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  1. #1

    Mindfulness

    "You'll have to forgive me. I have a memory like a... like a... what are those things you drain rice in? What am I talking about?"
    []
    With a puzzled look [Reg] turned smartly round and disappeared once more into the kitchen.
    [Dirk] spun round as Reg re-entered, bearing a tray, which he carried round the sofa and put on to the low coffee table that sat in front of the fire.
    "Very, well," said Dirk, "Reg..."
    "Sieve!" exclaimed Reg.
    "What?"
    "Thing you drain rice in. A sieve. I was trying to remember the word, though I forget now the reason why. No matter. "
    (from Douglas Adams "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency)

    Just to get your attention.

    Actually, I wanted to share some thoughts by Abbot Muho about "Mindfulness" - the following excerpt is actually from two different articles on the Antaiji website:

    Abbot Muho from Antaiji:
    We should always try to be active coming out of samadhi. For this, we have to forget things like "I should be mindful of this or that". If you are mindful, you are already creating a separation ("I - am - mindful -of - ...."). Don't be mindful, please! When you walk, just walk. Let the walk walk. Let the talk talk (Dogen Zenji says: "When we open our mouths, it is filled with Dharma"). Let the eating eat, the sitting sit, the work work. Let sleep sleep. Kinhin is nothing special. We do not have to make our everyday life into something special. We try to live in the most natural and ordinary way possible.
    []

    But I think that too many people misunderstand "mindfulness", therefore I chose to be a little provoking by saying "stop being mindful" - maybe it would be easier to understand if I said: "Stop thinking that you want to be 'mindful' - just BE mindful".[]

    How can we be mindful without trying to be mindful? [] Just as with zazen, the point is to do whatever you do completely, to disappear inside the action, to be one with what you do - but how do you do that!? Whenever you TRY to do it, you are creating a separation... What I tell people here at Antaiji at times is to do things "quietly, speedily, efficiently". Most people agree that things should be done quietly in a meditative environment, but to be quiet and mindful they suppose it is best to also do things slowly. Sometimes people sweep the floor or work in the garden as if they were moving in slow motion. This is not what I would call "mindfulness" - they are just tardy. If you do things fast and quiet at the same time, and also make sure that what you do is exactly the thing that has to be done at that precise moment (i.e. you are efficient), than you necessarily have to be mindful - without trying to be mindful. Actually, when you are really absorbed in "quiet, speedy and efficient" practice, you will have no time to even think about wanting to be "mindful" - you have to BE mindful in order to function. So my answer to your question is: If you feel that you have to make an effort, direct that effort towards the task at hand, not towards your consciousness that tries to monitor yourself constantly. Just do whatever you are doing - do it the best way you can, do it quietly, speedily and efficiently. If you concentrate your effort in this way, you might realize that really no effort is necessary on your side - the action takes care of itself.
    Gassho,

    Timo
    no thing needs to be added

  2. #2
    Hi Timo,

    There are times to be mindful, times to just go about one's business. Also, several varied, confusing meanings for "mindful" in the Buddhist world. I usually write this ...


    =============================

    It seems to me that many people in Zen Practice have come to confuse "being present/mindful in the moment" (for example, "when drinking tea, just drink tea" ... a sometimes appropriate and lovely way to experience life) ... with "being at one with the moment" (allowing and merging with conditions of life "just as they are"). The two are not quite the same, and are often confused, and the latter is much more at the heart of this Shikantaza Path ...

    Yes, I believe that there are times to be "mindful" ... and there are times not. Sometimes when I eat, I just eat ... when I sip tea, I just sip tea ... when bowing, just bowing ... experiencing a sunset, just present ... fully absorbed in that single action. A wonderful, insightful practice. When doing one thing, just do one thing with all one's body-and-mind.

    At other times, I just grab a sandwich and a coke while reading the newspaper and thinking about the job I have to do. That's life too. Nothing wrong with it.

    (I do not know where the idea started among some folks that the 'goal' of this practice is to live the first way every moment of every day. That would be pretty awful ... if not harmful ... to live like that all or even most of the time. What's wrong with also sometimes reading the paper, thinking about work, while grabbing a quick sandwich? There is a place for all of that.)

    Further, people get even more confused about "mindful" in Buddhism because the word is used in a couple of distinct ways.

    Another, rather different meaning of "mindful" often found in Buddhism is to develop awareness of the "mind theatre" running constantly in our heads (developing the ability to identify the thoughts and emotions that play through our heads, and how they create our experience of "reality" ... e.g., "now I am temporarily sad" "now I am reacting with anger") That is a wonderful, insightful practice too ... very very important.

    In my view, the heart of this Practice is merely "being at one" with self-life-world just as it is ... dropping the resistance, barriers, separation between our "self" and all the circumstances in which that "self" imagines it finds itself in ... until even the walls between "self" and "life-world" (or self and itself) soften or perhaps fully drop away ...

