Mindful approach

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  • Janne H
    Member
    • Feb 2010
    • 73

    Mindful approach

    Hi,

    I´ve mentioned before (in my presentation) that for some time I have been following the teachings by Thich Nhat Hanh. I really enjoy his mindful approach to everyday life, being here and now in every breath as he might express it, so I´m wondering if the Insta-Zazen practice is the same kind of approach?

    A sidenote:

    A while back I stumbled across a teaching by (I think it was) a Soto teacher who said that one should not attempt to be mindful, instead trust that the zazen practice is all that is needed, or something like that. How does Soto relate to being mindful?

    Janne
  • Taigu
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest
    • Aug 2008
    • 2710

    #2
    Re: Mindful approach

    Hi Janne,

    Nice to have you around. You have to ask the very inventor of the thing but my answer is: no. When we wash the dishes, we wash the dishes, we are not the specator or the seer of the process. We are dropping the watcher. We just do and are one with what we do. Exactly as sneezing, coughing, meeting a great friend after a longtime... nobody left to watch, just one with the action. You may have a peep at the oxherding pictures and some of the vids, this one in particular: http://www.treeleaf.org/sit-a-long/arch ... es-vi.html.

    Or listen to Jundo in an old thread:

    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).

    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 thinkthat 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!!


    Thich Nhat Hanh's precious teachings are strongly influenced vispassayana. As far as Soto is concerned, mindfullness as the action of being aware of somebody doing something...is not necessary. It is extra.

    gassho


    Taigu


    Taigu

    Comment

    • Jundo
      Treeleaf Founder and Priest
      • Apr 2006
      • 39450

      #3
      Re: Mindful approach

      Yes, I believe that there are times to be "mindful" ... times not. Sometimes when I eat, I just eat ... when I sip tea, I just sip tea ... when bowing, just bowing ... fully absorbed in that action. A wonderful, insightful practice. When doing one thing, just do one thing with full attention.

      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.

      (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. 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.)

      Another, rather different meaning of "mindful" often found in Buddhism (and Thich Nhat Hanh's wonderful teachings) 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 ... but I caution against thinking that you must or can do that 24/7.

      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 even 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).** When you kid plops in your lap during Zazen, just do and allow that ( http://www.shambhalasun.com/sunspace/?p=16432 ) 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 (as was discussed on another thread today), just do that and fully allow that.

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

      Gassho, Jundo

      ** PS - "fully allowing" does not mean necessarily "fully allowing". :shock: We have something called "acceptance-without-acceptance" around here ... So, for example, we can "fully allow and be one with" the wars and pollution described in the newspaper or the bothersome person at work or the sickness we are suffering ... yet take steps to deal with each too. Not mutually exclusive perspectives.
      ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

      Comment

      • Tb
        Member
        • Jan 2008
        • 3186

        #4
        Re: Mindful approach

        Hi.

        I can only concur with the things said above, when doing this do this, when doing that do that.
        If that means being mindful, then be mindful.

        Mtfbwy
        Fugen
        Life is our temple and its all good practice
        Blog: http://fugenblog.blogspot.com/

        Comment

        • Janne H
          Member
          • Feb 2010
          • 73

          #5
          Re: Mindful approach

          Taigu,

          You said (in your talk) that one should just allow it be (the doing, the being, the awareness), and not take pictures of it. And yes, thats true, because otherwise it´s only thinking of being mindful, not being mindful it self.

          But still, there has to be an approach, a gentle way of getting awareness to expand in ones life. We can not just go about, not being aware, lost in thoughts, or in forgetfulness (the word Thay often uses). One should continously bring back the awareness of the present moment, but leave the camera behind, the camera which is only the thinking mind trying to grasp, or think it´s way to being, like trying to bite ones own tail.

          About Jundos quote, who is the jazz musician, Harry? I´m curious, as a jazz musician myself...

          Jundo,

          Yes, earlier when I was doing the mindfulness approach I thought that one should try to be mindful 24/7, as Thay seems to be saying, but I have later realized that it can´t really be possible to be mindful every single second, otherwise it becomes a struggle of something to attain. And that is simply part of the learning process, which when actually being mindful one understands that it is a dynamic approach, not stiff like a rock just standing in a soldier like attention.

