Even though lots of people believe otherwise, we are physical beings living in a physical world.
(If you disagree, share your factual evidence in a comment on this post. Hey, maybe a Nobel prize awaits you if you're able to prove that we're non-physical beings living in a physical world, or maybe two Nobel prizes if you can prove we're non-physical beings living in a non-physical world.)
One reason I enjoy Zen Buddhism so much is that Zen is deeply rooted in physicality.
Chop wood, carry water. Focus on the breath while keeping the spine straight in meditation. Students getting hit with a stick by their Zen teacher.
Mindfulness appeals to me for the same reason.
Sure, mindfulness obviously involves the mind. But what we're mindful of is both the world outside of us, along with our inner world. The two are so intimately connected as to be one thing, really.
After all, what we're not aware of doesn't exist for us, though if it is a physical entity, it still exists in the reality outside of our own mind.
There's lots of ways to appreciate the benefits of mindfulness, which basically is simply being aware of what we're doing while we're doing it -- understanding that doing can include non-volitional acts like thoughts and emotions that arise without us choosing them.
Today I cleaned the gutters on our house and detached garage/carport.
They were filled with leaves after a windy period last week helped the many large oaks that surround us do their fall thing. Quite a bit of rain is forecast for the next seven days or so. Today was dry, so this was my opportunity.
At my age, 73, I get frequent advice to stay off our roof, including from my wife. I'm pleased to ignore that advice. One reason is that I learn a lot about mindfulness from clearing the gutters out.
I do this by propping a ladder against the roof, which I climb with my Stihl backpack leaf blower on my back, not surprisingly. I start it on the ground and get up on the roof with it idling away. My wife left for a trip to Kentucky today to attend a Celebration of Life for her oldest sister, who died recently.
I thought about not cleaning the gutters until Laurel gets back, since we live in the country and our house isn't visible from the road. So if I fell off the roof and couldn't move, it would be a while before someone found me.
But then I realized that I'd been cleaning our gutters numerous times a year with a leaf blower for over 25 years, so the chance of me falling off today was minimal.
If anything, I felt safer today, because I walked along the edge of our roofs -- which are two story in places -- with a bit more mindful attitude than usual. Because I was by myself, aside from our dog, I paid extra attention to what I was doing, every step of the way.
Recently I'd read a mention of how, if we take care of every moment, those moments add up to a good hour, day, week, year, and lifetime. Problem is, often we aren't really present in the moments that make up our life.
Our body is in one place -- the present moment -- while our mind is someplace else, the past or future, or thoughts unrelated to what we're doing.
However, walking along the edge of a roof with a leaf blower on your back is a great way to practice being wholly in the present moment. Well, actually that started as I climbed our ladder, since getting on the roof with a leaf blower tube dangling to one side, with the weight of the machine on your back, presents a few extra challenges.
I find that simply being aware of what my body is doing as I take each step up the ladder, then focusing on getting from the ladder to the roof isn't difficult at all.
That's the benefit of doing something somewhat dangerous: it concentrates the mind in a way that tends to escape us in everyday activities. Getting close enough to the edge of the roof so the debris in the gutters can be blown out by the leaf blower is even more concentrating.
Today my approach was to continuously visualize myself losing my balance. That took away any lingering bit of nervousness by cleaning the gutters without anyone else around. I was aware that all I had to do was collapse straight down onto the roof and I'd be fine.
The key to doing that was being aware of what my body was doing at every moment, not letting my attention stray onto thoughts of what I'd do after this chore was completed.
An example of non-mindfulness arose later in the day around sunset. I was doing some stretching exercises while watching TV after the sun had set. Looking out the window, I was struck by how cool the trees around our house looked in silhouette as darkness neared.
I grabbed my iPhone and went out onto our side deck. Along with our main deck, it's in the process of being replaced with a composite deck, since we'd gotten tired of maintaining wood boards with staining every few years.
