Saturday, June 27, 2009

Waiting for the moment to reveal itself

Quieting the mind and being totally present in the moment is a subtle yet difficult art. We have the illusion of control and try to accomplish tasks by willing our way with effort. The idea of allowing whatever we are trying to accomplish to reveal itself to us might seem absurd. Yet in the stillness of the moment is when we receive our greatest gifts.

Eugen Herrigel went to Japan to learn the art of archery. He studied with a Zen master who tried to teach him over and over again to wait for the moment when the arrow would release itself without his control. For months and months Eugen would practice sometimes trying to trick the master to make it look like he had found this magical moment. Sometimes he believed himself that he had let the arrow release itself, but the master had a keen awareness that could not be fooled.

In his book, Zen in the Art of Archery, Eugen described what the master was trying to teach: "This state, in which nothing definite is thought, planned, striven for, desired or expected, which aims in no particular direction and yet knows itself capable alike of the possible and the impossible, so unswerving in its power this state, which is at bottom purposeless and egoless, was called by the Master truly "spiritual". It is in fact charged with spiritual awareness and is therefore also called "right presence of mind". This means that the mind or spirit is present everywhere, because it is nowhere attached to any particular place. And it can remain present because even when related to this or that object, it does not cling to it by reflection and thus lose it original mobility. Like water filling a pond, which is always ready to flow off again, it can work its inexhaustible power because it is free, and be open to everything because it is empty. This state is essentially a primordial state, and its symbol, the empty circle, is not empty of meaning for him who stands within it."

A huge part of reaching this state is focusing on the breath. This is the practice of yoga. Focus on the breath. Feel the pose reveal itself to you. When the effort becomes effortless, when you feel free and strong, when your breath is full and easy, you are practicing the art of yoga.

The art of yoga and the art of archery are really the art of living. When we live from our heart center, when we can feel our breath, when we can pause and let the world reveal itself to us, when we can be detached and truly live in this moment, we have found a precious gift. Connecting with grace, a higher power, the power that breaths all of life; this is the key to inner peace and an ease where life flows with an unattached joy and a simplicity that sets us free.

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