"According to the buddhadharma, spirituality means relating with the
working basis of one's existence, which is one's state of mind. The
method for beginning to relate directly with mind is the practice of
For the follower of the buddhadharma, the teachings of Buddhism,
there is a need for great emphasis on the practice of meditation. One
must see the straightforward logic that mind is the cause of confusion
and that by transcending confusion one attains the enlightened state.
This can only take place through the practice of meditation. The Buddha
himself experienced this, by working on his own mind; and what he
learned has been handed down to us.
Mindfulness is a basic approach to the spiritual journey that is
common to all traditions of Buddhism. But before we begin to look
closely at that approach, we should have some idea of what is meant by
Some say that spirituality is a way of attaining a better kind of
happiness, transcendental happiness. Others see it as a benevolent way
to develop power over others. Still others say the point of spirituality
is to acquire magical powers so we can change our bad world into a good
world or purify the world through miracles. It seems that all of these
points of view are irrelevant to the Buddhist approach. According to the
buddhadharma, spirituality means relating with the working basis of
one's existence, which is one's state of mind.
There is a problem with one's basic life, one's basic being. This
problem is that we are involved in a continual struggle to survive, to
maintain our position. We are continually trying to grasp onto some
solid image of ourselves. And then we have to defend that particular
fixed conception. So there is warfare, there is confusion, and there is
passion and aggression; there are all kinds of conflicts. From the
Buddhist point of view, the development of true spirituality is cutting
through our basic fixation, that clinging, that stronghold of
something-or-other, which is known as ego.
In order to do that we have to find out what ego is. What is this all
about? Who are we? We have to look into our already existing state of
mind. And we have to understand what practical step we can take to do
that. We are not involved here in a metaphysical discussion about the
purpose of life and the meaning of spirituality on an abstract level. We
are looking at this question from the point of view of a working
situation. We need to find some simple thing we can do in order to
embark on the spiritual path.
People have difficulty beginning a spiritual practice because they
put a lot of energy into looking for the best and easiest way to get
into it. We might have to change our attitude and give up looking for
the best or the easiest way. Actually, there is no choice. Whatever
approach we take, we will have to deal with what we are already. We have
to look at who we are. According to the Buddhist tradition, the working
basis of the path and the energy involved in the path is the mind-one's
own mind, which is working in us all the time.
Spirituality is based on mind. In Buddhism, mind is what
distinguishes sentient beings from rocks or trees or bodies of water.
That which possesses discriminating awareness, that which possesses a
sense of duality-which grasps or rejects something external-that is
mind. Fundamentally, it is that which can associate with an "other"-with
any "something" that is perceived as different from the perceiver. That
is the definition of mind. The traditional Tibetan phrase defining mind
means precisely that: "That which can think of the other, the
projection, is mind."
So by mind we mean something very specific. It is not just something
very vague and creepy inside our heads or hearts, something that just
happens as part of the way the wind blows and the grass grows. Rather,
it is something very concrete. It contains perception-perception that is
very uncomplicated, very basic, very precise. Mind develops its
particular nature as that perception begins to linger on something other
than oneself. Mind makes the fact of perceiving something else stand
for the existence of oneself.
That is the mental trick that constitutes mind. In fact, it should be
the opposite. Since the perception starts from oneself, the logic
should be: "I exist, therefore the other exists." But somehow the
hypocrisy of mind is developed to such an extent that mind lingers on
the other as a way of getting the feedback that it itself exists, which
is a fundamentally erroneous belief. It is the fact that the existence
of self is questionable that motivates the trick of duality.
This mind is our working basis for the practice of meditation and the
development of awareness. But mind is something more than the process of
confirming self by the dualistic lingering on the other. Mind also
includes what are known as emotions, which are the highlights of mental
Mind cannot exist without emotions. Daydreaming and discursive thoughts
are not enough. Those alone would be too boring. The dualistic trick
would wear too thin. So we tend to create waves of emotion which go up
and down: passion, aggression, ignorance, pride-all kinds of emotions.
In the beginning we create them deliberately, as a game of trying to
prove to ourselves that we exist. But eventually the game becomes a
hassle; it becomes more than a game and forces us to challenge ourselves
more than we intended.
So we have created a world that is bittersweet. Things are amusing
but, at the same time, not so amusing. Sometimes things seem terribly
funny but, on the other hand, terribly sad. Life has the quality of a
game of ours that has trapped us. The setup of mind has created the
whole thing. We might complain about the government or the economy of
the country or the prime rate of interest, but those factors are
secondary. The original process at the root of the problems is the
competitiveness of seeing oneself only as a reflection of the other.
