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Thread: Mindfullness in daily life and activities

  1. #1

    Mindfullness in daily life and activities

    Hey all,

    Got a few questions about mindfulness in daily activities.

    - Do u do "it" (active/semi-active mindfulness)
    - How do you it
    - What are your experiences
    - What are your opinions

    I'll give my recent experiences. I have been reading a few Cheri Huber books ( an accessible laid back soto zen priest, but still straight to the heart). One of her approaches is counting breaths from 1 to 10 and back again. I tried this, can't get much past 4 or so. Now I don't see this as a problem because with my Shikatanza practice I let go of any expectation of what I should be "achieving" (being able to count breaths to 10 and back again), let go what the "feeling" of what this practice should be and just try to come back again and again to the practice.

    The experience is similar to one (amongst the many) vipassana techniques. I learnt this one off a burmese monk where one keeps attention to the breath (try to keep focus on the rise and fall of the belly). The technique was - Whenever the mind gets distracted or a feeling is attached to, a sankhara (don't know the zen equivalent) is grasped or where the mind moves to a sensation (mental also) then to be aware and observe what is going on. So here I am counting my breaths whilst I am working and my mind moves to something (sensation, memory, work task worrying) and with benefit of my shikantanza practice I try to remain aware of the event (or observe without clinging onto or moving onto discursive thinking or if already in discursive thinking then letting go of that discursive thinking) and go back to counting the breath. At the same time I notice that now my breath is responding by consciously trying to be calmer and smoother though I am not actually trying to do this. This does give me some base level of mindfulness and I know with shikatanza practice to try to remain in this moment and accept whatever is going on internally (letting the forces arise and subside without clinging onto them or being averse to them).- which is in manner that is both very quietly and very subtlely liberating.

    However I can only do this consistenly when I am sitting down at work and not at other tasks such as walking, talking, doing physical work, exercising, hanging out with friends and especially when I am at home with so many distractions (where I seem to get into a craving mode, trying to do the next thing that will bring me more and more comfort and never being fulfilled on a permanent equanomous level).

    After doing zazen - shikatanza with open eyes (ie. sitting with eyes 2/3rds to 3/4ths closed), there is a quality of "knowing the experience" that you bring to daily life. I think this is because you know that whatever you experienced whilst sitting applies throuhgout life no matter what, the same properties are there all the time. However, I know next to nothing about soto zen's approach to mindfullness in daily life (except from Cheri Huber's point of view). Did Dogen have something to say about this. Does soto zen have an approach - either from the ancient past or an approach developed in more modern times.

    Anyway, if anyone has anything to add, please do.

    Mettha.

    Aswini.

  2. #2

    Re: Mindfullness in daily life and activities

    Whoa. Ok. Slow down a bit Aswini. Don't make it so complicated. Just get on with your day and sit when it's time to sit. You will know what mindfulness is, and being before thinking, when you come across it. The way I see it, we all learn in our own way. It's a process really. Each time we sit is one more mark on our Dharma checklist. But trying too hard just causes more troubles. My two cents.

    I find a quality of "trying to figure it out" in your post.

    Of course pay attention to body, and mind, but don't over do it. Be careful.

    To tell you the truth. I don't even pay attention to the breath. If I happen to be open to it, then I'm open to it. I just let the breath breathe. Sometimes it's calm and sometimes it's tense.

    I previously fell into quite a state with this mindfulness of the breath stuff for 4 years. It didn't do anything except teach me how to close,focus, and have a goal when sitting. Not really what we're after I think.

    Just let it be my friend.


    Thank you for your efforts.

    In Gassho
    Will

  3. #3

    Re: Mindfullness in daily life and activities

    Harry said
    I prefer to think that it is more realistic to just do things sincerely, more *fully*, with our body and mind. If someone wants to call this "Mindfulness" then that's their business.
    I agree wholeheartedly. i count myself among those who have wasted a long time trying to be mindful. And this is what it came down to for me: mindfulness is not something that can be added but the result of substracting.Just do what you're doing. Just sitting, just walking, just taking a dump.

