Monday, June 22, 2015

THE SECRET TO LIVING MINDFULLY

OK, so there is no ‘secret’ as such, but it is true that very few people know how to live mindfully. Here’s a story from Buddhism. The story may well be apocryphal, but the advice certainly sounds like it came from the historical Buddha.

It is written that a philosopher once said to the Buddha, ‘I have heard tell of Buddhism as a doctrine of enlightenment. What is its method? In other words, what do you do every day?’

Before I tell you what the Buddha said, I want to make two comments. First, Buddhism does indeed teach enlightenment, which means---wait for it---waking up. Buddhism teaches us how to ‘wake up’ and stay awake. (No, I am not talking about insomnia.) Secondly, Buddhism does not teach a ‘method’ or ‘technique’, for methods and techniques are forms of mental conditioning. Buddhism is all about deconditioning the mind. It’s about letting go of anything and everything that holds us back from happiness and wellness.

Now, what was the Buddha’s answer to the philosopher’s question, ‘What do Buddhists do every day?’

‘We walk, we eat, we wash ourselves, we sit down …,’ said the Buddha.

‘But what is there that’s special in that?’ replied the philosopher. ‘Everyone walks, eats, washes himself, sits down . . .’

‘Sir, with us there is a difference. When we walk, we are aware of the fact that we are walking. When we eat, we are aware of the fact that we are eating, and so on. When others walk, eat, wash themselves, or sit down, they are not aware of what they are doing.’

There you have it---AWARENESS. The secret or key to living mindfully is ... to live with AWARENESS. Yes, it's that simple ... but it isn't all that easy. It takes lots of practice ... every day ... and each and every minute and moment of the day.

I just thought of another little story from Buddhism that's on the same point. It’s a gem. The South Korean Zen master Seung Sahn (pictured right) 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 Seung Sahn 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.’

The point of both of these stories is this. Whatever you do, whatever you are doing, do it with focused and undivided attention---that is, awareness. That, my friends, is the ‘secret’ to living mindfully.



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