It should come as no surprise that much of what you read here has already been written elsewhere, for there really is “nothing new under the sun.” Thank you to the mystics and wonderers who go before me. What is new for each of us is the aha moment when we see a truth for the first time or when we peel away another layer so as to understand at greater depth.
For a few years I have used this mantra to stop the human flow of judgment and criticism,”God alive and we thrive.” If god is alive in the conversation, we thrive instead of being dragged down in a cloud of negative energy. I have found the mantra quite helpful until the other day when I had to deal with the incessant noise that accompanies city living and was given a new layer of meaning. I recalled a video of a Buddhist nun who used a bell to call her to mindfulness. She alluded to feeling so frustrated and impatient with the noise that kept her from mindfulness, and substituted the noise itself as the bell calling her to mindfulness. I began to consider the noise outside as a call to mindfulness and a different word came up, the word “presence.” My mantra became “Breathing in presence I release irritation. Breathing in presence I release unrest.” After a while the noise slipped away and I was gifted with a few moments of connection with the divine…much more satisfying than fixating on the noise of garbage trucks uploading!
Subsequently, other uses of the mantra have presented themselves to me. One day I fixated on the possibility of someone’s interference in my life. That negative energy did me no good at all, but this mantra transported me out of it, “Breathing in presence I release mistrust. Breathing in presence I release fear.” When we live in divine presence there is simply no space for negative energy. When we invite presence we are inviting the divine presence that lives in the other person to share space in our being. It is like greeting someone with “Namaste, I greet the god in you.”
I invite you to try this mantra and share in a comment that will give all of us tools for our spiritual growth. Blessings be yours.
This photo shows the view I have from my camping chair under the trees at my sprawling urban apartment complex. The houses and the boats and the docks are removed. I only wish I could remove the noise that accompanies them. It was quite hot in my corner of the world the other day, so I went down to my sanctuary to read in the shade. My peace was interjected with loud voices and a radio at the nearby swimming pool, and the blast of city machinery doing maintainance on the trail next to us. Traffic on the congested arterial on the other side provided percussion for this orchestra of pollution. Given all the variables in my life, this is the best place for me to live, so I must learn to cope. I take myself away to the beach at off times of day, and that helps immensely. This early this morning before the noise ensued I heard birds and bullfrogs. Delightful. This is not enough, however. I have to make peace with this situation, so I returned to the mindfulness teaching of Thicht Naht Hanh. In response to a question about dealing with stress at work, he said this:
“…when you hear the telephone ringing you can consider it to be the sound of the mindfulness bell. You practice telephone meditation. Every time you hear the telephone ringing you stay exactly where you are (laughter). You breathe in and breathe out and enjoy your breathing. Listen, listen-this wonderful sound brings you back to your true home. Then when you hear the second ring you stand up and you go to the telephone with dignity (laughter). That means in the style of walking meditation (laughter). You know that you can afford to do that, because if the other person has something really important to tell you, she will not hang up before the third ring. That is what we call telephone meditation. We use the sound as the bell of mindfulness.” Thicht Nhat Hanh www.ic.sunysb.edu/Clubs/buddhism/dailylife/thayq-a.html
So, I will try using the sound of the leaf blower as the bell of mindfulness. Hopefully my faithfulness to the practice will replace impatience and frustration. You may find the embedded video helpful. Sister Dang Nhiem from Deer Park Monastery. I close with her “Poem for Inviting the Bell.”
My body, speech and mind in perfect oneness.
I send my heart along with the sound of the bell.
May the hearer awaken from forgetfulness and transcend all anxiety.