    The concrete way I do this is: 1) Simplify each activity (eg, just eat as opposed to eating while watching the news and answering a phone call). I'm sure it is possible for others to do the dishes and listen to Jimi Hendrix while banging the head, but I find it easier to simplify. So maybe point 1 does not apply for everybody. But I think the power of Shikantaza is the utter simplicity of it. 2)Let go of thoughts, emotions, etc. I don't stop them, I just try not to get involved and stay in (or return to) the activity. That leaves behind only the activity at hand. So this is the equation: Activity - anything else = mindful activity (as opposed to acivity + "mindfulness", which in my limited experience equals waste of time)

    That's what I understand by mindfulness, as opposed to the ultra stupid: "Now I'm walking fast, now I'm opening a bottle, now I'm farting with a whistling style"

    Gassho

  4. #4

    Re: Mindfullness in daily life and activities

    Hi.
    As said in this thread, its nothing you "attain", its more like something you "gain", one moment you havent got it, the next you do.

    - How do you it
    I dont know, "it" just is "there " i suppose you can say..

    - What are your experiences
    - What are your opinions
    As for me, i feel as bad as ever...

    Oh, and before i forget, the mind can play wonderful tricks on you. :wink:

    May the force be with you
    Tb

  5. #5

    Re: Mindfullness in daily life and activities

    Hi,

    As I was walking down Mt. Tsukuba with Hans yesterday, on a really steep incline of small muddy stones, I had to be mindful of what I was doing right there ... all to avoid falling on my butt in the mud

    That's when I started thinking, "ah, yes, this is a time of mindfulness, there is balance of bodymind and I am present in this moment ... and I must tell the Treeleafers about it!" At which point, so filled with such wonderful thoughts was I, that I became distracted ... and slipped in the mud. (Fortunately, not enough so that butt hit stone). ops: ops:

    I think that there are times to be mindful in our practice, and great lessons are to be learned there ... drinking a cup of tea as the only and perfect act in the whole universe of that moment, the same for "Oryoki" meals during a Sesshin, "just being" in the moment, when washing the floor "just washing the floor". I think it does have the simplicity that Will and Alberto describe, and I think it is much like the "Mindbodyfull-ness" that Harry coined ... Harry is a Jazz musician, solo-ing on stage and all that, so he knows something of the topic.

    But the one point I really really really wish to emphasize to folks is not to be too idealistic about what "mindfulness" is, or set it up as some unrealistic goal. I described it recently when I said this ...

    [Folks encounter lots of Zen teachings like the one mentioned by Master Seung Sahn, "when you eat, just eat. When you sleep just sleep..."] But I think that Master Seung Sahn's phrasing, like many Zen books and expressions, can sound rather idealistic if it implies that we must be "mindful" or in "Zen Mind" 24/7. My view is more balanced I think, namely, "when mindful of one thing, just be mindful of one thing ... when distracted, overwrought and multi-tasking, just be distracted, overwrought and multi-task". There is a time for everything, and we cannot be "mindful" each minute. All of it is life.

    However, one of the great fruits of our Zen Practice is that, even when we are distracted, overwrought and multi-tasking, feeling completely miserable and off balance ... and even when "Zen Mind" feels very far away ... we can still know it is 'there' even if we do not feel it at that moment [the blue sky always behind the clouds]. So I say, when feeling completely "miserable and off balance", just be "miserable and off balance" in that moment ... it too is a temporary state of mind.


    So, in other words, have a balanced and realistic view of life ... even a balanced view of sometimes or frequently being unbalanced, overworked, distracted and such.

    When falling on your butt in the mud because you were thinking about "mindfulness" ... JUST DO THAT! IT TOO IS A PERFECT ACT IN THAT MOMENT!!

    Gassho, Jundo

  6. #6

    Re: Mindfullness in daily life and activities

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    That's when I started thinking, "ah, yes, this is a time of mindfulness, there is balance of bodymind and I am present in this moment ... and I must tell the Treeleafers about it!" At which point, so filled with such wonderful thoughts was I, that I became distracted ... and slipped in the mud. (Fortunately, not enough so that butt hit stone). ops: ops:
    Something like this happened to me on my recent fishing trip. There's been a lot of rain here in Michigan lately, and the bank of the river was treacherous. Without paying close attention to walking, it was very easy to end up with one leg down several feet in a sinkhole and the other leg still up on solid ground. (This is a painful experience.) At one point I thought to myself, "I sure am doing a good job of paying attention to my steps, this is tricky..." and just then I almost broke my ankle, and had to extract my leg from several feet of muck without losing a sandal. Paying attention to paying attention, isn't really paying attention. Good learning experience, though.
    --Charles

  7. #7

    Re: Mindfullness in daily life and activities

    Quote Originally Posted by Alberto
    Harry said
    I prefer to think that it is more realistic to just do things sincerely, more *fully*, with our body and mind. If someone wants to call this "Mindfulness" then that's their business.
    I agree wholeheartedly. i count myself among those who have wasted a long time trying to be mindful. And this is what it came down to for me: mindfulness is not something that can be added but the result of substracting.Just do what you're doing. Just sitting, just walking, just taking a dump.

