Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift… that’s why they call it the present
Master Oogway , Kung Fu Panda
It’s so easy to get caught up in your ‘stuff’ and be asleep (not literately) for months on end. How many times do you find yourself saying wow it’s like June already – where did the year go. I guess we say this regularly not only about how fast the year is going but sometimes it’s how fast our life is disappearing as we slip from one decade into another. I remember seeing a tweet from Stephen Morris (the drummer for Manchester’s brilliant pop combo New Order) on his 60th birthday ‘Blimey,that went fast’ was all he wrote. I turn 50 next year – even writing that down looks insane . I’m the youngest in my family I’ve got 4 older sisters so I’ve always been seen as the baby but being the baby at 50 is probably not a good look.
What to do , you might ask – we can’t stop the passage of time or the aging process , not yet anyway. But what we can do is actually make what we are doing right here right now count far more than we do already. I say do already but very seldom do folk actually enjoy just ‘being present’ – the reality is as the cliche goes we are human doings not human beings ( I think I got that cliche from The Simpsons so all good). All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone said Blaise Pascal and he was not wrong. Can you actually remember the last time you were sat in your front room without fiddling on your I Phone or watching Netflix and without a visit to The MedMen on Lincoln and did nothing other than being happy just to be sat down and BE – have you ever done this? This constant fiddling we do a daily basis – sometimes on autopilot ( how many times have you walked into a room and ‘flicked on the tube’ and sat down without actually realising you are doing it), creates mental agitation which in turns creates all kinds of havoc in our lives. We associate this kind of just sitting practice as inertia -something negative but if you can train yourself just to sit down and shut up you eventually get to understand all the hype about the present being a gift.
The Zen practice of Zazen (seated meditation) is a great way of simply sitting down and shutting up. In this method there’s no mental gymnastics of having to count breaths or recite mantras silently required – the great Zen master Dogen called Zazen the gateway to ease and joy. And a continued daily practice of Zazen helps to quieten down the mental agitation your smart phone creates ( there is a total irony in your phone being called smart when in actual fact it makes you dumb) It’s not like you wander around in a hippy dippy blissed out state all the time (you’ll need MedMen for that) it’s more like you are able to not get sucked into the crazy moment to moment thought processes your mind conjures up. I have mentioned in a previous blog about how some years ago I added this Zazen practice to my daily Ashtanga practice and found the combination of the two to be of immense benefit – like a total daily tune up for the mind and body. Although in some ways I am saying that Zazen is for the mind and Ashtanga for the body this is not quite the true picture. In Zen practice we don’t actually see the mind and body as being separate from each other – merely 2 sides of the same coin. So Ashtanga is as much about the mind as Zazen is , and it can definitely be said that Zazen is as much of a physical practice (in that the posture is all important) , as a practice for the mind.
Sit Zazen Practice Ashtanga BE Happy : )