Sitting with Soto Zen folks in Dublin again. 45 minutes of staring at the wall, followed by a few minutes of walking meditation, followed by another 15 minutes of sitting meditation. When I was preparing to leave, a lady asked me about my sitting. I said it didn’t feel like an hour. – Time flies when you have fun, I added.
On my way back home I listened to Ajahn Chah. In that particular talk, he reminded me that the practice happens whenever the mind object encounters a sense object, i.e. during contact. Not only during formal practice. Spot on. What’s the use of sitting for 20 minutes a day and then running around like a craving-fueled imbecile for another 16 hours? If you can’t bring some of that wisdom and peace and test it and develop it outside the sterile laboratory of your daily formal practice, then what’s the point?
His teaching also provides guidance as to what should be done when navigating through the world. And that is, pay attention to whatever comes in contact with the mind through six senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste, and thinking) and apply mindfulness. Let’s not forget that Buddha never spoke about mindfulness as non-judgmentally paying attention to whatever is occurring in the present moment. (In my opinion, Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindfulness is self-contradicting – how can you do something on purpose and yet non-judgmentally? How would you know if you are fulfilling the purpose without judgement?) Let’s not forget the importance of memory in what Buddha described as mindfulness. When something comes in contact with your mind, you need to know whether it leads to wholesome or unwholesome states. Should you develop it? Or should you get rid of it? The earliest sutras contain some really useful lists, the most important ones being Five Hindrances and Seven Factors of Awakening.
If you want to give Ajahn Chah’s talk a listen, here it is: https://amaravati.org/audio/part-1-ch15-living-in-this-world/