    The concrete way I do this is: 1) Simplify each activity (eg, just eat as opposed to eating while watching the news and answering a phone call). I'm sure it is possible for others to do the dishes and listen to Jimi Hendrix while banging the head, but I find it easier to simplify. So maybe point 1 does not apply for everybody. But I think the power of Shikantaza is the utter simplicity of it. 2)Let go of thoughts, emotions, etc. I don't stop them, I just try not to get involved and stay in (or return to) the activity. That leaves behind only the activity at hand. So this is the equation: Activity - anything else = mindful activity (as opposed to acivity + "mindfulness", which in my limited experience equals waste of time)

    That's what I understand by mindfulness, as opposed to the ultra stupid: "Now I'm walking fast, now I'm opening a bottle, now I'm farting with a whistling style"

    Gassho
    Oh this is wonderful.

    I have been labeling myself a naughty Buddhist for abandoning the "trying to be mindful 24/7" -thing. Then I noticed that after forgetting about trying to be mindful I got back my freedom to really be in the moment and to really keep it simple.

    A mountain is just a mountain...

  8. #8

    Re: Mindfullness in daily life and activities

    thanks for replies, they have aided and helped me. I have some responses in mind but have been busy volunteering for a buddhist conference http://www.wisdomforamodernworld.net/ and don't have any time to reply. Hopefully after work tomorrow.

    Just a thought, I thought a conference with so many talks would be bit of drag. In fact at times though it was, most of the times it was pretty good. After sitting zazen for about 6 months (inconsistently) the mind tends to think that just more sitting is required (which is true) but hearing aspects from all the different sects really opens up your mind. They all same the same thing in the end anyway, including the zen ones (no dogen sangha there though, zen was represented by the Vietnamese schools as there are many more Vietnamese in Australia than they are Japanese).

    Mettha.

    Aswini.

  9. #9

    Re: Mindfullness in daily life and activities

    Jundo wrote:
    Harry is a Jazz musician, solo-ing on stage and all that, so he knows something of the topic.
    Sorry, Harry. Looks like you have be demoted to a "jazz musician." I think your complimentary bag of heroin is probably in the mail by now from the Beboppers home office. You realize that this places you in the lowest caste of the arts . . . such a shame . . . you had so much potential.



    Bill

    (No offense to you Jundo, just funnin').

  10. #10

    Re: Mindfullness in daily life and activities

    in the "winter", we live in why, arizona -- i hike the mountain/hill behind our trailer each morning -- it is not a maintained trail, it is steep, and rocky -- particularly coming down, absolute attention is required, and a slow pace -- and then when the rattlesnakes are out, double that -- often i've thought, this is good practice -- not fancy, new-age seminar stuff, just practical

    which comes to bob's working theory of mental illness :wink: : - despite all the ads to the contrary, we don't all have "chemical imbalances" -- but something's up -- what is it? -- why not look at today's life, and compare it to "primitive" life styles? -- the hunter in the jungle survived only by being totally present, it was not a weekend intensive at esalen -- the leopard behind the tree was real, not imaginary -- one moment of "gee, i wonder what she meant last week when she said....." and you was dinner -- and so, mindfullness was rewarded with survival, and the chance to reproduce -- fast forward to 2008, we apparently can survive without the skill of awareness, living in a fantasy of imaginary leopards, and other means of filling up the empty mind space -- and it becomes necessary to make a conscious effort to remember what was once simply here, now -- and still is

    and, as i think jundo pointed to, this is not to say there is no place for "spaced-out" -- but, let's face it, most of my time is spent in that state, as opposed to my primitive friend described above -- it only makes sense to me that balance is the way

    gassho, bob

  11. #11

    Re: Mindfullness in daily life and activities

    Greetings all,

    My experience.
    Then: Chasing down a fly ball to left centerfield.
    Now: Placing a 100 pound stone in a rock wall that I'm building
    without smashing my fingers. Now that requires some
    mindfulness!

    Aloha,
    Dan

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