Simple Insights

I had two insights this past week. They both seem as simple as to be hardly worth mentioning; but I don’t want to forget them.

One of those insights was: I feel happier when I am trying to realize my intentions. The other was: I am more likely to accomplish something new if I include it as part of something I am already doing. These insights are so straight forward that it’s surprising it took an “Ah Ha” moment for me to start paying attention to them.

I have to credit an on-line class I am taking, based on the book Caring by Tarthang Tulku, for the fact that they rose to the surface of my mind. That’s another insight: I’m more likely to become interested in new possibilities when I’m trying to develop the ground from which they can sprout.

These insights are not mysterious, so I have to wonder why the impulse to act on them felt like a quiet revolution. Perhaps I needed to be paying attention to the presence of negative emotions and thoughts before I could try to implement any antidote to them.

In the Caring class, we were assigned the practice of moving very slowly for a while, then very quickly for a while, then sitting and bringing to mind memories; while noticing that physical sensations in the body centers signal the arrival of emotional reactions before they have a chance to take over. We were invited to notice that each body center (head, throat, heart, and belly) have characteristics that reflect different kinds of thoughts and feelings: the head is confused or clear; the belly is panicked or courageous; the throat open and communicating, or tight and closed: the heart harmonizing or sad and lonely.

I felt motivated to do these practices but had trouble finding the time to fit them into my day. I didn’t want these new practices to displace the ones I have been doing for the past seventeen months (“Bending in the Four Directions”, followed by quiet sitting).

It was then that I realized that the bending exercise is also a process of slow movement (like the new assignment of moving slowly and then rapidly); and my meditation is already full of thoughts and feelings (ripe for the assignment of being aware of emotional reactions and their precursors in the head, throat, heart and belly).

So for the past few mornings, I have incorporated the new practices into the ones I have been doing for more than a year. Both the old and the new benefit from this: the new practices get accomplished and the old practices are leavened by a quality of exploration that they had been lacking.

I’m discovering that when my days are parceled out in a series of familiar activities they tend to lose the quality that makes life interesting. But by incorporating different ways of looking and different invocations of intention into these activities, I am able to appreciate the gifts of the past without turning them into replicas of the fresh energy and awareness they originally brought into my life.

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