Taking the Backward Step

Patti Gould

Patti Gould

Patti Gould

During this unprecedented time, the Wellness Integrated Network (WIN) is not able to meet in our seminar style format. We are continuing to offer classes and wellness information through classes on Zoom, Facebook, and email articles. Please go to our Facebook page and like it: www.facebook.com/win.sbaz. To be placed on our email distribution list, please send your contact information to [email protected].

We are continuing to offer speakers to present programs the first Friday of each month. Additionally, we are offering classes on a variety of wellness topics such as gratitude, meditation, sleep, conscience language, stress, nutrition, non-toxic homes, and so much more. Below is a description from Patti Gould on a class she is offering on Zen Meditation.

Tibetan teacher Chögyam Trungpa once opened a class by drawing a V on a large white sheet of poster paper. He then asked those present what he had drawn. Most responded that it was a bird. “No,” he told them. “It’s the sky with a bird flying through.”

How we pay attention determines our experience. When we’re in doing or controlling mode, our attention narrows and we perceive objects in the foreground—the bird, a thought, a strong feeling. In these moments we don’t perceive the sky—the background of experience, the ocean of awareness. The good news is that through practice, we can intentionally incline our minds toward not controlling and toward an open attention.

No longer in fight-or-flight reactivity, our body and mind become wakeful, sensitive, open, and at ease.

In practicing open awareness by taking the backward step, I’ve found it helpful to think of existence—the entire play of sounds and thoughts and things—as the foreground of life, and awareness as the background. In the Zen tradition, the shift from focusing on the foreground of experience to resting in pure being is called the backward step. Whenever we step out of thought or emotional reactivity and remember the presence that’s here, we’re taking the backward step.

If we wake up out of a confining story of who we are and reconnect with our essential awareness, we’re taking the backward step. When our attention shifts from a narrow fixation on any object—sound, sensation, thought—and recognizes the awake space that holds everything, we’re taking the backward step. We come to this realization when there is nowhere else to step. No anything. We’ve relaxed back into the immensity and silence of awareness itself. Herein lies the ease and delight of our lives and a way to find peace in these troubled times.

To get your Zoom invitation to this class, email your contact information to [email protected].