“In this fathom-long body with its perceptions and thoughts there is the world, the origin of the world, the ending of the world and the path leading to the ending of the world.” -AN 4.45
It always amazes me when I catch myself trying to run before I can walk. It shouldn’t surprise me but it does. With all this cushion time, retreats, sesshins, workshops, and gosh-knows-what that I take on in the pursuit of that one ineffable experience of BAM! YOU’RE ENLIGHTENED! one would think that I could jog a few steps on this path of purification. Apparently not and the road rash on my mentally constructed nose is strong evidence of this.
In sangha, we are exploring the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. Yet again! I can’t get enough of it so each year I subject my sangha mates to another round of the body-et al.-in-the-body-et al. This Sunday, I pointed out that this fathom-long body is all we need to know in order to lift each foot out of the mud. “Don’t leave home without it!” I warned. Yet, each day, we do. In the hub-bub and brou-hah-ha of the drama of our moments, it fades into the background and is barely perceptible. Safe to say, even my preaching the Good Word about being in the body as the body had little impact on my monkey mind as I was setting up chairs on yoga mats and placed my little finger between the chair leg and mat.
This time the body is quite forgiving, leaving me with a little blood blister. Other times it hasn’t been though I hesitate to place malicious or punitive intent in its lap. The body does just what the body does. It’s only when that monkey mind grabs the sensations that arise from contact – in this case between form and touch organ – that the show begins.
Well, it won’t hurt any of us to relearn the fundamentals of this walking practice again and again. Even if it isn’t Zen-sounding. This, I think is where the running before walking happens too. In all the glam of Zen practice, we forget to master the basic stuff, the Suttas that came before the Sutras. After all, how else to understand the Prajnaparamita without understanding the skandhas and the container in which they manifest. But I’ll be the first to say how I love a good treatise on the interconnection of quantum physics and the Prajnaparamita. For that, by the way, dig into Mu Soeng’s The Heart of the Universe which has one of the most articulate interweavings of the two threads of unknowing.
Still and all, for all that unknowing is the fruit of our practice, it doesn’t hurt to return over and over to the framework of knowing. Body, feelings, mind, and objects of mind. Even so, we have a tendency to rush into the conceptual tangles, the objects of mind, by wanting to know how, why this mind responds to the body the way it does.
The body does just what the body does.
So hard to accept.
This is a lovely presentation on the body/mind connection and the base of practice as mindfulness of the body as the body, in the body: Mindfulness, visualized.
Also check out Bhante Gunaratana’s new book, The Four Foundations of Mindfulness in Plain English.