The Mudra of Zen

Mark Foote



Waking Up and Falling Asleep

riding home


I have a practice that I’d like to offer, something that I believe is already part of the general repertoire of this community, even though the details I will provide here are new.

The practice I have in mind is a practice that everybody is already familiar with, even if they don’t think of it as a practice. What I’m referring to is waking up in the morning, or falling asleep at night; if you’ve ever had a hard time waking up or falling asleep, then you know that there can indeed be a practice! In my experience, the practice is the same, whether I am waking up or falling asleep: when I realize my physical sense of location in space, and realize it as it occurs from one moment to the next, then I wake up or fall asleep as appropriate.

This practice is useful, when I wake up in the middle of the night and need to go back to sleep, or when I want to feel more physically alive in the morning. This practice is also useful when I want to feel my connection to everything around me, because my sense of place registers the contact of my awareness with each thing, as contact occurs.

Just before I fall asleep, my awareness can move very readily, and my sense of where I am tends to move with it. This is also true when I am waking up, although it can be harder to recognize (I tend to live through my eyes in the daytime, and associate my sense of place with them). When my awareness shifts readily, I realize that my ability to feel my location in space is made possible in part by the freedom of my awareness to move.

returning to the source

I sometimes overlook my location in space because I attach to what I’m feeling, or I’m averse to it, or I ignore it. The result is that I lose the freedom of my awareness to shift and move, and I have difficulty relaxing or staying alert. When I allow what I feel to enter into where I am, then my awareness remains free, and I can relax and keep my wits about me.

To me, a lot of what this community is about is living life from exactly where we are. When we really live from where we are, we discover that everything and everyone around us is a part of where we are, and that our actions truly belong to where we are. This kind of action is the only really selfless action I know.

There’s really nothing special about having a sense of place, and yet I find my peace of mind depends on my sense of place most of all. That is why I would like to recommend the practice of “waking up and falling asleep” to everyone.


copyright 2011 Mark A. Foote (revised 2012)


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The Mudra of Zen