"Mindfulness of planting bulbs," I told myself, "that's just as good as being on the cushion."
But at the last 10 day retreat in the Spring, I had noticed the visceral difference of sitting in stillness for extended periods of time. Sitting and "not doing anything" --not walking, not planting bulbs. Within the quiet stillness I could actually notice how the body reacted to thoughts, feelings, and sensations. An opportunity arose to cultivate a bedrock of solidity in the body for the research project of exploring meandering mind. While mindfulness or presence in all actions is excellent, for me it is easy to go unaware and get lost in mental details of past and future. So I sat instead of planting:
Mind wondered about time. Will there be enough time to do this, that and the other thing? Will there be enough time to walk the dog, grocery shop, exercise, write, see clients, do bills, find a new internet provider…? And plant the bulbs before the snows arrived?
Body starts fidgeting. Breathe. Ah, it's the 10,000 things again. There is a teaching of the Buddha about how the awakening dwells in all things, all 10,000 things. Throughout all these things is tathata or suchness, or what I like to think of as "isness." To me isness means that although there is a lot of stuff appearing and disappearing in this life, there is only one essential "stuff." When I get lost in the "do, do" syndrome, racing around and usually creating messes wherever I go, it's time for me to settle into the mystery of infinity represented by any particular thing. I need not fret about accomplishing anything in the future. I can only be here in the present moment. Really.
And then I wonder how does present moment awareness do anything to help the crazy nature of the world around me? ...the weekly (daily?) shootings and terrorist threats...overconsumption and waste... not to mention the woman who pushed her cart ahead of us to cut in line at the grocery store. This list is the 10,000 things again, overwhelming in its intricacy and endlessness. Each moment is a choice point of staying awake or going into a conditioned, knee jerk, habitual response of approach or avoidance.
When I quiet the body and mind, calmness and clarity begin to permeate my actions and decisions. I can see the karmic play in all events, what goes around comes around. I am way more likely to disengage from unkind and mean actions because I see how that comes back to bite me sooner or later. I make the best decision I can in a moment by moment fashion knowing that mistakes are inevitable and that my intention is for the good. So next time, maybe I will choose to plant bulbs instead of sitting still, because that is the exactly right thing to do then.