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you might want to try this

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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 …


5 responses »

  1. Ah, yes.

    This reminds me when I first went to an ashram and obdurately refused to bow.
    (Yes, memories of seemingly empty religious rituals)
    Residents and cognoscenti would bow often, and often very low, some prostrated themselves on the floor before a life statue (exquisite) of Kanon/Qwan Yin that stood at the entrance to the dining hall.
    Dear God!

    If asked, the ashram residents would say things like: Why would you bow. Or not bow? What does it mean to you?
    And if, in frustration, I remonstrated about this ‘passing of the buck’, I might be told again: Eastern teachers don’t spoon feed. They allow the pupil the joy of discovery.

    It took me a long time to figure out what they meant. I just seethed, thinking them either stupid or fanatical.

    And then I forgot what they meant. Or I meant.
    And had to learn it all over again.
    Perhaps I’m addicted to the joy of discovery

    • What a wonderful thing to be addicted to Malcolm…
      “Joy of discovery” a forgotten adventure from childhood no hang ups with it then just fun.
      Judgement causes such chaos but I hang onto it, it brings no joy but I hang onto it. I get so frustrated with the mess at work people leaving things lying it around, I find it so inconsiderate and I have such great judgement about it. Do I leave and go with the flow or clean it up and grumble. I shall try to be mindful and clean it up without judgement and bow to my neat surroundings that I am able to clean it up.

  2. Hi Peter,
    I saw that kitchen-counter photo from the retreat center, and thought “oh what wonderful material for my practice!” Actually, um, unfortunately, that’s not what I thought! 😉 I think my first thought or two was a bit more primal than that.

    The posts above by Malcom and Ella got me thinking about just how import knowing how to ask questions is. When I was young I heard someone say that learning to ask questions was more important that knowing answers, and as I’ve aged, again and again I see the truth in that. With your education experience, maybe this is something you’d be interested in posting about?

    • ah!

      dear Chong Go Sunim, thanks for the assignment :-). please share your experience of practicing with questions.

      your comment reminds me of the line by e.e. cummings, “Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question.”


  3. Pingback: Synchronicity of Anger ! « the reluctant bloger

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