Bringing the Buddha into the City

When the mind is kept away from its preoccupations, it becomes quiet. If you do not disturb this quiet and stay in it, you find that it is permeated with a light and a love you have never known; and yet you recognize it at once as your own nature. Once you have passed through this experience, you will never be the same man again; the unruly mind may break its peace and obliterate its vision; but it is bound to return, provided the effort is sustained; until the day when all bonds are broken, delusions and attachments end, and life becomes supremely concentrated in the present.

~Nisargadatta Maharaj


For anyone who may be reading the posts here, it should be obvious that the retreat experience over the years has really flowered, bringing a new understanding and appreciation for the buddhist teachings, and a direct insight into our Buddha Nature.

My practice continues now as a ‘daily practice’. Meditators may instantly recognize these words and what they imply.  For many, ‘daily practice’ will be a far fetched euphemism for their sitting practice, which is probably more like a weekly, monthly, or ‘once in a while’ practice.  If lucky, the intention to sit is supported by a weekly sitting group, dharma talk downloads, good books, etc.  It can be a steady daily sitting practice, or a not-so-steady wish-I-had the time half-hearted intention.  It’s hard to keep it consistent.

Retreats on the calendar have always been a prime motivator for me, and the time following retreats brings me to the cushion as well.  This is one of those times, and I have the feeling this one will last longer than a few weeks. It’s already been a few months..

My sitting directly following the retreat was strong, but already removed from the ‘abiding in present time awareness’ that was often the nature of my retreat sits.  The talking, the exposure to the busy-ness of travel (the bombardment of billboard advertising in the van to the airport itself), the discussions with friends and family about the retreat, the return to work — all of these things swirled the content of the thinking mind back into the stillness of the Empty Mind, like a snow-globe and a flick of the wrist.

Daily sitting became an imperative. I needed the time to settle each day. I needed the taste of stillness and quiet. I needed the reminder of my true nature, Awareness Here and Now. And at best, my sitting would bring the scent of it, a glimpse of it, an idea of it. My joy at discovering the ease and bliss of abiding in awareness was now mixed with the disappointment of having it be mostly concealed. The dust of the mind is so easily stirred!

So this is the challenge now. Sitting sincerely and practicing in the midst of the worldly clutter. How do we bring the Buddha into the City?  I’ve still got momentum in my practice this summer, following the springtime retreat.  I find that my concentration grows and wanes with my uneven sitting schedule. If I sit at night, my morning sits are stronger. Weekly sitting groups and Dharma talks bring a surge of energy into my practice.. for a day or so. Finding the time to sit, or to practice on the bus, or to be aware of movement through space as I walk the busy sidewalks. I can feel the practice building, actually. I can sense the roots of practice finding some nourishment in the ‘daily practice’ I’ve been able to keep.

I feel like I’ve cultivated something in a nursery, and now I’m trying to transplant it into the garden.  I have to remember, even as I write this, that the true discovery wasn’t about bringing something into existence, but rather uncovering my true nature by staying present to the current flow of experience and balancing there. Not letting the habits of the mind — the chatter, the judgement, the likes and dislikes — all the clutter–overtake the flow of experience.  If I can learn to be present in the city, not so dependent on the retreat environment.. that is the next step on my path, or so it seems to be.

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