One of the big realizations I had with my recent “a ha” moment in Canada is the importance of the here and now, and keeping your feet on the ground. People can imagine and delude themselves in all kinds of ways, under stress it’s even worse, or they can get lost in brilliant ethereal ideas that are worth no more than hot air. Worse, it can just be a bunch of sophistry or something you erroneously cling to.
What I realized is that you have to stop sometimes and just mentally reel it in. The nasty, old apple tree outside my window, or the crow cawing nearby, or the dishes I am washing are more real in a lot of ways1 than me thinking about ancient Byzantine2 history, or pondering some problem at work. It’s natural for the mind to wander, or get caught up on something, but I still have to stop and reel it in, take a deep breath, or even meditate for a little bit. When I explained this to my wife (who grew up Buddhist) she shrugged and she pointed out the obvious: who knows what will happen if you die? One can never be too certain, so it’s important to pay attention to here and now.
She had a good point, as she so often does. 😊
I used to think that mindfulness meant being laser-focused on what I was doing, which was really hard to keep up, and gave me a headache, but I realized now that it’s more about keeping yourself grounded. Those little moments where you ask “what am I doing now?” or “what am I feeling right now?” or “why am I feeling this?” won’t bring about Enlightenment but they do keep your mind from wandering too far afield.
This is important too. One has to be a little vigilant towards one’s own mind. It’d be nice to trust ourselves, but we think and feel all kinds of weird, gross, or nasty thoughts. That’s just our conceit at work. We are the center of the Universe, or so we’d like to believe (and often conduct ourselves) but the Universe, like the honey badger, don’t care. We just shoot ourselves in the foot.
Mindfulness frequently gets touted by Westerners as this amazing, mystical experience, and it is central to Buddhism and Buddhist practice, but in the day to day sense (mindfulness meditation notwithstanding), it’s just tapping yourself on shoulder every now and then to wake yourself up. Even that can teach you a thing or two about yourself.
Namu Shakamuni Butsu
P.S. Speaking of fishing…
1 Then again it’s all mind anyway.
2 If you are curious at all about the Byzantine Empire, the eastern Roman Empire (only the western half fell in the 4th century), I highly, highly recommend the History of Byzantium podcast though. I’ve been binge-listening for months, and it is amazing.