          BUT I would say that one can NEARLY be mindful all the time, a lot of the time. And when multi-tasking, or engaged in thinking this or that, one should be able to stop (to unhook, to take a step back from) the doing, the thinking, not being lost in it´s grasp .

          Comment

          • Grizzly
            Member
            • Mar 2010
            • 119

            #6
            Re: Mindful approach

            Hi Janne
            I had that issue with the observer/"fully in" duality. I am not sure whether Thich actually means one should look in, because he is very much into feeling the emotions and not being separate. After many years of this issue being my koan, if you like, I think we can be fully in and fully aware at the same time. I wonder if its just bad linguistics that left us thinking otherwise? When a teacher says observe the emotion in your body then we have bad linguistics. Many folks will then (having a visual bias) make semi-conscious pictures of the area the emotion is in and picture it (some will even be fully unaware) . If the teacher said just fully feel it, then the duality collapses. We can sit feeling fully without losing the clear sapce around as we fully know the emoting thats happening. I think this is perhaps where the mindfulness of all traditions is the same.
            Rich

            Comment

            • Janne H
              Member
              • Feb 2010
              • 73

              #7
              Re: Mindful approach

              Hi Rich,

              Yes, words don´t always reach to what is beyond the words, and as you say fully in or out there is probably no such separation. To be aware is simply to be aware. But my question is more about how to bring the way of just sitting in to everyday life. And I will try to approach the insta-zazen and see where it goes.

              Comment

              • Jenny
                Member
                • Jan 2008
                • 62

                #8
                Re: Mindful approach

                I have just been listening to Stephen Batchelor's 4 excellent video talks presently available on
                Tricycle Magazine. Based around the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path he mentions
                among other things that we are mindful of everything that arises in our field of awareness, no matter
                how painful or disturbing it may be. How we respond to it, that alone is what really matters.
                Doing the dishes perhaps the thought arises how we hate this chore - :mrgreen: - we become aware
                of it, let it go, and go back to the dishes.

                Jenny

                Comment

                • Janne H
                  Member
                  • Feb 2010
                  • 73

                  #9
                  Re: Mindful approach

                  Oh, that guy, he´s a pain in the butt, he really hates doing the dishes and getting up early in the morning... :P

                  You´re right, that alone is what really matters.

                  Comment

                  • Taigu
                    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest
                    • Aug 2008
                    • 2710

                    #10
                    Re: Mindful approach

                    Hi guys,

                    You are making a lot of fuss about washing the dishes. Washing the dishes is washing the dishes, beyond you, dishes, observer, observed, feelings or not...

                    Thank you Jenny,

                    Take care


                    gassho


                    Taigu

                    Comment

                    • Grizzly
                      Member
                      • Mar 2010
                      • 119

                      #11
                      Re: Mindful approach

                      Hi Taigu
                      True what you say on one level but also a big problem on another. When I first bought Thich Nhat Hahns "Miracle of Mindfulness" almost twenty years ago I followed the book with my understanding and developed a little observer that was very detached from my life. It made things worse- life was not worth living as a Vulcan! The language used, and teachers use it still, can set up what seems to me now to be an "extra" thats going in the wrong direction- this little observer.
                      Hi Janne
                      For me the way around the problem was to be intensely engaged in FEELING the water, the dish, the movement- forgetting the OBSERVING instruction. It also helps me by using sound also. LISTEN to the kettle boiling when making tea, HEAR the click of the jar opening, HEAR the spoon clinking as we stir the drink. Moving to another sensory input that takes us from observing can be a useful method to "fall into the experience mindfully". Then we discover just hearing, just feeling etc. When this becomes natural then just looking is also something that falls into place. Nothing is different really but the added mental concepts and self-consciousness go away..and when they do pop back (if they do) then they can be mindfully experienced too- fully and completely IN them. Does this make sense? Please give it a go with the hearing and most importantly perhaps, feeling, and let us know the results of your experiments.
                      I hope this proves useful.
                      All the best to everyone
                      Rich

                      Comment

                      • Grizzly
                        Member
                        • Mar 2010
                        • 119

