Well, with the exception of two days, I have thus far kept my new years resolution to meditate each and every day. For the most part, the biggest challenge to this is stopping in the hurried pace of most days. To stop, sit, breath and be in my body focused on my breath, is so refreshing but also challenging. Now, I don’t want to imply that I have in any way “got this meditation stuff down.” I am so very much a novice and barely gaining any ability to focus my mind, but the moments in each days meditation, where I do settle and focus and breath are so wonderful that I want to cultivate mindfulness until it is my normal mode of being. I want to be mindful when I drive, shop, study, work or visit with family or friends. That goal is, of course, on the distant horizon but I know the path to that place, it is a simple path as the Dalai Lama phrases it, a simple path of cultivating awareness and mindful living through practice (because Buddhism is much more a practice than a religion).
One thing I have learned through some time spent with a local Zen Buddhist in Boise has been helpful. As I am sitting, inevitably my mind wants to jump around and to chatter. Thoughts push their way in and I can easily find myself thinking about any old thing from the past, to the future or just stuff. My Zen friend recommended to me that when those thought enter, that I pause and name them: plans, worries, memories questions, thoughts, hopes etc. After naming them I return my mindful focus toward my breath and interestingly enough this naming works. After naming I am again able to be aware and focus on the movement and rhythm of my breathing.
Another part of mindfulness is awareness moment to moment of my mind and body, of what I am feeling and experiencing. The understanding of what actually causes the unsatisfactoriness in life as being clinging or avoidance, provides me the opportunity to question myself about my feelings. When I am angered or frustrated, worried and anxious, restless and searching, attempting to be mindful through asking questions about what it is that I am clinging to (independent identity, plans, control issues of every sort) or what it is that I am wanting to avoid (pain, conflict, work or any host of things) have given me a beginning place to understand the unsatisfactoriness. Then the challenge is to let go of that clinging or to exist in that which I would rather avoid. One does this because mindfulness and awareness is an existence in the present moment, in the present moment as it really is, not as we would like it to be.
I am so new and unskilled at all of this but it is a wonderful path to be on and the desire to reach the horizon grows in me each and every day as I pause, quiet myself and sit.