Inner Peace: Jim Hawes
Watchfulness without and within is a powerful opening to magnificent presence. In each and every experience become very attentive. It is important to realize that 98 percent of our thinking is totally repetitive. Therefore, a very fundamental practice is to become so alert that you catch yourself when one of these habitual thoughts pop up.
At first, you will be retrospectively aware; that is, there will be a gap of time (few minutes, hours) between your thought and your realization that you were thinking. For me, it has been my recurring bodily aches and pains that often come to mind.
A couple of years ago, I would finish my walk with my dog and then realize that I had been preoccupied with thinking, analyzing why my right knee was throbbing.
Progress appears slow, but you will begin to notice subtle changes; but it is vitally important that you maintain this habit of focused attentiveness.
William James essay on "Habits" is a profound essay because he emphasizes the importance of never letting an exception occur. Do not misunderstand. Yes, you will continue to have thoughts, but stay consistent with your daily two or three gentle practices of attentive watchfulness.
An exception is where you go through a whole day completely dominated by repetitive thinking. It spite of what William James says, do not beat yourself up and forgive yourself; because you will at first have these days. But, accept it like falling asleep in your meditation practice. Start afresh, that night or the next morning.
What worked for me is I began with an easily attainable goal of one attentive looking each day. I did not allow any exceptions whether it was Sunday or super bowl day. After a couple of weeks, I found myself expanding these practice sessions to two and then three and four each day.
Simple, but miraculous blessings will happen. You may be sitting with a cup of coffee, walking or hiking, working in your garden, eating a meal, or talking to someone. Suddenly, you find yourself thinking, i.e. making a judgment or some past or future experience. Be like the old Zen master, and say to yourself, "Oh, I let go of that thought or judgment."
You feel the warmth of the cup, the rich aroma, the wonderful taste of the cup of coffee. There are no repetitive thoughts as you weed or plant the garden. Instead, you are enveloped in peacefulness, stillness that is timeless; a connectedness or oneness to the soil, the new seeds or plants. Your most vigilant watchfulness may be when your are talking to another person, particularly a family member. The more intimate the relationship; the more vulnerable you are to egoic reactions. But, these miracles of experiencing functional, sane relationships can and do happen.
For years, my wife and I were like a very competitive ping pong game in our pervasive mutual egoic reactions. Recently, we have agreed to be extremely alert in our interactions. We actually had a few days that we were indeed blessed with a shared compassionate oneness.
In every experience or observation we have choice. Whether we are alone, or in relationships; this practice of attentive watchfulness will keep us from falling victim to the ego or repetitive thinking; and we can reap the always present untold blessings (miracles).
Jim Hawes, a retired teacher, writer and spiritual practioneer lives in Medford.
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