Day 90 – Smile Buddha Baby, smile :)
just another clear, sunny morning in Oman.
Go back and strike that.
What’s wrong with me?
Today was yet another clear, sunny morning in Oman. The beautiful blue sky was practically cloudless, inviting my eyes to bask in it. But did I look? Have I been looking?
Well, my eyes see very well, but today Thich Nhat Hanh reminded me that I haven’t been looking. I now better understand why it is suggested that meditation is done in the morning, right after waking. I’ve tried to do it before, but unsuccessfully because I am not a morning person.
I get up as late as possible, and immediately jump in the shower to help me wake up. I then get dressed, put on my makeup (for work only, weekends are to be spent bare-faced and natural) and head downstairs. At this point I’m normally clock watching in the knowledge that if I dilly-dally for too long I’ll be late for work.
I quickly blend myself a smoothie, drink a cup of hot water with lemon, gulp them both down in front of the computer (or at the table, which I’ve been doing a lot less of lately) and then brush my teeth. I follow this by saying my mantra*: keys, purse, phone, lip balm. Once I’ve grabbed my lunch, I jump into the car, pop on a Zencast and speed my way past the beach to get onto the highway.
There are so many beautiful aspects of the environment around me I ignore every morning because I’m stuck in my head watching the clock and planning what I’ll do in my first lesson. I rarely take the time to listen to the birds chirping, stroke the cat, taste my breakfast or bask in the beautiful blue sky.
As Thich Nhat Hanh said in today’s Zencast, “Start the day being a Buddha so that by the end of the day you won’t be a Mara.”. I guess this is why I find myself engulfed by Mara most days. I forget my Buddha before the day has even begun!
I need to take Thay‘s advice and make myself a breathing room. If I have a room for cooking and a room for sleeping, why don’t I have a room for breathing? The breath is the point of unity between the body and the mind. Without it we cannot unite the two. This is why my mind disappears into the past and future while my body struggles to catch up or slow down while living in the present. This is why I cannot ‘wake up’ in the morning. My breath nourishes my inner Buddha. If I don’t pay attention to it I nourish my inner Mara instead.
Thay suggests that the room be decorated simply, not be too bright, have no Buddha statue (unless it is a very peaceful, beautiful, smiling statue), have a table on which to place one pot of flowers to symbolize our true nature, and a few cushions (in case you want to invite someone in to breathe with you).
Every morning he suggests taking 10 breaths. If this is too much you can bargain down to 3, but 10 is a good number.
You should take the breaths by doing the following:
- Ring a bell.
- At the signal of the bell breathe out fully to expel all the air from the lungs before starting anew.
- While breathing in say, ‘Breathing in I calm my body and mind.’.
- While breathing out say, ‘Breathing out I smile.’ and actually smile.
Smile peacefully and truly as you breathe out. You may not feel like smiling, but you should always be able to smile for yourself. Turn to the Buddha channel on your inner TV. Picture the Buddha baby you have growing inside of you. You can always smile for your Buddha baby. You can always smile for the Buddha. You are the Buddha. You can always smile for yourself.
You can then repeat your breath, but this time:
- While breathing in say, ‘Darling, in the present moment…’.
- While breathing out say, ‘I know that it is the only moment.’.
I have underestimated the power of morning practice and a smile. I have not understood how they can change my life and cultivate my practice in ways I didn’t know were possible. It’s funny how often you hear great advice, and how often you refuse to take it.
I now realize how rarely I smile, not just for others, but also for myself. I have lived in countries where a smile can be a welcome invite for people to approach me that I don’t particularly want to talk to. I’ve had to guard and protect my smile in order to guard and protect myself. Yet, this in turn has protected me from the Dharma, the Buddha and the Sangha in many ways.
I need to start smiling more, not only for others, but also for myself. I need to create a breathing room where I can go in the morning before work, or when I’m sad, and drink the riches of the breath and a simple smile. I need to connect with my Buddha baby so that I can take my practice back out into the world and open it up in the same way that I am opening up to the Dharma, the Buddha and the Sangha.
I also need to say ‘You’re welcome’ instead of ‘Thank you’ when someone tells me I have a beautiful smile, for it is the gift we give back to the world when we truly learn to live in the moment and accept ourselves.
* The reason for the mantra? Years ago I got locked out of my apartment because I was rushing for work (funny how long it takes to learn a lesson!). I had to pay for a locksmith to let me into the apartment because my brother was the only person with a spare key and was hundreds of miles away in another country. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough money in my bank account to pay for a locksmith and could only get money by getting cash back at the supermarket, the consequence of which meant my account was then overdrawn. I was working a minimum wage job and it took me the entire summer just to get free and clear of that overdraft and the fees I accrued because of it (oh the joys of being a poor, starving student). Needless to say I’ve never ‘forgotten’ my keys again!