An unexpected book arrived in the mail the other day. A gift from my friend’s at Wisdom Publications. Zen Master Raven: The Teachings of a Wise Old Bird. by Zen Master human form, Robert Aitken. Here the koans are told by and to animals of the forest: raven, porcupine, owl, woodpecker, badger, black bear, and […]
It’s hard not to get caught up in the enthusiasm of the inauguration. People are excited and who can blame us? Obama is an orator who inspires us with invitations to the best parts of ourselves. People were queued up outside of Nectar’s (the famed Phish bar) for an inauguration party and the desire to see Obama’s inauguration speech. Millions gathered to be part of history. Obama’s speech was a call to action: ”Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.” This invitation sounds like an invitation to mindfulness. One of the metaphors in Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness talks about falling down. If we can embrace a child-like enthusiasm, as if we were learning to walk, this getting up off the ground can be done in a matter-of-fact, if not a joyful way. We don’t spend our mental energy bemoaning the fact that we have fallen, we don’t berate ourselves for being clumsy. We act in the moment. We move confidently into the future when our attention is trained on this present. Obama concludes with the invitation: ”With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come.” He invites us to embrace adversity with equanimity, and once again the challenge is to be in the present moment. If the current is icy, we will be cold; if a storm hits we will get wet. To be effective we can’t shy away from these ever-present realities, nor can we complain about them. Instead we engage the present with mindfulness. The metaphors in Wild Chickens provides the tools to make this happen. The book and the wisdom tradition it represents teaches the skills to keep our attention in the present, to scale back our complaining about a difficult present moment or shying away from it. They allow us to move effectively into the present to act, and to do so in ways that don’t cause further harm. We are challenged to move from the excitement of this historical day to embrace our new President’s call to action.