    So, for example, when drinking tea, just do that and fully allow that. When grabbing a sandwich while reading the paper and thinking about your annoying co-worker in the office, just do that and fully allow that (and fully allow the craziness in the newspaper and your annoying co-worker too), both what you can change and cannot. When temporarily falling into sadness or anger, just do and allow that (although remember that "mind theatre" and see if you truly need to be that way, and seek to be not that way if you can). When overwrought with life for a moment, just do that and fully allow that (remembering in the back of your mind that the clear, boundless blue sky is behind the clouds of thought and emotion even when momentarily covered over). When suffering with old age and sickness of ourself or someone we love, just do that and fully allow that.

    In my view, all of the above together is truly balanced, "mindful of the moment" living.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 11-22-2012 at 11:02 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  3. #3
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    At other times, I just grab a sandwich and a coke while reading the newspaper and thinking about the job I have to do. That's life too. Nothing wrong with it.
    Thank you.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Please remember I am only a priest in training. I could be wrong in everything I say. Slap me if needed.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Mr. Spock

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post

    It seems to me that many people in Zen Practice have come to confuse "being present/mindful in the moment" (for example, "when drinking tea, just drink tea" ... a sometimes appropriate and lovely way to experience life) ... with "being at one with the moment" (allowing and merging with conditions of life "just as they are"). The two are not quite the same, and are often confused, and the latter is much more at the heart of this Shikantaza Path ...
    Hi Jundo. In the second instance.. "allowing and merging with conditions of life "just as they are" .. how can there be allowing or merging? How would you describe that gesture? .. unlike attention or concentration, or "being mindful", (polishing a brick?) ...."things as they are" cannot be gotten to. If it cannot be gotten to, is there a difference between things as they are and the device "things as they are" ?

    Sorry for the loopy question. Gassho, kojip

    ed. this is one of those seed in the teeth subjects for me because on the internet (have the internet on mind these days) there are many folks who have read about "things as they are" and who see no need to keep a practice because they having intellectually recognized the truth of that, and that there is nothing to attain. That recognition is seen as enough.
    Last edited by Daizan; 11-23-2012 at 03:01 AM.
    大山

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Kojip View Post
    Hi Jundo. In the second instance.. "allowing and merging with conditions of life "just as they are" .. how can there be allowing or merging?
    The merging is not something we "do", because it is what we are all along. There is nothing to do, nothing in need of merging ... cause never two from the start (like a flower pedal trying to merge into the flower. No need, cause 'tis the flowering all along).

    Rather, it is the mental dividing which we do each day ... separating "self" from "everything else", categorizing, judging, resisting or longing for ... that we "do" and should simply stop doing.

    So, merging is not something we "do", but is realized merely when we put down the mental knife and hammer and give 'em a rest. Put that hammer down!

    That's Shikantaza ... putting down and releasing thoughts of this and that, regrets of the past, worries of the future, ratings of the things we like and the things we hate.

    When I want to be "one with the moment" ... when with my kids, drinking tea, or any time ... it is not a matter of "doing something", but of "NOT DOING", by merely dropping the mental walls, extraneous thoughts and like baggage that I am doing in my head.

    Gassho, J

    Last edited by Jundo; 11-23-2012 at 03:39 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  6. #6
    Hi Jundo,

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    When I want to be "one with the moment" ... when with my kids, drinking tea, or any time ... it is not a matter of "doing something", but of "NOT DOING", by merely dropping the mental walls, extraneous thoughts and like baggage that I am doing in my head.
    This would be my definition of the term "Mindfulness" - others might disagree.
    That's the "problem" with language: everyone has their own definitions...

    To confuse things even more, there are also the concepts of "witnessing" and "the watcher". However, to me these imply a kind of detachment.
    Once I was very good at "detaching". I remember the day when I was sitting in my car and someone drove back and bumped into it. Then he drove a bit forward, went into reverse again and hit it once more. While others in my car were yelling a bit shocked, I simply watched, totally unmoved. When I think about it right now, this kind of indifferent reaction seems a bit creepy to me.
    Anyway, IMHO when you are detached/witnessing you are also mindful/present in the moment at the same time.

    Gassho,

    Timo
    no thing needs to be added

  7. #7
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Thank you for reminding us of this Jundo _/\_

    Gassho, Shokai
    Last edited by Shokai; 11-22-2012 at 02:51 PM.
    gassho, Shokai, still learning the way and knowing nothing
    仁道 生開 - Jindo Shokai "Open to life in a benevolent way"
    Just another itinerant monk; go somewhere else to listen to someone who really knows.

  8. #8
    Hello Jundo,

    Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts.
    I totally agree with you.
    I should have added some context to my quotes above. Muho was just answering questions about mindfulness - I think he does not advocate being mindful all the time.

