“We have long forgotten that activities can be simple and precise. Every act of our lives can contain simplicity and precision and can thus have tremendous beauty and dignity.”
― Chögyam Trungpa, ‘Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism’
Wandering a local spiritual bookstore a few days ago, looking at beautiful and expensive Tibetan bells and their accessories–cushions, strikers, mallets–I could feel the ‘want’ rising through my body. The desire to have just the right things to supplement my mindfulness practices—to make them more ‘special’ and ‘holy’.
While Buddhist principles are still a strong guiding influence on my life, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve been connected to an actual Buddhist community. My meditation practices have largely fallen into the earth, into my body, into the daily interactions of my life.
These are the places where I choose to carve out space and time for my meditation / mindfulness practices. While I still participate in more formal practices, mostly yoga nidra which has come to the forefront these days, but also sitting meditation, and a smattering of regular yoga, my focus is on finding ways to integrate presence into my daily routine.
But I’m feeling less need to fit myself into these forms and am finding myself excited to adapt practices I know and let them find their own form in my everyday life.
I’m doing another round of Yoga Nidra training next month, and afterwards, will be offering individualized yoga-nidra meditations as part of my presence coaching. While I’ve been doing my pre-course preparations and readings I’ve been giving thought to how I want to be bringing people out of our meditations so they feel grounded and ready to re-engage with their day. I’m thinking about incorporating the use of meditation bells as a way of moving people out of Yoga Nidra and into a more everyday state of consciousness that will leave them feeling alert and aware of their surroundings while remaining grounded in their bodies.
And this is where that feeling of ‘want’ comes in–taking this simple and useful idea and complicating it with thoughts about needing some kind of ‘special’ bell with all the right accessories. Even as these ideas come up I see them as unhelpful–it’s such a reflexive response. But having that response got me thinking about ways to be more appreciative of the tools that I do have, and how to practice using them more consciously.
So my new, mini presence-practice involves taking a few minutes each day to set up my not-expensive bell and a few garden variety accessories and simply ring the bell with awareness.
It feels important to bring a spirit of play and creativity to this, so I’m moving the bell around in different settings and encouraging myself to treat it as a way of appreciating all the little details of my daily life. That will include lots of bell ringing in the garden. And also in forgotten, and not forgotten, corners of our house, favorite places in my neighborhood—I want this bell and this practice to touch as many areas of my life as possible. The goal is to find my own way into using these bells, to develop rituals and ways of working with them that honor ordinary life, and the beauty embedded within it that we can so easily miss.
When I see the bell sitting on a tuft of mossy ground-cover it seems as at home there as it would on a bell cushion. The birch stick used to strike the bell fits nicely in my hand, and there are so many things to notice as I hold it; the feel of the papery bark, the smooth fleshy section where the bark has worn away, a small patch of lichen clinging to one end. There is a slight curve to the stick in the middle which means I have to be even more attentive as I strike the bell if I want it to ring cleanly.
When the bell rings I hear it in the world of birds and breezes, the world of neighbors pottering in their garages and gardens. I hear the tone of the bell, unbounded by the walls of my house, free to ring out slowly, steadily, making its way through the world.