A few weeks ago, I heard a quote by a Zen Buddhist teacher from the 1200’s named Dogen. He said, “enlightenment is intimacy with all things.”
I thought this was beautiful because often we think of enlightenment as this impossible thing we’ll never achieve. But basically, what he’s saying is enlightenment is just getting in touch with what’s right in front of you.
Sounds easier than I thought.
But how do you figure out how to be intimate with what is right here? It’s really a matter of staying present on one thing at a time.
If Dogen is right, and I’ve understood him correctly, it sounds like all we have to do to become enlightened is to focus. It sounds easy until you try it. Consistent focus and presence is difficult in the digital age that we live in. Taking a few minutes each day for a mindfulness practice will help you get there. Here is one practice to get you more intimate with the here and now:
In many yoga classes, we begin with a dedication or an intention. Reserve some space (however long you can dedicate… 5, 10, 15 minutes…) and take a comfortable seat. Make sure you are removed from any possible distractions.
- Sit in stillness for one full minute
- Choose an intention or a blessing or a wish for yourself or someone else. Begin to feel it in the way Dogen recommends, with intimacy.
- Visualize your intention. Feel it in every cell of your body and heart. Allow it to become part of you in this very moment.
- Take it into each of your senses, one by one. What does it feel like? What does it sound like? What does it look like? Taste like? Smell like? One at a time, explore your senses, with this intention/wish held closely to you.
- Give it 100% of your focus and your attention for the duration of the time you have put aside. It doesn’t matter whether you have 3 minutes or 30, use 100% of those minutes to give it your all. Imagine this intention as if it was real.
Recognize that when the wish you made absorbs the intimacy of your intention, it actually becomes real for you in the moment you are in. When you’re done, enjoy an improved ability to keep your mind present.
To learn more about how to maintain a present state of mind, try reading The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle.