“Zen students are with their masters at least ten years before they presume to teach others. Nan-in was visited by Tenno, who, having passed his apprenticeship, had become a teacher. The day happened to be rainy, so Tenno wore wooden clogs and carried an umbrella. After greeting him Nan-in remarked: ‘I suppose you left your wooden clogs in the vestibule. I want to know if your umbrella is on the right or left side of the clogs.’
Tenno, confused, had no instant answer. He realized that he was unable to carry his Zen every minute. He became Nan-in’s pupil, and he studied six more years to accomplish his every-minute Zen.”
—from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
here are countless articles and reports about how good mindfulness is at reducing our stress levels and promoting happiness. But an understated benefit is also increased attentiveness – being here now – having the presence of mind to know where you left your car keys!
Have you ever seen someone rushing around, frazzled, leaving things here, dropping things there, making a mess the more they moved about? Their actions made you think of the expression “chicken with its head cut off,” or “haste makes waste.”
You just wanted to slow them down a bit to help them pull themselves together.
A very practical exercise that I’d like to share with you is to be deliberate with what you pick up and what you set down.
If you carry your water bottle into a yoga class, set it down with intention. See where you placed it. Is it at the top of your space on the hardwood floor? Or on the mat? In the corner? How about your towel? Is it folded neatly at the head of the mat? Is your yoga block in the opposite corner?
Don’t toss things around haphazardly.
Where in your life would you like to bring more every-minute Zen? Pick something to practice with. Once you have something, commit to paying as much attention to it as you can.
Go slowly. Move with care. It may seem unnatural at first, but you’re practicing allowing your consciousness to catch up with your physical body and surroundings. Which may take a while. Don’t be discouraged. We habitually live up in our heads so this can be a major undertaking.
Acknowledge your efforts. Set reminders. Commit to every-minute Zen.