I was explaining to someone that we bow upon entering the meditation room and do so again in front of the meditation cushion before we sit down. “Of course we’re not bowing to a cushion as such,” I said. “Bowing, with the hands held at heart-level with palms together, helps focus attention to what we’re doing and what’s going on around us in this moment.” Like me, some people react with discomfort to bowing and kneeling as it reminds them of being indoctrinated into religious practices where the purpose for such behaviors was never made clear.
During my recent stay at the monastery I saw ‘awareness moments’ all around. We have, for instance, a practice of stopping and bowing whenever our path intersect with that of another. Someone said “but why do I have to bow again to someone I just saw a few minutes ago?” … well, you now know why.
I made it my task to notice shoes wherever I went. Their frequent disarray offered plenty of chances to practice mindfulness and, as an additional benefit, to watch judgement arising: “look at these young people, leaving their shoes lying around helter-skelter, without a thought; don’t they know, bla bla.” A whole lot of projecting and complaining! So every time I saw shoes I’d straighten them out and bow in appreciation. (I confess to wishing that others would do the same, but let go of that expectations as swiftly as it arose).
Perhaps you’ll find opportunities in your life for such bowing today, even if you do so in silence, symbolically: tidying the coffee corner at work, picking up after the people you live with, or …