Wisdom Living

Practicing outdoors


 Until now, we discussed the preparatory part of Wisdom Living training. As I mentioned in the last chapter, that until now, MR should be practiced in the specially selected environment where we interacted only with our memory and limited perceptions. Now is the time to begin incorporating MR into the totality of our lives. 

It has to be done carefully and gradually because it would be nonsensical to suggest, for example, entering a heated discussion facing controversies and, at the same time, rest our minds. So I recommend beginning with leaving our practice room and going to places where our interaction with other people, traffic, and other distractions are as limited as reasonably possible. 

Practicing outdoors in nature

After we decide that our preparatory MR practice is sufficiently stable, we can expand its environment by going outdoors. A few words about the phrase “sufficiently stable.” It means that gaps between detecting thoughts when our mind rests are so long that we can experience a clear sense of relief and simplicity of that state. To decide that it is so, I leave for your discerning wisdom, which will tell you that it is time for a more adventurous approach to practice. 

One of the recommended possibilities is to do the practice outdoors. It should be done in a quiet place, avoiding too much noise and man-made distractions like cars, stores, etc. Excessive challenges may turn out to be discouraging, making the practitioner believe that she or he is not able to rest the mind beyond a secure environment in which practiced so far. 

To do it we can choose such a surrounding as a park or forest because the natural environment is conducive for MR practice. At first, we can practice while sitting on a park bench. It is similar to the situation during the preparatory phase because it does not require any new physical activity. However, the difference is very significant in the variety and intensity of perceptions. We see grass, bushes and trees. We hear birds, insects and sometimes the sound of the wind. We may smell flowers or resin of trees, and so on.

Our general approach to all these new perceptual experiences is not to treat them as disturbances but as an enhancement. They make our practice more vivid and interesting. Also, we can find some spot to which we have a particular affinity. Why it happens, I decided not to speculate beyond reminding that we and the world around us consist of manifestations of interconnected energies, which affect our feelings. Still, why it happens, science is unable to explain adequately. 

As far as the practice itself is concerned, while noticing perceptions, we do not focus and contemplate their possible sources and consequences. Just a momentary experience, and then we return to the state of awareness and rest. We may notice that our state of becoming more rich and alive.

The next step is to expand our practice onto walking in a similar environment. However, we can add to it also some quiet streets with grass and trees. It is important to expand our awareness to the surroundings rather than focusing it only on the movement of our feet, as some Zen or Shambhala meditation instructions suggest. The act of focusing requires unnecessary effort and detracts us from being aware, that is precisely what we should avoid while resting. 

At this point, I would like to remind the definition of resting, which says that it is a state of mind and body in which we do not perform any activities which are not necessary for the current situation. For example, if we walk on a rough road filled with puddles and holes, we have to pay attention to where we step, but on the smooth pavement, it is not necessary.

In general, while being outdoors, we naturally experience more perceptions than sitting in a room. That makes the resting of the mind more challenging because of the tendency to focus on the selected phenomenon rather than simply being aware of it. 

On the other hand, it makes the state of resting more enjoyable and lively. It also prepares us for everyday life situations that require our active involvement. 

Busy street

After getting used to practicing MR in nature and quiet streets, then it is time for the next step. It is expanding the training while walking in more busy streets in the commercial districts of the town or city. In such an environment, we are much more tempted to abandon resting mind and focus on many phenomena we encounter there. There are other people, traffic, stores, etc. Such phenomena habitually invoke a variety of reactions; among them, the most frequent involve people passing by. We are prone to classify them according to our ingrained concepts, for example, as children or adults, old, young, man, woman, etc. 

Another kind of phenomena we may frequently encounter on a more busy street is traffic: motorcycles, bikes, cars, trucks, and so on. Our reactions depend on our views: if we are worried about the state of the environment, we like to see more bikes and public transport while we can get upset watching trucks and angry witnessing a mass of highly polluting SUVs passing by. On the other hand, we may feel jealous that we do not own one of them (meaning SUV). 

If you are a married woman who sees an attractive young man, you may regret that your husband is quite different. When you see a dog shit, we become angry at the owner (hopefully not at the dog). 

But,t is not the end, we may see shiny, huge corporate buildings that may invoke our resentment to the arrogant manifestations of capitalism mixed with the attraction to their visual qualities. 

Depending on the area, we may encounter stores, restaurants, bars, etc. As a result, we may be tempted to look at the window display of a closing shop and have an urge to buy something we spotted there or drop-in for a coffee to Starbucks. 

Shopping malls

But one of the most challenging for the practice of MR are shopping malls. I would l like to warn you not to go there too soon because of the perceptual “attacks” which are employed there. The noise of the crowds and overwhelming music, blinding, by powerful LED lights, the arrays of shopping vitrines glittering with items that are arranged in a way to seduce us, etc. But that is just a “packaging” for what it is really all about: luring us to BUY, BUY and BUY. 

This environment is skilfully professionally designed to promote and reinforce consumerism and detract us from proper critical evaluation.  

In such a situation, we must not set our expectations to retain a resting mind too high – it may lead to disappointment and self-depreciation. Instead, if we, at least from time to time, become aware of what is going on and return to the state of rest, we can be happy and celebrate such accomplishments. We also should remember that being aware and discernment are going against the grain of deeply embedded individual and social habituation, which makes being continual distraction a usual modus vivendi. 

As far as MR training is concerned, such a difficult environment definitely produces challenges. But also, it offers us a chance to be able to become fully present and aware with the mind resting in the mists of this expertly designed perceptual invasion, which suppresses your discernment and makes you prey to the attachment to possessing. If we are able at least have moments of such awakening, it indicates that we are ready for the next stage: the MR training which performing more complex activities than just walking. That will be the topic of the next chapter.

Closing remarks

Until this point, the presented forms of MR training have not required too much thinking, beyond avoiding puddles and holes on a rough road or pushing a button while opening doors to the elevator. I think it is obvious that it is not sufficient for the needs of our life. So the several following chapters will be dedicated to practicing MR while performing activities that require more thinking and, later on, interacting with other people.

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