Everything we do matters. Even the smallest of activities play a significant and cumulative role in shaping our individual lives and further all of these activities weave into the tapestry of this fantastic and wondrous world we move in and through. This manifests in a dance that weaves the fabric of living and being woven as part of that same tapestry. Each kind word, every moment where our breath is taken away, each time we lose our temper and lash out in anger, each time we play with our kids or post within the interweb…each of these are the expressions and activities that are our life and thus become active constituent pieces of the world simultaneously. I have thought about these ideas quite a bit over the past few days. These have been driven by wondering how can I become a better me? What can I do to improve the spaces I occupy…building better, more resilient communities? What can be done to shift the way I see myself, the way I hold space for myself, the way I move into and through my world? What can help me to connect more to myself and others in a manner that is increasingly authentic and present?
I imagine there are any number of ways to get there, but it seems important to try to keep it simple lest the journey seems impossible and first steps become tentative and resisted…it seems all of these questions can be answered in a way with an idea as simple as walking. If you want to get somewhere, walking is a pretty solid way of starting. It is a simple, natural, incremental movement that engages our whole being. I like to extend that dynamic of walking across my life because it keeps me grounded in what I am doing as I move through the activities of my life. It is a sense I try to cultivate through all of the daily work I put into myself and understanding the world I find myself part of. I do these things like zazen and kung fu, taiji and qi gong with the idea of engaging in daily practice to gain skills and perspective leveraged into being with and within this thing called living. They all help me “walk better” in the sense I mentioned above. Life can get really complex at times…responses to that complexity can get needlessly heady! Daily practices that build our connections to our self and our community, that present us with the opportunity to explore each aspect of each step we take while walking and living, help foster living with greater intimacy and presence. What a noble venture! Each day it is vital to take time to cultivate the sensitivity and skill of engaging in our lives…in training ourselves to exist and remain in that area on the raw edge of living. In doing this, we are intentionally actualizing our very own genjo koan. We live more fully, more intimately.
Within my own life, I explore a number of ways to engineer spaces or other practice contexts that can provide the laboratory space for developing this intentional practice. Zazen practice in the quiet (mostly-save for the occasional breaking bottle or kid sounds that pass through) space of our zendo provides such a respite of practice. Perhaps you have an area set aside in your home, or a place outdoors that provides a similar kind of environment. In any event, this space provides some reduction of the distractions of our day-to-day living within which to begin to reconnect to “you-ing” within your life. You might also engage in embodiment practices like kung fu, taiji, qi gong or yoga. These arts all provide another type of context within which to gain insight into the way the bodymind moves in the space of our lives…again further access to you “you-ing” you. You might also cultivate it through painting, or calligraphy, or writing, or through reaching out and providing service to others…there are innumerable paths to getting to this place of cultivation. The importance isn’t so much on which path you take to get to yourself and your life, but that you put one foot in front of the other and walk into and with it, this dynamic, interconnected dance that is living!
A shared quality of all of these practices is they are not designed to remain in the safety and relative quiet of the laboratories and practice spaces within which they are cultivated. The goal of these practices is to bring them and the learning they provide into our lives and into our interactions with those we love, those we work with, those with whom we build community. The practice is living integrated living…living yourself and your world fully. This is vital for a variety of reasons. Life is terminal. As that is the case, it is of supreme importance to live like every moment is your last-not in the sense of running off to Vegas and betting the house on the roulette wheel, but in the sense that time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost…we can’t wait to be happy, or to be better people, or to fix what is broken…all of that has to happen now-it simply will not wait and will never magically come to be tomorrow. Integrating what you bring from these practices that ground you in this dynamic present into the moments that shape your life connects you in that flow of living expression. Being in that flow is the most natural place to be. It helps us to realize into our lives and our world the compassion and caring, the living wisdom that is our natural way of being.
Life at times and the world at large can seem a bit hopeless. With ongoing school shootings, generalized violence, racial/social/cultural/gender/economic/orientation inequity, and natural degradation of our ecosystems seeming to be the norm, it is difficult to imagine that zazen, or kung fu, or yoga, or other integrated, holistic types of self and community cultivation can impact change. However, the world is a very interesting place in the dynamic way it moves and is shaped. Every individual plays a role. Each individual impacts and influences others, who impact and influence others…in ways that are both apparent and invisible. The experience is cumulative and builds outward from each individual. Waking up to living breathes life into living. Each breath brings an opportunity for infinite awareness and exploration. Each breath is really where it all starts…a stone dropped in the river where we all swim that sends ripples throughout all of water changing the way it flows. That dynamic of energy exchange that the above stone brings through the entirety of the water illustrates why everything we do matters. Being that each of us has that kind of world generating power, it is important to cultivate bodymind practice. From there, it is reasonable to aspire to live forward what is learned through this ongoing practice. Sit in zazen, expand it into your whole life-realize it is your whole life. Recognize the gates of understanding and realization, of actualization, that are made available by practicing kung fu, qi gong, yoga, etc. with you whole bodymind. These too are expressions of your whole life. Take long walks and notice how you move, how you breathe, how that impacts the way you interact in the ecosystem of your bodymind and the larger spaces you move within. Deepening the quality of living through cultivating this dynamic brings us to a place where we can be more curious and less judgmental. It presents an opportunity to understand the simplicity and complexity of all of the interconnectedness of the activities of life. Embracing this allows emergence of opportunities to engage compassion and hope, resilience and regeneration. Actively taking that walk and being present to all that emerges, that walk that is living, calls me to practice.