The Yoga Path • Omaha, NE

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{ Practicing Physical, Mental & Spiritual Health }

Shamatā / Stopping

One of you emailed to ask if there could be a discussion about shamatā, the first wing of meditation. Shamatā as you all recall from the Winter session was practice of stopping, pausing.

Given the current situation in our world right now, this practice seems almost to have been enforced upon us. Some of us have stopped going to work, our kids are out of school, we’ve stopped going to movies, shopping, and going out to eat.

You could literally stop what you are doing, set it down for now and let yourself just be, rather than do. But it was also giving yourself space and time to just realize what is happening in the present moment. You don’t even have to stop what you are doing, you just allow your perception to shift to notice what you are doing. Instead of doing a thing, you let yourself notice this thing you are doing. This morning I was making breakfast when I “stopped” long enough, just for a moment to realize I was making breakfast. I didn’t stop what I was doing, I just noticed for a moment, there was this act of making breakfast. And that I was the actor.

It is not usually a big deal to “stop” in this way. Some might say I do it all the time. But actually most of the time we stop to do something else or to think about something else, or to remember something we forgot or need to do. We do deliberately stop, pause to see what is occurring right now. When we do though, the texture of the experience changes. Usually not dramatically, but subtly.

You could even call it sublime. You take a breath, see the activity in a less frenetic way. There is less possessiveness to the outcome of the action along with a feeling of spaciousness, sometimes even wonder. All just from “stopping” shamatā.

“When we learn to stop and be truly alive in the present moment, we are in touch with what’s going on within and around us” Thich Nhat Hanh

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