The Art of Stopping

by Mark Chmiel

We practice to have enough strength to confront problems effectively. To do this, we must be calm, fresh, and solid. That is why we need to practice the art of stopping. When we learn to stop, we become calmer, and our mind becomes clearer, like clear water after the particles of mud have settled.”
–Thich Nhat Hanh, Your True Home

 

It’s good to stop
Once a day
For 20 seconds

Before class
After class
Getting into the car

It’s good to stop
20 times a day
For 10 seconds

Noticing beauty
Appreciating
What’s right before me

It’s good to stop
Once a week
For a few hours

Nowhere to go
Nothing to text
Nothing to plan

It’s good to stop
Right now
As I write this line …

Magan said it
Lucy said it too
They’ve become pushers

New York can do that
Take midwestern politeness
And hit it with a 2 by 4

If you’re gonna survive
In that town
You gotta push and move on

She who hesitates
Will get run over
Just a word to the wise

Tell you what Magan
& Lucy & Katie
& Katie & Katie

Let’s be radicals–
Get to the root of things–
Counter-cultural “slow is beautiful” devotees

Amidst the throngs
Surrounded by swirling chaos
Automaton forms frowning

Let’s take one deep breath
Stop–alive–in our tracks
And be free

Let’s do it once a day
Do it thirty times a day
De-condition ourselves

Re-condition ourselves
Open our eyes
After we’ve opened our eyes

As we stand on the street
Or in the subway
Or on the edge of a park

Let’s see who’s before us
It could be (no, it is)
A secret Buddha

(In Hasidic Judaism
It’s said that the Messiah
Will appear as a beggar)

It could be someone brittle
About to break
It could be someone flamboyant

Our eyes will land on someone
And as we breathe
We realize she’s just like us

Truly
Totally
Just like us

Eyelashes, pants too long
Backpack of 40 pounds
Worn soles on shoes

Daydreaming about dinner
Fearing someone or some surprise
Back aches

Just like us
1 of 7 billion earthlings
In STL NYC

Just like us
Tired of the game of the grind
Of feeling like a machine inside skin

Just like us
Whether he’s 20
Or she’s 77

Their time is passing
They’re limited
Just like us they forget this finitude

When we stop
Miracles are possible
If we remember a line

From a philosopher who opined
“A miracle
Is a change in perception”

Stopping allows a fresh perception
Stopping opens up a miracle
Hey, that’s not too shabby

On an ordinary day
In NYC
Or Forest Park Southeast

— Writing Meditation Class
Spring Avenue
October 2013

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