Blue Heron Stillness Explained
Home From the Monestary
By: Michael McGrath - Oct 09, 2019
As has always been the case, a trip to China again provided subtle insight into the efficacy of a Daoist Longevity Practice, and a reminder of why qigong, taiji and meditation need to be an integral part of my every day. I’ve just returned to the mountains of the northern Berkshires, and with a renewed dedication to that daily practice.
In the few days I have been back, I’ve had a chance to correspond or share a meal with friends, and in one particular instance was inspired to write this essay. A friend sent a short piece from an interview with the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism in the world. When asked what surprised him most about humanity, the Dalai Lama had said:
“Man sacrifices health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future he does not enjoy the present; the result being he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived.”
When I read these words this morning, I closed my eyes and heard the voice of my temple’s Abbott teaching us the value of present moment awareness with very similar words.
Daoist or Buddhist, the message is the same.
I spent time at a Zen Buddhist monastery in New York, a life I enjoyed very much. It was a Japanese Soto School of Zen Buddhism practiced there, austere and simple, and “zazen” (meditation) was everything, quieting yourself to listen for, as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, the “whispers of God.”.
I belonged to the Kwan Um School of Zen Master Seung Sahn, Korean Chogye Zen Buddhism, who taught one thing: “Don’t know.” He urged us to maintain the “don’t know” mind, the before thinking mind, at all times. There is no time for thinking in the moment: simply act, and trust the correct action will arise on its own.
For the Daoist, the Longevity Practice is for the purpose of cultivating stillness. In stillness, we become fully aware of the present moment, and that awareness brings clarity. We see things as they are, merely as they are. We remain “in the Dao,” trusting it will bring us where we are supposed to be, and in the clarity of that present moment awareness, our actions are always correct in response to it.
In his own way, using those simple words, the Dalai Lama was teaching the same thing; in his own way, Master Seung Sahn was teaching the same thing; and, in his own way, my Abbott taught us the same thing. We use our Daoist Longevity Practice of daily qigong, taiji and meditation, to cultivate stillness, to bring our awareness into the present moment, and to live our daily life in that awareness.
We let go of the past . . . by practicing forgiveness, we free ourselves from guilt, remorse, anger . . . and we refuse to let fear or worry pull us into the future. There is just this, just now, just here and nowhere else.
No fancy words are required, no lofty sentiments need be expressed. Simple and direct. Just be. Now, today, this moment. I was reminded of this on the mountain in China, and I was reminded of it by my friend on the mountain here in the northern Berkshires.
So, I thought I would remind you of it today.