Some caution tape was hanging from the sliding door that leads to the deck, since railings hadn't been installed yet. Even so, as I was looking for the best angle to take a photo, in the dark I unconsciously started moving toward the railless edge of the deck.
Fortunately, a little voice in my head said, "You fool, there's no railing!"
That taught me what I already knew, but all too often forget: mindfulness isn't just for doing obviously dangerous things; it's also for doing ordinary things, some of which can be dangerous if done mindlessly.
Anyway, I got the photo. If I'd fallen off the deck and broken my neck, it would have made for a good human interest story. "Old man dies while taking a photo, forgetting his deck under construction had no railing."
[“One reason I enjoy Zen Buddhism so much is that Zen is deeply rooted in physicality.”]
Having spent much of my time and working life involved in nature, I guess that is part of my reason for my involvement with Zen (Chan in my case). Two points I’ll mention. One is that I’ve never looked upon the physical as being any different from the spiritual - being just ideas and having no actual separate reality. The other is that some talk about nature as being separate from us, something almost divorced from us and ‘out there’ – whereas of course, we are it; perhaps a bit more cunning, a bit shrewder, perhaps too self-involved and feeling special.
Which is probably why, being just one life form among thousands of others, I feel no intrinsic separation, yet, I am aware that my conditioned mind - my ego or self-identity - left to unconsciously wander the realms of culturally programmed concepts, thoughts and ideas, habitually drags me away from the reality that is always right here, right now. All simply expressed in Zen as ‘Just this’, or ‘This is it’, and ‘Being with’.
Posted by: Ron E. | November 06, 2021 at 07:00 AM
"Walking on the edge of a roof is great mindfulness training"
"...At my age, 73, I get frequent advice to stay off our roof, including from my wife. I'm pleased to ignore that advice. One reason is that I learn a lot about mindfulness from clearing the gutters out..."
..........If I may, Brian: Don't, just don't. Mindfulness is no fun --- unless you're some hardcore Bodhisatva! --- lying flat with a broken back. Pardon me for proffering this unasked for advice, it isn't something I generally do, but I'd ...well, let's just say, I'd prefer you to live a long and healthy life, than not. And I'm afraid that after a certain age, falls are a major cause of people getting incapacitated, or worse. I know this anecdotally, and up close; and also in terms of medical/statistical fact (although citations for the latter aren't at hand at this time). Best not tempt fate by cat-walking away up at a height, and without people around. Instead just install a low raised platform at ground level to walk on, if you must, and practice your mindfulness-while-on-a-ledge thing on that.
Your wife's right on this, and you're wrong, trust me.
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | November 06, 2021 at 09:27 AM
Hi Brian Ji
"Hey, maybe a Nobel prize awaits you if you're able to prove that we're non-physical beings living in a physical world, or maybe two Nobel prizes if you can prove we're non-physical beings living in a non-physical world.)"
Most creative and professional people already live in a non - physical world of ideas. Every scientific theory is forged there, not here. What informs that world? What is it connected to? Why are there layers of access to it, each accessible on the basis of he focus? And only accessible when we are "in the groove?"
Why does every great athlete retreat there in order to perform at their best, even while performing?
Many Nobel prizes are awarded for the discoveries there, because in that place is a deeper understanding of this place. All the great artists and scientists live there in their most productive hours.
If you spend most of your time there it is only practical to consider yourself a citizen of that country.
A country of infinite exploration.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | November 06, 2021 at 11:06 AM
You don't need to risk life and limb to go there.
AR, yes, the entire history of elderly patients after a fall is quite different, including reduced life expectancy, increased likelihood of developing other morbidities, and reduced recovery after further injury.
It is for this reason the elderly are encouraged to use a walker even when they don't need one. Bones become brittle and breaks are easier to get even with a trip and fall to the ground while walking on level ground.
And once there is a break, even with the best surgery, full range of motion and activity is forever out of reach for most elderly patients. And that limitation affects the health of other internal organs.
