Sunday, May 16, 2021

Practicing Gentle Nurturing

     Handling even a cup as gently as if it were an eggshell “is a practice which reflects back on you. The world is a mirror. Whatever quality you put out will be reflected back to you. This is what mindfulness is all about: to be well aware of the condition in here (hara / dan tien - in the center or core of the body, 2 inches above the navel), and make sure that what you give out is of the same nature. If you want to live peacefully, give peace. If you want chaos, put chaos out there and you’ll soon get it back.
     If you are wise, you learn to be very, very gentle in almost everything you do. Then you get that subtlety of feeling, and it is the subtlety that matters most. It means slowing down somewhat. Not allowing immediate response. Wait. Be gentle. Does it really need a response? If it does, take it gently. There’s no need to be tough. And also, whatever you do, give it your full, undivided attention.
     Often you come to know rather than understand. Thought has its place; nobody is denying this. There are times when we need to think about things, but if those times are not present, we don’t have to think. If you stop thinking about them, they will still be there when you need them. But in between thoughts, you can learn to experience what is there. That is where living takes place. In thought there is no living, only delusion.
     If you give your whole attention, your wholehearted attention to any person, if only momentarily, you’ll see how they respond and blossom. They will feel, ‘I am recognized, I am a somebody.’ But if you give half-hearted attention, whilst you’re thinking of something else, they’ll feel, ‘I’m not here; I am not being recognized.’ People need that recognition.
     The same applies to household tasks: dusting, polishing, washing the floor, washing the dishes, and so on. Give them your full attention, don’t think of other things. The now is all there is, so learn to live in it. And surprise, surprise, when you do, all fear disappears. The alternative is to live in fear all the time, through being concerned about what might happen next. But if you are only in the now there is no next moment. Strangely, you can move through time with this attitude – with full attention here, there, there, there, there – but it’s all one continuous moment. There is no tomorrow.
     Am I really saying that you should give your whole attention – with a loving aspect – (even) to a piece of crockery? Yes. As if it were a living creature. In the moment of doing, the object reflects your love back to you by virtue of its mirror action. Try it and see ... Whenever you come to do these tasks, be it washing the dishes or washing your socks or stockings, whatever, do them with your whole attention just for those moments; gently, carefully, as if you’re dealing with a living creature. Observe how you feel and you’ll find it’s really worthwhile. A lot of extraneous thoughts disappear, things that would otherwise worry you, so that you have a contented mind which you carry with you to the next activity. You begin the new task contented, free from agitation, and see things more clearly, so you’re able to deal with every situation better. You don’t have to do anything special, just the things you normally do, but with your full attention.
     You might forget to do it of course – if so, try again and watch how the process works. Once you realise how it works, and once you experience its benefits, you’ll continue to do it. It’ll enter into different parts of your life more and more and you will be much more content. ... You’ll become much more friendly to other people and they will begin to respond, after a period of time, if not immediately. Some people take longer than others. ...
     Generally, this is the way we can begin to change ourselves, in little everyday things that don’t require a great deal of effort at all. Where possible, we should give ourselves a bit of time and sit down for 10 minutes, be still, quiet, and allow things to subside and to feel deep within ourselves the still peacefulness from which the nurturing arises. Just like that.
     There’s a bit of a joke here: it’s been said that Buddhist monks spend their time contemplating their navels. Actually, there is a lot to be said for that, because that’s where that still small space is, deep within the body
(hara / dan tien). If you allow your consciousness to drop down into that area and be more peaceful and expansive in consciousness, you find it is very warm and comforting and that it takes you away from the ‘thinking box’ for a while.
     So in that way you can learn to be still. You don’t have to try to stop your thoughts; they will cease on their own when you become complete within that wholeheartedness. They just stop by themselves. If you try to stop them, that would be suppression and not a good thing. But even if they don’t stop, it’s okay because you see them as peripheral, on the sidelines. When you are down there (hara / dan tien), thoughts don’t really matter.
     So we learn to live with our basic nurturing instincts, in a more homely way. We begin to base ourselves there rather than in our thoughts, and then we find that even our thoughts begin to change in their nature into a much better form. We can bring about a great deal of change within ourselves without a great deal of concentrated effort. It doesn’t require effort – just a quiet casual way of doing things, but with full attention.

     Russel Williams, edited by Steve Taylor. “Not I, Not other than I. The Life and Teachings of Russel Williams.” O-Books, 2015.

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