Friday, January 22, 2010

Grounded in the present moment

"To dwell in the here and now does not mean you never think about the past or responsibly plan for the future. The idea is simply not to allow yourself to get lost in regrets about the past or worries about the future. If you are firmly grounded in the present moment, the past can be an object of inquiry, the object of your mindfulness and concentration. You can attain many insights by looking into the past. But you are still grounded in the present moment."--Thich Nhat Hanh, The Art of Power (HarperOne 2008)

I found this comforting. A student in my freshman Critical Thinking course just arrived here from Sri Lanka. Her English is challenged and her personality is shy. She confided in me by e-mail earlier this week how difficult she finds the level to which she must rise to do college-level work. Telling me she found it hard to cope, and how full of anxiety this made her, she then explained, unprompted, how she had been doing "Pirith" chanting as a Buddhist. I did not know what this was, but off the cuff after class, I tried to reiterate to her what Thich Nhat Hanh, via the link below read by me the day before from the Zen website below, advised us.

The end of next class this same week, I thanked her for her note. I told her I'd looked up the meaning of the adjective meanwhile. She responded with quiet pride that thanks to the inspiration of her professor taking up meditation, her husband, long resistant to her spouse's persuasions to chant, was now trying it himself. I wondered why the quick turnabout in his stance, but I left that to nuptial discretion.

As a "pirith" sample, she recommended on YouTube this video, by "Rathnamali Gatha with Sinhala meaning" superimposed. Its sound quality reminded me of my teenaged midnights with my face next to a shortwave radio. But my Corgi immediately-- even at the low level emanating from my laptop-- perked his own formidable ears and cocked his foxy head when he heard the chanting.

Courtesy of the Falling Leaf Sangha, c/o Ben Howard. Visit his blog on Zen practice, ""One Mind, One Moment": "One Mind, One Moment".

P.S. He wrote the same day I posted this an appropriate counterpart:
"It is not so difficult to adjust to one’s environment when, as now, a lean female cardinal is coming and going from our feeder, her orange beak and tan feathers catching the early-morning light. But it is not so easy when your driveway is filled with snow, the sidewalks are icy, and you’re already sick of scarves and parkas. Here in Alfred, New York, we know how to handle such conditions, but that doesn’t mean we like them." "Dropping into Awareness."

Photo: Dan Nussbaum took these in Silverlake Jan. 19th during the storms we have had lately. "RedBean1"

1 comment:

Fionnchú said...

My friend Bob posted on FB about this: "Nicely shared, and an irrefutably useful way to think about time. (I have been thinking/reading about the quantumist multiverse moment, this moment, where all possible worlds are hidden in parallel sympathies.... another idea for another moment). As Bill has said, buddhism isn't really a religion but rather a deeply experiential "science of mind" developed by priest-scientists over centuries, and presents empirical understanding of what works and how we use our consciousness. But more importantly this story of your Sri Lankan student underscores what I said to you a couple months important your work is, so much more important, so much more effective advancing the Dharma than a host of academics who care less about students and learning than their cramped and competitive careers in other ivory towers of Academe."

Hope Dr. Bob, well outside the ivory towers as am I in our duties, doesn't mind me sharing his kind response. Here's mine to him, for those who may be interested: "Thanks so much, Bob. I keep your comment in mind; it made a deep impression on me, and helped motivate me to keep at it here. (An in-depth "science of mind" focus can be found with father and son Revel in their conversations as "The Monk & the Philosopher," a more intellectual take on what Bob Thurman popularizes in his books if with far less rigor... I would like to find out more about the multiverse idea, inevitably but touched upon in yet another review, Brian Clegg's new "Before the Big Bang," which I read last summer)

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