Problematic situations arise automatically as expressions of that. They
are our own production, our own neat work. And that is what is called
According to the Buddhist tradition, there are eight types of
consciousness and fifty-two types of conceptions and all kinds of other
aspects of mind, about which we do not have to go into detail. All these
aspects are based largely on the primeval dualistic approach. There are
the spiritual aspects and the psychological aspects and all sorts of
other aspects. All are bound up in the realm of duality, which is ego.
As far as meditation practice is concerned, in meditation we work on
this thing, rather than on trying to sort out the problem from the
outside. We work on the projector rather than the projection. We turn
inward, instead of trying to sort out external problems of A, B, and C.
We work on the creator of duality rather than the creation. That is
beginning at the beginning.
A gigantic world of mind exists to which we are almost totally
unexposed. This whole world is made by mind. Minds made this up, put
these things together. Every bolt and nut was put in by
somebody-or-other's mind. This whole world is mind's world, the product
of mind. This is needless to say; I am sure everybody knows this. But we
might remind ourselves of it so that we realize that meditation is not
an exclusive activity that involves forgetting this world and getting
into something else. By meditating, we are dealing with the very mind
that devised our eyeglasses and put the lenses in the rims.
So this is a living world, mind's world. Realizing this, working with
mind is no longer a remote or mysterious thing to do. It is no longer
dealing with something that is hidden or somewhere else. Mind is right
here. Mind is hanging out in the world. It is an open secret.
The method for beginning to relate directly with mind, which was
taught by Lord Buddha and which has been in use for the past twenty-five
hundred years, is the practice of mindfulness. There are four aspects
to this practice, traditionally known as the Four Foundations of
Mindfulness of Body
"Mindfulness of body has to do with trying to remain human, rather
than becoming an animal or fly or etheric being. It means just trying to
remain a human being, an ordinary human being."
Mindfulness of body, the first foundation of mindfulness, is connected
with the need for a sense of being, a sense of groundedness.
To begin with, there is some problem about what we understand by
body. We sit on chairs or on the ground; we eat; we sleep; we wear
clothes. But the body we relate with in going through these activities
According to the tradition, the body we think we have is what is
known as psychosomatic body. It is largely based on projections and
concepts of body. This psychosomatic body contrasts with the enlightened
person's sense of body, which might be called body-body. This sense of
body is free from conceptualizations. It is just simple and
straightforward. There is a direct relationship with the earth.
As for us, we do not actually have a relationship with the earth. We
have some relationship with body, but it is very uncertain and erratic.
We flicker back and forth between body and something else-fantasies,
ideas. That seems to be our basic situation. Even though the
psychosomatic body is constituted by projections of body, it can be
quite solid in terms of those projections. We have expectations
concerning the existence of this body, therefore we have to refuel it,
entertain it, wash it. Through this psychosomatic body we are able to
experience a sense of being.
Mindfulness of body brings this all-pervasive mind-imitating-body
activity into the practice of meditation. The practice of meditation has
to take into account that mind continually shapes itself into bodylike
attitudes. Consequently, since the time of Buddha, sitting meditation
has been recommended and practiced, and it has proved to be the best way
of dealing with this situation. The basic technique that goes with
sitting meditation is working with the breath. You identify with the
breath, particularly with the out-breath. The in breath is just a gap, a
space. During the in-breath you just wait. So you breathe out and then
you dissolve and then there is a gap. Breathe out . . . dissolve . . .
gap. An openness, an expansion, can take place constantly that way.
Mindfulness plays a very important role in this technique. In this
case, mindfulness means that when you sit and meditate, you actually do
sit. You actually do sit as far as the psychosomatic body is concerned.
You feel the ground, body, breath, temperature. You don't try
specifically to watch and keep track of what is going on. You don't try
to formalize the sitting situation and make it into some special
activity that you are performing. You just sit.
And then you begin to feel that there is some sense of groundedness.
This is not particularly a product of being deliberate, but it is more
the force of the actual fact of being there. So you sit. And you sit.
And you breathe. And you sit and you breathe. Sometimes you think, but
still you are thinking sitting thoughts. The psychosomatic body is
sitting, so your thoughts have a flat bottom. Mindfulness of body is
connected with the earth. It is an openness that has a base, a
foundation. A quality of expansive awareness develops through
mindfulness of body-a sense of being settled and of therefore being able
to afford to open out.
Going along with this mindfulness requires a great deal of trust.
Probably the beginning meditator will not be able simply to rest there,
but will feel the need for a change. I remember someone who had just
finished a retreat telling me how she had sat and felt her body and felt
grounded. But then she had thought immediately how she should be doing
something else. And she went on to tell me how the right book had "just
jumped" into her lap, and she had started to read. At that point one
doesn't have a solid base anymore. One's mind is beginning to grow
little wings. Mindfulness of body has to do with trying to remain human,
rather than becoming an animal or fly or etheric being. It means just
trying to remain a human being, an ordinary human being.
