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be here now

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There were eight of us in last night’s mindfulness class, including five nurses: active, retired, students. We practiced following our in-breaths, then our out-breaths, noting the gap in between. We walked in the garden, bringing attention to the bottom of our feet. We did standing stretches, extending arms and hands to feel our full reach. We lay flat on the floor, sensing our weight and scanning our bodies from bottom to top, bringing oxygen and awareness to parts taken for granted.

Saki Santorelli, director of the stress reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School calls mindfulness “an act of hospitality.

A way of learning to treat ourselves with kindness and care that slowly begins to percolate into the deepest recess of our being while gradually offering us the possibility of relating to others in the same manner.”

No wonder that professional caregivers gather to learn in this way. They give and give to others everyday. Many get burned out, experience ‘compassion fatigue,’ become discouraged, even bitter. So they (we) return to the beginning: noting one in-breath at a time, all the way till it reaches the still point, then noting the exhale, just as attentively. 

“With every breath I take, I am at home,” Master Dogen (1200-1253) tells us. A healthy person breathes between 15 and 20 times per minute, 900 to 1200 per hour. How many of those have I spent away from “home,” distracted and unaware?

sources: Santorelli, S. (2011). Letting ourselves heal. Mindfulness (magazine). Boston: Shambhala, p. 19. The “be here now” in the heading comes from the bestselling book by Ram Dass (1971, Random House).

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7 responses »

  1. Oh Peter, you caught me out and about again, sometimes far from home and my own breath. 900-1200 times per hour. Wow!

    Reply
  2. welcome home, terrill.

    Reply
  3. i always remember what you told me years and years ago – Every breath, a new beginning

    i find it reassuring – hopeful.

    Reply
  4. A few years ago I joined a guided meditation at a buddhist monastery and got to experience what you’re discussing here.

    Just remembering it is centering me and making me more peaceful. It’s so powerful.

    Reply
  5. Case
    A monk asks Master Muc Chau, “Can the entire Buddhist Canon be read in the time of one breath?” Muc Chau replies, “If Tat La, the cake seller, comes by, tell him to come in.”

    Commentary
    One arrives home without even walking.

    Verse
    The Canon read in the time of a breath.
    No need to consider each word or phrase.
    The deepest truths disclose themselves naturally;
    don’t even ask the hermit on the hill.

    –Thich Nhat Hanh. (1974). Zen Keys. New York: Doubleday, p. 192.

    Reply
    • My teachers and I agreed early on that I was unsuited (my word) to koan study. I’m intrigued by some of the langauge, baffled and outright dumbfounded by the rest.

      Thank you for this, steve: The deepest truths disclose themselves naturally.

      Reply
      • It’s been my experience that “the deepest truths disclose themselves naturally.” Thank you to both of you for that reminder by Thich Nhat Hanh.

        So much comes from letting go rather than analyzing and trying to force ourselves to find answers. The right answer comes at the time I’m ready for it. The Sufi master who said the teacher will show up when I’m ready to learn got it right.

        It’s so simple, but so difficult to let go.

        Reply

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