In my current research on mindfulness in early Buddhism I am comparing it with what Thay says about mindfulness. In doing so I came across this quotation about poetry, which concurs so exactly with my understanding of writing poetry, which for me has come out of practising mindfulness. This quote of Thay's comes from a book called 'Be Free Where You Are', a very small book of only 70 pages which is a transcript of a talk Thay gave in 1999 to inmates in a prison in America. Although the teachings are very much what he offers in his Dharma talks from Plum Village they have a lot of poignancy when one considers his audience, and that he is saying to them, you can be free where you are. And he is saying this to us as well, because we can so easily get caught in the prison of our minds, believing we will only be happy once we have achieved ... (insert here your personal 'to get' list - a nice house, a bigger car, a family, a better job, that one dress, those particular shoes etc.). Be free where you are indicates that only in the present moment can we know true, unconditioned freedom.
Last night I was teaching on an MBSR course and it became clear that impatience is a quality we all struggle with, we have forgotten how to be in the present moment and so are always looking forward to what is coming next, which often expresses itself as 'I'm bored with this, there are so many other things I could be doing' or 'why don't they see it from my point of view and agree with me?'. I read an email yesterday which evoked in me a strong rush of impatience and a sense of 'when are people going to catch up and realise I'm right?' As I sat with this thought I recognised it is a strong habit energy for me, and it stops me from hearing another's perspective. Who's to say that my way is the best way?
I realise that I have slightly wandered off the point but it struck me that 'be free where you are' is such an important statement. It is an invitation to stop ruminating and start noticing what is actually happening around us, the many things we have to be grateful for, the many achievements we have already made, the beauty of life that surrounds us in every moment which we miss as we hurtle, blinkered, through life always looking for the next moment of gratification.
And here is what Thay says about his poetry, which is exactly what I say about mine.
'my poetry is something that happens throughout the day. When I water the vegetables or wash the dishes, poetry is born in me. When I sit down at the writing table, all I do is deliver the poems. Poetry comes as an inspiration and is the fruit of my mindful living. After a poem is born, I may realise that it helped me. The poem is like a "bell of mindfulness". Sometimes you need to reread a poem you have written because it takes you back to wonderful experience - it reminds you of the beauty available inside of you and all around you. So a poem is a flower you offer to the world, and at the same time, it is a bell of mindfulness for you to remember the presence of beauty in your daily life' :66.