    I personally have certain activities I try to do mindfully: household chores, eating, drinking espresso, Tai-Chi, Ba Duan Jin, etc.
    Most of the other time of the day I plan other things, daydream, etc. as well. Imagination/Creativity is very important to me as well.
    So the above excerpts should be understood as addressing those times when we want to be mindful.

    I think you are right that there is even some confusion in the Buddhist world. I remember vaguely a comment by Brad Warner on Twitter to a tweet by Thich Nhat Hanh about mindfulness. Which - of course - led to some discussions...

    Gassho,

    Timo
    no thing needs to be added

  9. #9
    I remember a funny Mindfulness incident. This was some years ago at a Forest Sangha retreat. There is Mindfulness practice in that tradition, but Mindfulness is a conscious practice that eventually falls away into effortless Awareness, in the same sense as ordinary being in Zen. Awareness isn't an effort, it is just the basic space of "living and moving and having our being". At this retreat there were a lot of very earnest people trying to be aware, and that meant doing things reeeal slow, specially during the midday meal. Everyone was w-a-l-k-i-n-g to the food table then s-p-o-o-n-i-n-g food into a bowl, then slowly slowly l---i---f---t---i---n---g the food and c-----h-----e-----w-----i-----n-----g. Later while giving a talk the teacher, who had observed this, held both his arms out straight in front, groaned, then warned us not to become "Mindfulness Zombies". That got a big laugh of recognition.

    Gassho, kojip
    Last edited by Daizan; 11-22-2012 at 08:42 PM.
    大山

  10. #10
    Senior Member Heishu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kojip View Post
    I remember a funny Mindfulness incident. This was some years ago at a Forest Sangha retreat. There is Mindfulness practice in that tradition, but Mindfulness is a conscious practice that eventually falls away into effortless Awareness, in the same sense as ordinary being in Zen. Awareness isn't an effort, it is just the basic space of "living and moving and having our being". At this retreat there were a lot of very earnest people trying to be aware, and that meant doing things reeeal slow, specially during the midday meal. Everyone was w-a-l-k-i-n-g to the food table then s-p-o-o-n-i-n-g food into a bowl, then slowly slowly l---i---f---t---i---n---g the food and c-----h-----e-----w-----i-----n-----g. Later while giving a talk the teacher, who had observed this, held both his arms out straight in front, groaned, then warned us not to become "Mindfulness Zombies". That got a big laugh of recognition.

    Gassho, kojip
    Thank you Kojip, that made my day!

    Gassho
    Alan

  11. #11
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    Thank you Jundo. Gassho.
    Heisoku
    平 息

  12. #12
    Senior Member Jakudo's Avatar
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    I don't want to turn into a mindfulness zombie! Thanks for the clarification on mindfulness Jundo, seems that's all Zen Folk are talking about these days. I guess everything has a time and place. Would this be an example of the middle way?
    Gassho, Shawn.
    Gassho, Shawn Jakudo Hinton
    It all begins when we say, I. Everything that follows is illusion.
    "Even to speak the word Buddha is dragging in the mud soaking wet; Even to say the word Zen is a total embarrassment."
    寂道

  13. #13
    Wonderful Jundo ... Thank you for this.

    Gassho
    Michael
    倫道 真現

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  14. #14
    Thank you Jundo.

    A special thanks to Kojip, zombie movies may never be the same.
    Neika / Ian Adams

    寧 Nei - Peaceful/Courteous
    火 Ka - Fire

    Look for Buddha outside your own mind, and Buddha becomes the devil. --Dogen

  15. #15
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    It is amazing how we keep re-inventing the wheel, this whole story of mindfulness has been discussed countless times.
    As Jundo says, as Taigu says, do what you do. No more, no less.

    Gassho

    Taigu
    Last edited by Taigu; 11-23-2012 at 11:03 PM.
    Taigu, teacher at Treeleaf Sangha, was born in 1964, started Zazen early and received Shukke Tokudo in 1983 at age 18 from Rev. Mokusho Zeisler of the Deshimaru Lineage. Received Dharma Transmission from Chodo Cross in 2002. Now resides in Osaka, Japan.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu View Post
    As Jundo says, as Taigu says, do what you do. No more, no less.
    Thanks, Taigu, that sums it up while keeping it simple.
    The thing is that sometimes I am entangling myself in so many questions, differentiations, nuances, etc. that I am more confused than before.
    That's why I like zazen so much - I can drop all this mental work then...

    Gassho,

    Timo
    no thing needs to be added

  17. #17
    Senior Member Matt's Avatar
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    I have enjoyed this thread. Reminds me of a story from Tanahashi/Schneider's 'Essential Zen':

    Seung Sahn would say, "When you eat, just eat. When you read the newspaper, just read the newspaper. Don't do anything other than what you are doing."
    One day a student saw him reading the newspaper while he was eating. The student asked if this did not contradict his teaching. Seung Sahn said, "When you eat and read the newspaper, just eat and read the newspaper."

    Gassho,
    Matt

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