6:00 a.m.
Already 88 degrees
Dear Bella

In Spiritual Practice class yesterday
I asked the students to make a list
Of their ordinary daily activities

They took a few minutes
And came up with a couple score
That makes up their day to day life:

Brushing teeth
Studying for tests
Texting friends

Driving to school
Going to bed
Checking Facebook

Then I asked them to review
A list of Thich Nhat Hanh’s gathas
Or mindfulness verses

These are designed to remind us
To be present in our daily activities
I asked “Which of these would be hardest for you to do?”

I invited people to find a partner
Share their list of activities
And the gatha that seemed impossible to repeat

There were an odd number of students
So I joined in
And partnered with Tamae

I asked her
“Which would be hard for you?”
She said, “The mirror one”

(It goes like this:
“Awareness is a mirror/reflecting the four elements./
Beauty is a heart that generates love/and a mind that is open.”)

I asked, “Tamae, why is this hard?”
“Because  since I left Japan in August
In America I have gained much weight

Whenever I see myself in the mirror
I think how fat I am …
I don’t like this”

I laughed and said, “Me, too!
I have sometimes looked at a store window
And wondered, ‘Who is that old man?’

And then I realize:  it’s me!
I think how grey my hair is getting
And some days I don’t like it”

She laughed too
We smiled at each other
Then she said, “I will try this  gatha tonight before bed”

Later I looked deeply at Tamae
She is so alert and perceptive
Warm and relaxed

Class after class
She is totally
And calmly present

To each person
To each activity
To each moment

Of course she doesn’t know it
But Tamae is a bell of mindfulness
Bringing me back to the present moment

Now I’m looking at your photo
Bella Levenshteyn …
My, how you live up to your name!

–from novel-in-progress, Our Heroic and Ceaseless 24/7 Struggle against Tsuris

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