Wednesday, June 3, 2009

CC: Zen and the Art of Falling Out of Your Upper Bunk

One morning I woke up in midair.


I painfully climbed into an empty lower bunk, apologizing to everyone I’d woken in the dorm, and tried to sleep it off.

Several hours of limping through the next day later, I suddenly remembered something I’d seen the previous night.

After our last meditation session of the night, I’d continued to sit outside on the steps to the gompa, staring at the full moon rising above the trees and taking in the scene before me. Below, someone was circumambulating the stupa not far away, immersed in a walking meditation. Every step he took radiated confidence, mindfulness, grace. There was such intensity and purpose in every movement that it was as captivating as the moon hanging in the air above.

Lama Yeshe's Stupa

Before going to bed I had walked around a couple of times myself but always felt clumsy and awkward in the process. I couldn’t sink my attention into my steps to the extent that I wanted to and my unconscious impatience with the task disrupted the rhythm of my movement. I felt like a bumbling idiot.

The next afternoon as I limped with every step while trying to walk at a normal pace, I felt the previous night’s clumsiness amplified to a comic level. Very funny. After a while I gave up and slowed down to a snail’s pace. And I noticed something. If I took small, slow steps, I could walk perfectly normally without any pain. Even though it was much slower and probably much less efficient, I immediately started to felt better about myself. I set my pace several notches slower.

Everytime I got restless and started to speed up, or ceased to be mindful and removed my attention from each step that I was taking, the pain in the hip that I’d landed on last night was quick to bring my attention immediately back to what I was doing. Inattention was no longer an option.

Before the day was through I found myself fully absorbed in every step that I took; giving my utmost attention to every shift in weight, bend of the foot, and change in rhythm that I experienced. As I walked around the stupa that night – intensely mindful and with a fluidity and grace that was entirely absent the day before, it all suddenly became clear to me. Life really has a funny way of teaching you what you need to learn sometimes.

All the same, I think might stick to the lower bunk in the future.

Add ‘walking with an elven grace’ to the CV…

No comments: