Though I am decidedly Christian (I have this thing for Jesus that I just don’t think is going to go away), much of the spiritual or devotional type reading that I do is Buddhist. I am currently using Ocean of Dharma, 365 Teachings on Living Life with Courage and Compassion, The Everyday Wisdom of Chogyam Trungpa. It’s one of those little books with just one paragraph on each page, something that even I can read, digest (and maybe even put into action!) on a daily basis.
In one teaching on meditation, Trungpa uses the common metaphor of the “crazy monkey mind”. The mind that is continually jumping from one thought to the next to the next when we sit down to meditate or to pray contemplatively. If you were to spend some time with me, you would probably consider me a fairly mellow person, but I can tell you that I have a bad case of the monkey mind. Trungpa talks about meditation training and practice being the “development of peace”. Ah…which one of us doesn’t long for that? But then he goes on to say that he doesn’t mean a “peaceful state”. Rather he is talking about the development of simplicity. Simplicity of life, simplicity of mind.
Simplicity is another one of my favorite words. It’s why I keep thinking that I need to subscribe to that magazine Real Simple, even though there is nothing simple about it. Simplicity is not necessarily stark or ascetic. I feel a great abundance and spaciousness when I enter the word and ideal of simplicity. Simplicity is about knowing what is essential and what is not.
Trungpa writes, “Discipline is the process of simplifying one’s general life and eliminating unnecessary complications. In order to develop a genuine mental discipline, it is first necessary for us to see how we continually burden ourselves with extraneous activities and preoccupations.”
I feel that burden. Frequently. I feel it about having too much stuff. Being disorganized. Having too many things on my calendar. Too many things in my refrigerator. And then there are all of the preoccupations of my inner life and my mind. They are probably especially burdensome, for they are with me all of the time.
I hardly ever stop to think that I’ve placed these burdens upon myself. I brought home most of that stuff that is in the pantry and I am certainly feeding and entertaining all of those thoughts that are rattling around in my head.
Yesterday afternoon I was coming from a wonderful worship time of movement, music and silence. The parking lot that I was pulling out of had two exits, a north and a south exit. I chose to go to the north. The traffic was very heavy on that side, it was snowing and the streets were slick so there had to be a really big gap for me to take the chance of pulling out. I waited and waited and waited. Finally, I got my chance just in time to pull up to the left turn signal as it turned red. So, I waited some more. After I finally was able to turn left, I was two or three blocks down the road when the old brain started in. “Why in the world did you decide to go out the north exit? You had to have known better than that. That’s one of the busiest intersections in town. Gee whiz, if you had come out the other direction than you could have pulled into that little turn lane and then merged really easily with the traffic and breezed right through that traffic light.” I could go on and on because I was going on and on in my head. But something disrupted it and it was the thought, “This is SOOOOO extraneous.” And that was it. All that monkey mind was done. It just needed a tiny little flash of awareness.
Meditation, mindfulness and awareness are all key ingredients to bringing simplicity into my life. I will write more about this soon.