Over the last two weeks, we’ve facilitated two all-day meditation sessions. Zazenkai or Days of Mindfulness, depending on tradition and ease of use, are a challenge to organize and even more of a challenge to commit the time to attend. My days tend to be packed – I’m starting to realize they are – and the idea of taking a whole day to sit around, breathing, eating, and listening to a talk is hard to justify from a purely time-economy perspective. And yet, when we run one, even though it’s because we have to, I never regret the time spent.
You may have hooked onto the idea that we have to – or like good Buddhists, you’re likely asking us to challenge the perception that we have to. At one time, I may have caved and said, “Well no, we don’t HAVE to have to. I just mean that blahblahblah…” Today, I would say, “Yup. We have to. It’s what we do. We practise. And we practise a Day of Mindfulness once a month because we have to.” In fact, in the context of the Four Noble Truths there are no options about practice.
Over the last few posts we’ve explored the First and Second Noble Truths. To recap, the First Noble Truth is about the Power of Perception and the Second Noble Truth is about the Power of Deception. (Yes, I should have said that earlier but honestly, I just figured it out so you’re getting it hot off the neuronal press.)
The Third Noble Truth is about the Power of Cessation. And a day spent practising how to seamlessly flow from one moment to the next is precisely that. It is about stopping, ceasing the battle between the mind and body.
I wrote in our clinic guidebook that meditation is often seen as a harsh taskmaster. It takes no prisoners in the battle of wills between body and mind. But perhaps, we would do better to see meditation as not creating that battlefield. And it may be more useful to see it as an opportunity to create a space in which we can stop. Hence the need to practise in an all-day setting. It just takes that long to recognize the need to stop. Recognition, the first turning of the wheel in the Third Noble Truth, is crucial to the practice of cessation. If I can’t see that I’m going full tilt and likely off the rails too, I’m not going to see the need to slow down and take stock of my situation.
Lately, I’ve been hearing my friends and colleagues recite a little chant every time they are with me. It goes something like this: Gosh, you do so much. Gosh, you’re involved in so many things. My first reaction (what cessation?) was to laugh it off: Don’t say that! I’ll trip and fall on my nose! Going full tilt means I’m also playing with those nasty triplets: craving, rejection, and delusion. Or at the very least, it means I’m less aware of how often I’m playing with them. Of course, the nerdy ones, generosity, acceptance, and wisdom, are also residents of my ghetto mind and stopping means I remember to find time for them too.
The Third Noble Truth is about the Power of Cessation. It is about the power of seeing what is enough. It is about the power of seeing all of what is already here. There’s no other option.
Thank you for practising,