I spent a day with Lama Surya Das last month. He is sharing his new book, “Make Me One with Everything,” and I was impressed by his interest in teaching us “non-practices,” things we are already doing that can be considered practices. He is suggesting we practice mediation with nature, with people, with every opportunity of our ordinary lives. He’s not so much recommending Dzogchen as that we really bring ourselves to what we’re already doing. This is something that Br David Steindl-Rast also recommends and it has made such an impression on me. Something in me is always looking outside my life for “my life,” but here it is, right in front of me. This moment, and this moment, and this. It makes such good sense to reclaim all the little moments of “practice” that are already in our lives rather than going out and creating big plans for new meditations or new commitments to daily meditation. Sure, daily meditation is good, even essential to ongoing growth. But as we discover other high points of awareness during our day, then we are really integrating the fruits of our formal practice time into our everyday lives.
I think we’d all do well to take a day off from formal sitting practice. A day to notice the moments during the day when we find ourselves feeling alive, fully alive. In these moments, we may lose track of time and space. Maybe we go out to water the garden and come back amazed that an hour has passed. What happened? Where did we go? Where did all our problems go? We slipped into the moment “in and out of time,” as TS Eliot called it, the “now moment.” In that timeless moment, there is magic, aliveness, renewal and a bottomless well of meaning.
One of the things I have really been enjoying this spring is the emergence of all the different types of bulbs and spring wildflowers. My eyes have been particularly attuned to them this Spring because Claire and I planted about 150 bulbs last fall. During the cold, dark winter months I wondered if we would ever see blooms in the spring and to my amazement, they have come forth from the soil and graced us with beautiful colors, as if emerging like Lazarus from an earthen tomb.
How can I see them afresh, as if this were the very first time I ever saw a tulip or a crocus or a daffodil? How can I learn from these ephemeral beauties about selfless giving, about wholeheartedly sharing with the world? About embracing this one lifetime and its opportunities? Tulips do not hold back. On the contrary, they emerge, grow skyward, burst into bloom, and radiate their beauty out to anyone who will stop to notice them. This week, with a seemingly endless series of little showers, they have often been coated in raindrops, glowing, as with a silent transmission of wellbeing.
I cannot always have flowers around me, but I’m learning that even an image of a beloved flower can draw me back into that moment of communion with beauty. If I have to describe this as a practice, I would say that I take in an image, breathe, relax, and deepen into the viewing until I sense that I am connecting to the flower. Relaxing into the moment, I let go into a moment of pure absorption in the beauty of the flower. Perhaps it has a message for me? Perhaps it has a wordless transmission, a reminder that it’s okay “just” to be? Yes, we all have one million things on our to do lists, but the one essential thing to bring to all that doing is our Being.
My iphone’s photo album is always overflowing with beautiful images that I like to carry with me. What are your favorites? Photos of children, or grandchildren? Pets? Reminders of past vacations? Reminders of peak experiences? Whatever images you have on your phone can give you a way into the present moment, the now that never ends.
Wishing you all the joys of a life lived in the present moment.