I am teaching an 8 week general studies course this semester on the topics of presence and mindfulness. I have already introduced these topics in class (we are in the second week), and I have talked to my students about the image of the Buddha and how it illustrates the three basic ingredients of meditation (body [bottom], mind [top], and breath [middle]). I also emphasized that this image, though still, stands for an activity. It illustrates the journey and practice of mindfulness, rather than a desired destination or ultimate state of being. In other words, the image, whether it is a statue or painting or drawing, doesn’t represent an idol to worship or the result of meditation in Buddhism. It represents the habitual practice of mindfulness, not only in seated meditation, but in every possible aspect of life.
I also asked students to draw with me a simple image of the Buddha in order to get a more personal sense of what this image represents. I drew it on the whiteboard a couple of times, and then I asked them to draw it a couple of times themselves in their journals.
My wife and I have also begun a meditation practice each morning after waking. We have mats and pillows and a bench for me set up in our bedroom. And after we get the dogs settled, we practice for about 10 or 15 minutes. We are beginning practitioners and hope to build up to more time on the mat.
During my practice this morning, I was reflecting further on this image of Buddha in meditation and how I could help my students experience the patience, presence, and balance that it represents. I first thought about bringing river stones of various sizes to class and giving each of my 20 students three relatively small stones (one large, one medium, and one small) to stack and balance so they could experience the patience and focus needed to stack and balance those stones.
But then, I thought about having to find 60 stones and carrying them to class for 20 students and the work that would entail. Next, I thought about using a sheet of paper and making small balls of paper to serve the same purpose. And here is how it worked out:
So here’s what I learned about how to make a paper Buddha. Fold a sheet of paper in half three times to create eight total sections. Unfold and tear in the sheet half. Tear an eighth off one of these halves. As a result, you have one piece with four eighths, one piece with three eighths, and one piece with one eighth. Now make tight balls with each. Next, flatten the largest ball, and finally balance the other two on top, medium-sized ball in middle.
I’ll introduce this exercise in presence, patience, and balance to students next week.