and belonging that comes from an honoring of each person's innate wisdom, especially within the context of shared learning. I feel this belonging in our group. It creates a safe, trusted environment in which to "unglove," nurture and grow. In this space we can really learn from ourselves and from the collective wisdom-in a way that we cannot through independent practice or study.
In many ways, it seems we learn as much from each other and our own mindfulness as we do from Goldstein and the teachings. As it should be, I think.
This seems a perfect time to extend an invitation to join us any time-every session and every chapter is interesting and inspiring. If you prefer to start at the "beginning," we will be choosing a new book soon! Look for news about our next book on the Center website sometime late Fall/early Winter.