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On Presence!

It was early in the morning at around 6:30 am. With my hot steamy almond turmeric- cardamom milk, I sat on my chair next to the window. I could listen to the birds chirping outside. I had just finished my morning meditation. But the time spent on the cushion was challenging. My body was achy, the painful past lived experiences were at the

surface of my mind, and my eyes wouldn't stop crying. My heart lovingly said to me, "yes, you are in pain, the last two hours spent on the cushion were challenging," and then my heart invited me to look at the window, see beyond what is seen, sip the hot milk slowly, and notice what I would notice. I listened.

Birds were singing their songs of love, and it seemed to me that they were singing together. Hmmm, I wondered, are they singing to welcome an unborn child or perhaps singing to bless the morning, just like monks or priests chanting together for their early morning prayer rituals. I wondered who were these birds, who were singing, where

they are from and where they are going? Or they belong here to the Pacific Northwest. I paused and closed my eyes, to integrate all my thoughts, visuals, sensations, and connections with my mind and observed how it felt in my body. I was able to breathe deeply. With my eyes closed, I encouraged myself to connect, connect my senses,

connect with my breath, my mind, and my presence-- just the way it was. As I allowed myself to notice, I was open to connecting with my mind. With my eyes closed, I asked the birds, for their permission to be part of their group. After a few moments, in my mind, I found myself sitting along with those birds, singing, and dancing.

I took a few more breaths in and out and continued to keep my eyes closed. I was back on my chair. I took a few more deep breaths in and out- listened to the sound of the rain coming from the closed window. I smelled the smell of the turmeric, almonds, and cardamom coming from the mug placed on my right side. I felt the warmth of the

shawl wrapped around my body. I took a few more breaths in and out and opened my eyes. As I opened my eyes, I welcomed and acknowledged all the senses with my open eyes and offered gratitude to my mind for taking me close to those singing birds. My mind took me on a beautiful journey that gave me a deep sense of connection and

belonging, and a sense of presence. It felt good. I was deeply connected to the singing birds. It was just a matter of a few minutes, but the experience gave me a rich connection to my own self, that, I, probably would hold in my body for a very long time.

Right there, I received this pith instruction: we can let the pain of life harden and saddened us, and become increasingly resentful and fearful, or we can let them soften us and more open to deep listening and be open to what makes us scared or sad. We always have this choice.

If I asked my grandma, she would say, it is all about listening, which is the core element of the Awakened Heart. My grandma would say, "when we allow ourselves to listen to the pain, as well as listen to the joy, we slowly start listening to the heart's unbiased voice, wisdom, and the light." If we asked Buddha, he would describe this experience as Bodhichitta; Bodhi means awake, enlightened or open, Chitta means mind, also heart. I am not aware of any English word that would directly translate the word Chitta to English. The closest would be heartfulness. So, the Bodhichitta would mean - Open Heartfulness. It is a gift that each one of us holds in our existence, a tender place that gives us kindness, compassion, and the ability to see the loving light in nature and in everyone around us- people and more than human people.

Nature offers us the tools to connect deeply and listen. At times, listening deeply is merely listening to the birds, listening to the wind, and listening to our own breath patterns. When we slowly connect with nature, s/he/they opens our abilities to listen to our own pure self, the voice resides deep within each one of us- the voice of the

Bodhichitta. This is what mindfulness is all about. This is what prayer is all about, and this is what presence is all about!

Neera Malhotra teaches Mindfulness meditation as a drop-in class at Unfold every 4th Sunday. Sign up for her class this Sunday, October 27 at 9am here.

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