Relax and Allow: How a Mantra Practice Can Invite an Appreciation for the Present Moment November 01, 2016 00:00

          As often as I can, I like to go to the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington on Sundays for a morning lecture.  This past Sunday, Geshe Kunga presented a teaching on patience.  During these lectures, Geshe Kunga speaks in Tibetan, and another monk, who’s actually in Virginia, translates via Skype on a small laptop. I know, it sounds like a scene from Lost, but I actually look forward to these weekly “Dharma transmissions.”

            Last Sunday, the weather was absolutely beautiful.  The double doors on both sides of the main room in the temple were open, letting in mild breezes and the sounds of rustling leaves and birdsong.

            The view to my left was especially scenic, and my gaze kept drifting toward it throughout the lecture.  My student self was listening to Geshe and the cyber monk, but my artistic self was growing a little antsy. I had my camera with me in my bag, and I wanted to capture a photo of the open door—the sunlight streaming through lace curtains, the contrast of the brightly painted temple walls against the shadows of falling leaves, the literal threshold between the manmade and the natural. It was stunning….and very distracting.

            My attention was divided, and I was holding the tension associated with grasping and clinging attachment. I could feel it in my body and mind. Technically, I could have taken a photo during the teaching, but it would have been weird. The room is small; there were only a dozen or so practitioners in attendance, but it was a lecture in a temple, not a scenic overlook or tourist attraction.

            I mentioned that the lecture was about patience….so, I waited.  At the end of class, after the bows and prostrations, I returned to my cushion, and just as I was lining up the shot, Geshe Kunga walked across the room to close one of the doors and was headed to the second set to close it, too, in preparation for the prayer session after lunch. I had just enough time to grab my camera, focus, and snap the shot just as the door shut. 

            The photo was not what I had expected, and it wasn’t the shot that I thought I had wanted. It was better.  It was better than anything that I could have planned or anticipated.

            The universe keeps giving me opportunities to relax and allow.  The more present I can be without clinging to attachments or preconceived notions, the more I can enjoy and receive the benefits of what these moments have to offer.

            One of the best ways for me to practice this present-moment acceptance is through japa.  Reciting mantras with a mala helps to still the obsessive thoughts and the constant anticipation and planning that goes on in my head.  The repetition of the mantra itself is soothing, and each complete circuit of a mala is a way for me to mark time with presence.  I can relax and allow into this practice, which permits me to relax, allow, and enjoy other aspects of my life as well.