                        #12
                        Re: Mindful approach

                        Just an added thought: Perhaps this is more a problem for those of us who are more cerebral in general. As well as being a gift that led me into training as a physicist originally it also can become a defense- a place to live when the present is not nice. Without conscious awareness these patterns are set up for one reason or another and we live one step removed from life. Possibly this is a problem most of us may have had but I think there might be degrees. I know, for me, I was so far removed from just feeling and hearing (and still can be sometimes) that interpreting the instructions to mean developing the little observer even more was a natural way of reading those instructions (and hearing those teachers). Its not been that long since the duality collapsed when I discovered what I posted above.
                        Ram Dass mentions the problem too- he says in the beginning it was natural for him to have a little observer and to observe everything detachedly but this collapsed at some point all on its own, in his case.
                        Its quite a big change for those of us that do this to go from watching our abdomen rise and fall from up here in our heads to just feeling the whole body as one that is breathing as we sink into the experience of being and not watching. Then it just seems the same as before- we are still noticing but somehow its all different. For me it was wonderful and I understood for the first time fully that all the things that happened weren't suffering. The pains in my body weren't anything more than pains- there was no held onto observer to mentally suffer, just the feelings. The first day I went through like this was amazing- nothing was any different but I didn't suffer. I was just tired, just in pain, just happy, just walking, just bored but I wasn't adding bits to it like, "when I go even further boredom wont arise at all", or "this is painful/unpleasant". Really I'm saying the pain wasn't a pain it was just a sensation, exactly the same as pain but not. Of course I think at some future point the practice may well take me to not being bored at times etc etc but its not a concern. I say this in the same way that on occasion I have had the "pain" sensations intensely and felt incredibly joyful at the same time. This has happened on rare occasions, but the feeling sensations as sensations I have been talking about here is enough- there's no suffering and adding a goal of being joyful with it is just making the now wrong. At the same time it may well be that the glimpses of joy might increase as I let go- who knows. When just experiencing in this way attaching to either (the now or the future possible) isn't even an issue that comes to mind- until I write trying to explain something that hopefully will make a difference for someone else and have to focus on "wording" all this.
                        Rich

                        Comment

                        • disastermouse

                          #13
                          Re: Mindful approach

                          Taigu is right, IMHO, in that the way most people come to understand 'Mindfulness', they create a subtle witness.

                          There are ways to practice walking, etc, with diffuse shikantaza-like awareness, but when this happens, walking is doing the walking - there is no observer, no subtle witness - the sensations are having themselves, in a sense. At least, this is my experience.

                          Chet

                          Comment

                          • Janne H
                            Member
                            • Feb 2010
                            • 73

                            #14
                            Re: Mindful approach

                            Rich,

                            Thanks for sharing.

                            I´ve mostly enjoyed doing the mindful practices by Thay, but I can say that allthough the practice often is effortless it sometimes is in need of effort, and those times one can feel a bit of a separation between the experience and the self watching. Maybe that is the same thing you are expressing, and it´s probably created with the mind trying to experience rather then being fully there, trying to experince something more (or less) then what is, or thinking it´s way to being, analyzing. I used to be comfused about if I should focus on this or that when being mindful, it was a puzzle, like when walking outside should I focus on the feet or the sounds or what, because the instructions often given (and there´s the linguistics problem again) are with focus given to the feet and breath. But now when approaching shikantaza I just let it all be as it is, whatever focus, being with what is there.

                            Chet, and Taigu

                            I agree, I also share the same experience as you descibe it.

                            Comment

                            • disastermouse

                              #15
                              Re: Mindful approach

                              Originally posted by Janne H
                              Rich,

                              Thanks for sharing.

                              I´ve mostly enjoyed doing the mindful practices by Thay, but I can say that allthough the practice often is effortless it sometimes is in need of effort, and those times one can feel a bit of a separation between the experience and the self watching. Maybe that is the same thing you are expressing, and it´s probably created with the mind trying to experience rather then being fully there, trying to experince something more (or less) then what is, or thinking it´s way to being, analyzing. I used to be comfused about if I should focus on this or that when being mindful, it was a puzzle, like when walking outside should I focus on the feet or the sounds or what, because the instructions often given (and there´s the linguistics problem again) are with focus given to the feet and breath. But now when approaching shikantaza I just let it all be as it is, whatever focus, being with what is there.

                              Chet, and Taigu

                              I agree, I also share the same experience as you descibe it.
                              In my experience, it's not the thoughts that create the separation - it's the illusion of an entity that is experiencing...the feeling of a focal point, the localization of sensation. Why does the sound of the bird seem like it's coming from 'outside' but the feeling of hunger feels as though it's 'internal' or 'mine'?

                              Chet

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