If you wish to take risks, risk your belief system by going within.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | November 06, 2021 at 11:13 AM
I once helped a friend do a remodel on his house, and he hired a roofer. The roofer was a grizzled vet who'd been doing roofing for 30 years or so. He said he's seen even the most experienced roofers just one day walk right off a roof.
Everyone believes they're good drivers, everyone believes they're mindful of safety. And yet, thousands of car accidents happen every week, many of them fatal. Studies show that 77% of drivers will be in an accident at least once in their life. It's a big reason I resist the temptation to buy a bike, where once accident can easily change or end one's life.
Zen Buddhism has much to say about illusion. Indeed, we are physical beings with imperfect minds, which is why it makes sense to tie-off when "skywalking."
Posted by: Tendzin | November 06, 2021 at 01:15 PM
Even though lots of people believe otherwise, we are physical beings living in a physical world.
Here, Gurinder Singh Dhillion would totally disagree with us all. But then again how much does the Little midget of a man know about the reality of this world.
Not to put off his not so talked about devious actions which he has alot of explanaing to do, to his Sangat too. Who sit there all lost and bewildered by his buffon tactics at a cost of they're own mentality. Skip that song an dance and get some real enlightenment.
The hidden hand of Gurinder Singh Dhillions gets up to alot which the eye never gets to see behind them closed doors, but we all know what really goes on, yup your exposed.
Never fall for the lies watch his actions and then give yourself a pat on on your back for a good job of catching the culprit at play.
Games a over Gurinder Singh Dhillion your good as done in the world of fake baba you made it to that top banana postion, congratulations 👏
Better to do some Mindfulness than Mindless motions of Gurinder Singh Dhillion & the Ruthless Radha Soami Cult
Posted by: Manoj | November 06, 2021 at 02:12 PM
@manoj your straight to the point, and yes the blatant truth about gurinder of RSSB does hurt. I'm moving away from this path, that has destroyed my personal life. It's time I will never ever get back and I feel I have wasted my life in satsangs every Sunday and doing seva for the benefit of gurinder and RSSB. Thank you and I hope more sangat can see the truth.
Posted by: Pete | November 06, 2021 at 05:30 PM
@ Tendzin : [ He said he's seen even the most experienced roofers just one day walk right off a roof. ]
It's shattering how distractable we are even with familiar
activities. But, even on "lower roofs", there's seemingly
always some bit of peril.
Sometimes I feel the peril is what attracts us. It's our
antidote for a life not lived mindfully which, deep down,
we know is the most perilous of all. I "walk off the roof"
in some way or other every day.
Posted by: Dungeness | November 06, 2021 at 11:39 PM
Tendzin captured my feelings well. Thanks for the post and the comments. Few people realize that this entire planet and the short life we live upon it is all about TROUBLE, followed by frantic efforts to get out of TROUBLE. The few moments we experience of real pleasure and tranquility are soon overturned by TROUBLE.
I have realized this after 67 years of existence here. Nothing more...nothing less.
"Out on a Limb" is a great title that sums up my experience here every moment. Many times has that limb snapped and I fell to the ground from my false perch of pride and vainglory! Only to return and face the TROUBLE of another day.
What could possibly be the reason for a life replete with TROUBLE?
Posted by: albert | November 07, 2021 at 06:36 AM
@Albert you are absolutely right in saying this short life is pain and suffering. I call this planet/ universe a prison planet. This is where fake leaders and fake spiritual masters like gurinder singh " the narsasist" dhillon take advantage of the innocent souls. His cult should be called the science of trapping the soul. They gain energy from your suffering and the ignorance of the blind sheep is no excuse. And shamefully they say we are suffering because of our past karma and karmic dept. This is absolute bullshit , made to trap you in this realm for eternity and blame you , while they wrince yours and your loved ones mind body and soul.
Posted by: Uchit | November 07, 2021 at 02:02 PM
My goodness, what happened? You’re usually more optimistic. 😕
Posted by: Alexa loves Siri | November 08, 2021 at 01:38 AM