Mindfulness Task

Mindfulness Bells
March 7

This week we are pausing for 3 breaths each time we hear a "mindfulness bell."

In taking up this task, please be creative about what a "bell" could mean, practically speaking, in your ordinary, daily life.  For instance, if you work in an office, perhaps the telephone ringing could signal an opportunity to take at least 1-2 breaths before answering.  If you work in a kitchen, sometimes a dish or pot clanging against something can sound bell-like.  The point is to find some signal and use that as an opportunity to come back into the body and the breath -- at least for a moment. 

(I've heard that there also the possibility of downloading a free mindfulness bell application for the i-phone...)

With any of the mindfulness tasks, the main thing is to try them out wholeheartedly and see the richness that is there -- see what we learn from engaging with the activity.

Yours in the Dharma,

Kojun Hull

(P.S. If anyone is reading these and missing them when there are gaps in my posting, please feel free to email me a reminder to post the next task: kojun@zendust.org)

Every Meeting -- Fresh
January 27

The next mindfulness task is to meet each situation, and especially each person, with a fresh mind.  This means being mindful of letting go of ideas about who the person is and how they are going to respond, or act, or what they are going to say.

And for those of you just getting introduced to mindfulness tasks:  The idea is that we all try this for a week or so and see what we learn.

Observing our "Hungry Ghost Mind"
November 4

A Hungry Ghost is said to be a being with an enormous belly and a very small mouth; a being who cannot possibly take in enough to be satisfied.  This is all of us in some moments:  We would like to take in what would truly nourish us, but somehow we cannot.  Another way of viewing this is that we are sometimes caught in a greedy state of mind: We are convinced that we need something or another in order to be happy.  When investigated -- "is this really true?" -- the missing "something or another" actually not the true source of our distress. 

This week we are invited to notice when some form of "Hungry Ghost Mind" has arisen in us. Doing the gratitude practice we outlined last week is often a good antidote for this kind of suffering.

Gratitude
October 29

In harmony with the season, the residents of Great Vow Zen Monastery are taking on a series of tasks to cultivate gratitude.  This week, we are checking in several times a day (or as many times as we can remember) and asking "in this moment, what am I grateful for?"

Some residents are keeping a gratitude log (writing down what they are grateful for).

We invite you to join us in this practice.

Silly Walking -- No Joke!
October 13

Our next mindfulness task is called silly walking.  We recommend walking in a silly way several times a day; ESPECIALLY when you notice that you've fallen into a negative mind state.

No, really -- We're serious...

It's amazing how much there is to learn, here.

Does silly walking for 10 seconds really help alter a state of mind?  It only takes 10 seconds to find out!

Sometimes we want to practice just being with a negative mind state, so that we do not get caught in aversion to it.  It's also good, though, to know how to change a mind state quickly, and to cultivate the freedom to be able to do this.

Freedom in this context often means freedom from some version of the following thought: "My negative mind state is real/genuine/I like it; I don't want to be inauthentic and change my mind state; other people will think I'm weird, etc."  In other words, we would rather be right than be happy. 

The great news is that we CAN retrain ourselves to act from deeper values.  It just takes clear intention and a bit of effort.

 

Sky Awareness, Sky Mind
September 13

Our task for the next week or two is to become aware (at least a few times each day) of the sky, and to make our mind like the sky.

Try it out!  See how it goes!

Awareness of Anxiety
August 2

Our next task is called awareness of anxiety.  How do we know that anxiety is present in the body, heart, and/or mind?  What do we do to practice with this?  Do we find any value (experientially) in anxiety?  At what point does our anxiety tend to arise during the day (is it as soon as we open our eyes in the morning, or at some later point)?

Chozen Roshi is having us do this task, and hopefully continue with the investigation beyond just this week, because she sees that anxiety is the fundamental destroyer of happiness for people in our culture at this particular period in time. 

Whatever progress we make in working with our own anxiety -- knowing it, gaining a bit of space from it, calming down the system, etc. -- we know that this is fundamental work that truly benefits all beings.  We begin to do this work by directly investigating the questions above; looking minutely at our own experience and seeing what is there.

"Experiencing Self" or "Remembering Self"
July 14

The task for the next two weeks is to notice whether we are in our "Experiencing Self" or in our "Remembering Self."

For more on these terms, here's a link to the 20 minute talk Chozen Roshi showed in class last week:

http://www.ted.com/talks/daniel_kahneman_the_riddle_of_experience_vs_memory.html 

It's always interesting to see how people from many different fields will come up with an idea that relates somehow to the truths we see in practice.

Zen Practice is largely about learning to explore the territory of the "experiencing self," learning to return to this "self" more frequently, and gaining comfort and familiarity with this new kind of living.  Embodying what we know intellectually to be true inspires others.

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