Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mindfulness, Wisdom, and Gratitude

During the last stretch of swim practice, gliding effortlessly on my back, I saw boundless blue sky, and drops of water dancing over my head. Basking in gladness, I realized the preciousness of the moment. Transient, like everything else. Mind still fresh from recent contemplations on death and aging, I thought of times to come when old body would no longer be able to cooperate. And I became even more grateful.

Gratitude is coming easy to me, more and more. I am grateful for the smallest things. For breath, for moments without physical pain, for sharp mind, for feeling heart, for family and friends, for time, for finding the Buddha's way, for material comforts, for sensual pleasures, for beauty, for the wisdom lurking behind suffering, . . . I am grateful for everything, pretty much. That's really remarkable, given that I used to be a chronic whiner.

Such a dramatic change deserved investigation. What happened? First is a heightened awareness of all the good and bad that life brings. That, I attribute to my practice of mindfulness, moment to moment. Second is the wisdom of realizing the impermanent nature of each moment. When happy moment happens, I am moved to catch it,  by the memory of times before, when similar happiness was taken away, or the equally potent realization that this too shall pass.

Be mindful. Be wise. Be grateful :)


  1. This is a great post you made on gratitude. This is a great thing to do. But something for you to consider:

    You were very mindful of what was going on for awhile but then your mind started to 'think'. It started to think of gratitude. If you're going to think about something then gratidude is a good one.

    But consider; as soon as you 'think', you have lost your mindfulness on the present moment.

    There is a famous story of a zen monk and his student. One day both the teacher and student saw a beautiful sunset. They both watched in awe until the student broke the silence comenting on how mindful he was to observe such a beautiful sight.

    The teacher said that the student hadn't really 'seen' the sunset because he opened his mouth and spoke. As he spoke, the student was actually missing the sunset.

  2. Beyond happiness lies bliss, says Osho:

    "Bliss is not happiness, because happiness has a certain excitement in it -- it is feverish. Sooner or later you will be tired of it; it is unnatural. Sooner or later you will have to change, you will have to become unhappy. Bliss is neither; it is neither negative nor positive -- it is transcendental, it is beyond duality. One remains tranquil, calm, quiet, centered. Whatsoever happens, good or bad, one accepts both because one knows life is both."

    And long before Osho...

    “He who wherever he goes is attached to no person and to no place by ties of flesh; who accepts good and evil alike, neither welcoming the one nor shrinking from the other — take it that such a one has attained Perfection.” -- Bhagavad-Gita

  3. Ah, so wonderful! No matter how brief those moments are, it is such a wonderful experience to bask in the present moment with mindfulness. I often talk and write about travel. Many people love travel and I believe it is because it more easily brings us into the present moment. We are more aware to new surroundings, smells and sounds when we travel, which easily puts us in a more mindful state. I often remind myself of this in order to capture the 'newness' and beauty of each moment wherever I am.

  4. Thank you! I get what you are saying. I really like that story of the zen monk and his student.

    At same time, thinking can be a good thing, particularly when it is wholesome thoughts. In the course of the day, I do go back and forth between such mindful moments, and wise thinking moments, sometimes in rapid succession, as here - in addition to not so wise moments, and a myriad of other states . . . It is part of being alive, I feel, and our capacity for insight and wisdom.

  5. Thanks Unicorn, for more of your wisdom! Again, I get what you are saying. I also believe one can enjoy a moment, profoundly even, without getting attached to it. The ability to detach is the key. If that moment is gone the next second, how do I feel? Can I move on without reluctance?

  6. Thank you Nate! Yes, travel does up the ante, in terms of both mindfulness and also appreciation - also sometimes aversion :) - The key of course is to develop that appreciation 'wherever I am' as you say . . . in our own home, doing mundane things, etc . . . a 'fearless endeavor' of some sort (wink to you and your blog!)