Summer is a time when rhythms slow down.
Whether we're busy or not, the dilatant heat, the lingering light, and the hypnotizing song of the cicadas calls for an unhurried gait that allows for contemplation.
The nature of the season urges us to Take a Pause.
We are summoned to put down the phone for a moment and really look at the bird nimbly carrying a piece of straw to its nest. We are invited to listen to the sound of cars whirring, doves cooing, and our stomachs rumbling. We are lured to consider the light in a dear one's eyes, and how this breath that moves within us, moves within them too.
Yet sometimes, even while inhabiting sultry surroundings, our minds can be hurried. Thoughts of autumnal planning and busier times ahead keep us from relishing the moment. Worry may set in, and a feeling that something is just not right can linger in the pit of the stomach. Future and planning mind usurp the moment, and the unhurried cadences of the season all but disappear from our perception.
This is the perfect time to engage in summer pausing. Noticing thoughts of fall busyness, we pause, drop into the moment, and follow our breath.
Let's do this now.
This moment, I invite you to take a full, deep breath in, and follow this breath until you find a pause, the pause at the end of the in-breath and before the out-breath.
As you exhale, hold the intention to be present for the whole out-breath, from beginning to end.
Again, notice the pause at the end of the out-breath.
Take another breath in this same manner, following the full in-breath. Pause for another spacious moment.
Now, staying with the full out-breath as it moves through the body. Pause again.
Now one more.
Feeling the breath....knowing you are breathing in. Pause.
Sensing the movement...aware you are breathing out. Pause.
Notice how you feel right now.
Dropping into the breath, we find that rest and balance are available right in this very moment. Our bodies are vehicles for peace and well-being as we drop out of thought and our stories and into watching the shifting, moving breath.
This summer I invite you to breathe three breaths in just this manner whenever you feel a hurried, anxious mind jumping ahead to the fall.
If you catch a forward-thinking thought that causes stress and anxiety, take a pause, and follow three cycles of in-breaths, out-breaths, and pauses, then return to what you were doing. Taking three mindful breaths will break the anxious thought cycle, help you step out of the story, and allow for a moment of ease.
This is an easy mindfulness practice that doesn't take much time. You will be synching to the natural rhythm of summer and exploring the happiness available when you rest in present moment awareness.
Be Still...Be Happy,
Peering into a pocket of sunlight
streaming on my willing garden,
I see countless flying, buzzing, whirling creatures,
visible now with the vantage of light.
“I never knew they were here,” I ponder,
now eyeing shaded regions,
perceiving nothing but vacuous space.
How much is invisible to the eye?
How much goes unperceived in our lives?
Convergence of conditions, stillness,
and the will to continue looking
when there is seemingly nothing to see.
Trusting the light will unfold countless treasures,
The Dharma of Trash
Lion’s Roar Magazine
By Lina Blanchet
January 3, 2017
Armed with a trash picker and a garbage bag, Lina Blanchet finds an unusual opportunity to discover the sacred nature of life, in all of its guises.
The winds of an impending winter arrive on an early Sunday morning in late November, the day of our sangha's bi-annual roadside cleanup. The Buddhist Sangha of Bucks County has been responsible for cleaning the same stretch of road in Levittown, Pennsylvania for over a decade now.Six brave souls have shown up, donning safety vests and armed with trash pickers. We set off to make America clean again.
We head valiantly into the wind, garbage bags awkwardly fluttering by our sides. Partway through my trash picking, I spot a round, blue object. I pick it up, and admire its star-like pattern. It’s strangely beautiful, almost mandala-like. I can’t help but think of the trite saying, “One man’s trash is another’s treasure.” I stuff it in my pocket.
It’s right that we’re out here. Picking up litter is akin to our dharmic path: seek out the landscape of refuse, and clear it with purpose, much like noticing our own negative mindstates, observing them, and allowing them to pass.
While cleaning the roadside, I begin to imagine each piece of garbage I pick up as the anger, jealousy, or indifference I experience. Recognizing the pain caused by these mind states, a tenderness of heart develops, and I remind myself that a willingness to sit with this pain is where the path of compassion begins. I see the trash, hold on to it, consider it, and let it go, making way for a greater spaciousness.
Earlier, I zoomed past in my car and saw a relatively clean street. But on foot, slowed down, I notice how much garbage there is. My bag quickly fills up, and I start to judge. “Who would toss out a 32-ounce plastic container onto the street?”
Such judgments feel like those we make when we begin to sit and, inevitably, become aware of our own inherent delusions. We are shocked to find so many out-of-control thoughts within us. We may even decide early on that we are just not very good at this meditation thing. Here is where compassion practice comes in handy. As we practice forgiving ourselves, we slowly become less judgmental of both ourselves and others. Even those who throw 32-ounce plastic containers onto the street deserve our love.
We continue our cleanup and come upon an area overgrown with brambles, tangled with a myriad of plastic bottles, fast-food cartons, cigarette boxes, an old sweatshirt, and a softball thrown too far. I feel myself getting lazy as I reach through the tortuous vines. I’m tempted to leave some of this hard-to-reach litter behind, much like the deeply entrenched habits of mind that are stubbornly woven into my psyche. But, with a light hand, and patient persistence, I can come to wrap my hand gently around the entangled litter. I can cradle it, and patiently care for it with a kindness that softly exposes and heals it. With a newfound sense of compassion and equanimity, I push on.
“How could you not have seen that?” I think as I pick up the soda can my friend has overlooked, just as I turn around to see him picking up a large bottle I’d missed myself. We cannot force awareness. When the causes and conditions are ripe, awareness arises.
The wind suddenly speeds up and an empty garbage bag I’m carrying is pulled into the current, floating away. Run as I might, I can’t catch it. Even in my effort to clean up, I have polluted. Sometimes we just make a mess of things, but in those moments we can choose to practice self-acceptance and compassion. I place my hand on my heart, breathe in deeply and say, “It’s not easy being human. May I hold myself in compassion.”
I’m rewarded for this by coming upon a dead raccoon. Its glossy tail is still lush, but the terror and fear of its final moments are frozen on its face. It was likely caught by surprise as it crossed the street, just as it had so many times before. This life is precarious, and death may come unexpectedly. “Am I ready?” I wonder, stopping in my tracks. I pause and breathe three belly breaths, becoming aware of this litany of thoughts and letting them drop. I return to my breath, to my body, to the weight of the bag in my hands. There is only the whistling of the wind through the branches, and my pulsating heart.
I feel for the blue mandala in my pocket and pull it out. “A beautiful sacred object,” I think, “not trash at all.”