Emptying The Trash

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screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-6-48-48-amMichael used to empty the trash in my office everyday around 4:15pm. One day, I was meditating in my office and I heard him coming. Before he knocked, I got up, opened the door, and let him in. This happened a few times and every time I heard him coming, I would get up and let him in. One day I decided, I am not going to get up this time, I am just going to keep meditating. The next time I heard Michael approaching, I remained still, he knocked on the door a few times and then started to unlock my door. When he comes, he doesn’t know if I am in my office or not, he is just doing his job. He opened the door and I remained seated, focusing on my breath. I immediately lost my focus because I sensed that Michael noticed me, there was silence, he must be wondering what I am doing. I can practically hear him breathing.
The next time I ran into Michael I asked him, “Michael, were you wondering what I was doing sitting there that day when you came into my office?” “Well, yeah, kind of,” he says, and we talked about it for a few minutes. I said to him, don’t worry about disturbing me, just keep doing what you need to do and I will continue doing what I need to do. You are not disturbing me and actually it is good for my practice! The next time I will not lose my focus, I will just expect that he will come in and empty the trash, and he should just expect that I will continue meditating.
In 1986, I traveled to China to practice martial arts. I had an opportunity to go with my teacher who was from China. We were practicing all forms of martial arts, and in the early 80’s we also were practicing Tai Chi. Not many people studied Tai Chi at that time, and if someone saw you practicing, they would think something was wrong. Even today it still brings about strange looks or curiosity.
When we arrived at the airport in Beijing and headed to our dormitory, which was down the street from Tiananmen Square, I noticed hundreds of people practicing Tai Chi in the streets. I couldn’t believe it. I had heard that this was something they did in China, but to see it with my own eyes was amazing. Yup, I was just staring at them. I wasn’t staring at them because it was a strange exercise, I had been practicing the same exercise for many years. What struck me was how it was just a natural part of what was going on in the streets as hundreds of people walked by without even paying attention to them. It was just as natural as a group of kids playing baseball in America.
The practice of mindfulness was meant to be practiced as a community. Whereas many people tuck themselves away into small quiet areas to meditate so they are completely out of view of anyone, the purpose of creating a mindful culture is so that it benefits everyone in the community; therefore, open meditation sessions where you are meditating with groups of people is part of an engaged community practice. The same holds true with Tai Chi, it should be practiced naturally in the environment where you are. All the distractions and noise are just tools for practice.
Michael’s job of emptying the trash sparked me to think differently about what I was doing. Why I even need to close the door to my office if I am going to sit and meditate for few minutes. Why shut myself off? If I have 2 minutes, why not just sit and breathe? If someone walks in, then they will notice me meditating? What are they going to do? What am I afraid of? I need to empty my mind of what others will think about it, how they perceive it, because that is just the curiosity stage. The next stage is asking the question, “Hey, what is that you are doing?” Then maybe they ask, “How do you do it.” And Finally, “Can I try it or where can I learn it?” It would be great if they actually joined me!

One thought on “Emptying The Trash

    Micah Sheveloff said:
    December 3, 2016 at 1:02 am

    Really inspirational post!!

    Micah Sheveloff http://www.micahsheveloff.com 203-668-4303


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