Momentum

Momentum

by Wayne Sensei (Ren Cheng)

Eihei Dogen (1200-1253) returned to Japan from China and began a shift in emphasis in the practice of Zen. He also authored two works that have had a lasting effect on the practice of Zen. The Fukanzazengi described the way one should practice zazen, and in Shobogenzo he taught that bodymind unification was an inherent factor in the practice of zazen, that it was “enlightenment made manifest”. Dogen spoke of the “utter continuity between being and time”. Time is interconnected to everything, animate and inanimate. Think of human aging, the effects of erosion on the earth, and global warming as examples of the interdependence between time and being. The Universe is a simultaneous experience from which time can not be separated. All sentient beings exist in each moment of time. All things in the Universe exist in each moment of time. With each moment of the Universe all things are interconnected in each moment.

Dogen developed a count of the “moments” in each day. It is apparent that Dogen came up with this concept himself, doing so to give others a way to realize their “way seeking mind”. Our way-seeking mind is buddha-mind. And our practice is and we get better results when we practice with buddha-mind, or way-seeking mind. But usually, when we say the way-seeking mind bodhisattva-mind: to-not only to help ourselves but also to save or to help others.

To be “in the moment” and “mindful of each moment” is a critical ideal in the practice of Zen. Dogen determined that in each day there are 6,400,099,180 moments.

Hour = 266,670,799 Minute = 4,444,510 Second = 7407

A finger snap = 60 Moment = 1/75th of a second

It wasn’t Dogen’s point that we memorize these numbers but that hearing them helps us recognize that time moves very quickly. You can find yourself disconnected when moments go by without your being aware. Things change (impermanence happens) in each-and-every-moment and you can easily miss them. On a positive note, when bad things happen they won’t happen for long. Good things will happen in a moment.

There are 6,400,099,180 moments in each day and as Buddhist practitioners we’re supposed to “be” in each one. In order to take advantage of each moment our bodyminds need to be in constant motion, even when we’re sitting still developing a calm, serene mind . . . we still need to be aware each moment. That can be intimidating perspective.

Let’s jump ahead about 450 years and see if we can get a little help. Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) offers us this Universal constant “A body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted on by an outside force.” Making a minor change to bring this into a Buddhist perspective, “A bodymind in motion . . .” we’re presented with the concept of momentum. Once in motion we’re more likely to stay in motion . . . momentum.

We can engage the ideal of momentum as a way for our practice to be in the moment. Whether it is meditation, study or moment-to-moment practice of Buddhist philosophy, combining meditative focus and generosity of skill and time the practitioner gives the task what is needed to complete it. Focusing intently on that task allows a momentum to build and be maintained until completion. All tasks, no matter the simplicity or complexity should be pursued in this manner.

The bodymind is tranquil, posture is downward, and focus is sharp . . . use that momentum in meditation.

Listening to the teacher, grasping concepts, aware of the lesson . . . use that momentum and ask questions, offer comments.

A normally stressful type of situation at work is met with a calm, corrective manner . . . use that momentum during the next situation.

Momentum is a factor in keeping a bodymind in motion but we must also be mindful of the end of Newton’s quote, “ . . . unless acted on by an outside force.” Newton was likely thinking of things like gravity and brick walls as the outside force. In Buddhist practice that outside force will be from within.

This isn’t to say that outside forces such as weather, the actions of other people or a myriad of other factors won’t be involved, just that we are responsible if we lose our momentum. For example you are in the midst of washing clothes and find that you’ve run out of detergent; sure you can’t wash clothes but what about another task that needs doing? At work you can’t continue on an assignment until the client returns your call . . . do you sit and wait, or do you work on accomplishing a different task. It’s all about momentum. Momentum should be applied in an encompassing manner, motion that can be transferred to where it is needed at that moment.

Multi-tasking is a practice of dualism when the bodymind feels it is capable of accomplishing two things at once. Two things may, in fact, be getting done, but neither is being done with the focus, energy and mindfulness necessary to excel at either task. Attempts at multi-tasking will result in a loss of momentum as the bodymind bounces back-and-forth. Focusing on one task, keeping momentum until the task is complete (or if a natural stopping point is reached) allows us to transfer that momentum on to a different task.

Taking a short meditative or stretching break in the midst of a strenuous or demanding task can be a way to maintain momentum. A soccer player who takes a moment to stretch a muscle while the ball is at the other end of the field adds to their momentum when the ball comes their way again.

Once in motion we’re more likely to stay in motion . . . momentum. The momentum we gain and maintain at the completion of one task can smoothly be transferred to the next task. Even a restful sleep is part of maintaining momentum as it renews the energy and dynamism that is transferred to the new day, to the refreshed not-self.

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