Monday, August 22, 2005

The principle of mindfulness practice is simple: to bring our minds back to our bodies, to produce our true presence, to become fully alive, and there you are!

In the Jewish tradition, and in the Christian tradition,
we used to say
"doing everything as though in the presence of God."
God is witnessing everything that is happening to us.
You do everything as though in the presence of God.

That is another kind of language,
but pointing to the same reality.

Many people in the Christian tradition speak in that way:
the Holy Spirit is the energy of God, and it is in us.
We can profit from it, and we can help it to be generated, and enhance the quality of each minute of our daily lives.

Mindfulness and concentration always bring insight,
and insight is the liberating factor.
We suffer because there is a lack of insight into our nature,
and into the nature of reality.

In the teaching of the Buddha, the processes—mindfulness,
concentration and insight—are the essence of the practice.

The energy of mindfulness contains within itself the energy of concentration;
and concentration always contains the capacity of seeing deeply...

The ultimate aim of the practice is the insight that liberates us from
our fear, our ignorance, our loneliness, and our despair.

Mindfulness Trainings should be looked upon as the practice of mindfulness, and not as a set of rules. If you look at them as a set of rules, you are caught by what the Buddha described as the attachment to rituals and rules, and this is not a good thing in Buddhism. You should not be a victim of rules and rituals.

So be careful when you study and practice.

The Buddha warned us about getting caught in rituals.
We don’t do things for the sake of being polite.
All these rituals would be nothing if they were empty of life, namely empty of the energy of mindfulness and concentration.
If the energy of mindfulness and concentration is there,
you don’t need any rituals, but anything that happens may look like a ritual.

When the priest celebrates the Eucharist, breaking the bread and pouring the wine, he should not perform it only as a ritual.

It is not the gesture and the words that create the miracle of the Eucharist—it is his capacity for being alive, of being present at that moment, it is his capacity for making the whole congregation wake up to being alive, because he breaks the bread in such a way that everyone becomes awake, becomes aware that this piece of bread contains life.

That requires strong practice on the part of the priest. If he is not alive, if he is not present,
if he does not have the power of mindfulness and concentration, he will not be able to create life in the congregation, in the church.

That is why empty rituals do not mean anything.
There should be the real thing in it;

the real thing we can call the Holy Spirit.

Any of us, priest or not priest, monk or not monk,
our practice is to generate the Holy Spirit in us,
namely the energy of concentration and mindfulness.

Consider them to be an art of mindful living,
and not something imposed on you to restrict your freedom.
In fact the practice of the Mindfulness Trainings will help you
to gain more freedom every day.

Breath! you are alive.
Dharma Talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh on August 3, 1998 in Plum Village, France.
[Taking Care of our Mental Formations and Perceptions]

Painting by Jody Uttal


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