Imagine you are hosting a family holiday gathering, and two guests get into a heated discussion. They raise their voices, sound emotional, and their facial expressions seem wild and out of control. They stand up, gesticulate wildly, point their fingers in each other’s faces, and seem like they might start to throw things or hit each other. Unless they are arguing on an urgent matter about which big decisions must be made immediately, as a responsible host you will probably see it as your duty to try to break them up. Get them to stop for now, split apart, and restart the conversation later when they are more calm, rational, and in control. If you were a participant in this heated discussion, you might also see it as your duty to break away.
Our attention is hijacked by our thoughts and emotions, by our concerns and desires, by our hopes or worries for the future, and our memories and regrets from the past. Mindful awareness is about learning to pay attention, in the present moment, and without judgement. It’s like training a muscle – training attention to be where you want it to be.
Image by Samuel Zeller on Unsplah.com
The greatest goodness is a peaceful mind.
There is a well-known story from eighth century China that I would like to introduce. One day, a monk named Baso Doitsu was sitting wholeheartedly in zazen. His master, Nangaku Ejo Zenji, saw him and asked him, ‘What are you doing?’ Baso answered, ‘I’m sitting in zazen because I would like to become a Buddha.’ Ejo Zenji picked up a piece of tile that was lying nearby and began to vigorously scrape the tile with a rock as if he were polishing it. Seeing this, Baso asked ‘Master, what is your intention in polishing that piece of tile?’ Ejo Zenji said, ‘I’m polishing this piece of tile in order to make it into a mirror.’ Baso was astonished and said, ‘Is it really possible to make a piece of tile into a mirror?’ Ejo Zenji replied, ‘Is it possible to become a Buddha by sitting in zazen?’ Hearing these words, Baso suddenly realised that he had been using zazen as a means or method to attain something. From then on, he was able to diligently sit in zazen without using it as a means to try to achieve a certain goal.
Harada Sekkei Roshi
The remembered thinking self is like the string that holds together the pearls of our experiences. The pearls and the string together form the story of our lives—what we think and feel and who we are. We base all our choices on this life story, but our life story is not always the best basis for decision making. The way that we remember our experiences is very different than the active process of experiencing—our minds create illusions that impact how we remember experiences.
Kay Peterson | How You Learn Is How You Live: Using Nine Ways of Learning to Transform Your Life