The basic starting point for this is solidness, grounded-ness. When
you sit, you actually sit. Even your floating thoughts begin to sit on
their own bottoms. There are no particular problems. You have a sense of
solidness and groundedness, and, at the same time, a sense of being.
Without this particular foundation of mindfulness, the rest of your
meditation practice could be very airy-fairy-vacillating back and forth,
trying this and trying that. You could be constantly tiptoeing on the
surface of the universe, not actually getting a foothold anywhere. You
could become an eternal hitchhiker. So with this first technique you
develop some basic solidness. In mindfulness of body, there is a sense
of finding some home ground.
Mindfulness of Life
"The instinct to live can be seen as containing awareness,
meditation, mindfulness. It constantly tunes us in to what is happening.
So the life force that keeps us alive itself becomes the practice of
The application of mindfulness has to be precise. If we cling to our
practice, we create stagnation. Therefore, in our application of the
techniques of mindfulness, we must be aware of the fundamental tendency
to cling, to survive.
We come to this in the second foundation of mindfulness, which is
mindfulness of life, or survival. Since we are dealing with the context
of meditation, we encounter this tendency in the form of clinging to the
meditative state. We experience the meditative state and it is
momentarily tangible, but in that same moment it is also dissolving.
Going along with this process means developing a sense of letting go of
awareness as well as of contacting it. This basic technique of the
second foundation of mindfulness could be described as touch-and-go. you
are there-present, mindful-and then you let go.
A common misunderstanding is that the meditative state of mind has to
be captured and then nursed and cherished. That is definitely the wrong
approach. If you try to domesticate your mind through meditation-try to
possess it by holding onto the meditative state-the clear result will
be regression on the path, with a loss of freshness and spontaneity. If
you try to hold on without lapse all the time, then maintaining your
awareness will begin to become a domestic hassle. It will become like
painfully going through housework. There will be an underlying sense of
resentment, and the practice of meditation will become confusing. You
will begin to develop a love-hate relationship toward your practice, in
which your concept of it seems good, but, at the same time, the demand
this rigid concept makes on you is too painful.
So the technique of the mindfulness of life is based on touch-and-go.
You focus your attention on the object of awareness, but then, in the
same moment, you disown that awareness and go on. What is needed here is
some sense of confidence-confidence that you do not have to securely
own your mind, but that you can tune into its process spontaneously.
Mindfulness of life relates to the clinging tendency not only in
connection with the meditative state, but, even more importantly, in
connection with the level of raw anxiety about survival that manifests
in us constantly, second by second, minute by minute. You breathe for
survival; you lead your life for survival. The feeling is constantly
present that you are trying to protect yourself from death.
For the practical purposes of the second foundation, instead of
regarding this survival mentality as something negative, instead of
relating to it as ego-clinging as is done in the abstract philosophical
overview of Buddhism, this particular practice switches logic around. In
the second foundation, the survival struggle is regarded as a
steppingstone in the practice of meditation. Whenever you have the sense
of the survival instinct functioning, that can be transmuted into a
sense of being, a sense of having already survived. Mindfulness becomes a
basic acknowledgment of existing. This does not have the flavor of
"Thank God, I have survived." Instead, it is more objective, impartial:
"I am alive, I am here, so be it."
In this way, meditation becomes an actual part of life, rather than
just a practice or exercise. It becomes inseparable from the instinct to
live that accompanies all one's existence. That instinct to live can be
seen as containing awareness, meditation, mindfulness. It constantly
tunes us in to what is happening. So the life force that keeps us alive
and that manifests itself continually in our stream of consciousness
itself becomes the practice of mindfulness.
Such mindfulness brings clarity, skill, and intelligence. You are here;
you are living; let it be that way-that is mindfulness. Your heart
pulsates and you breathe. All kinds of things are happening in you at
once. Let mindfulness work with that, let that be mindfulness, let every
beat of your heart, every breath, be mindfulness itself. You do not
have to breathe specially; your breath is an expression of mindfulness.
If you approach meditation in this way, it becomes very personal and
But again it is necessary to say, once you have that experience of
the presence of life, don't hang onto it. Just touch and go. Touch that
presence of life being lived, then go. You do not have to ignore it.
"Go" does not mean that we have to turn our backs on the experience and
shut ourselves off from it; it means just being in it without further
analysis and without further reinforcement.
Holding onto life, or trying to reassure oneself that it is so, has
the sense of death rather than life. It is only because we have that
sense of death that we want to make sure that we are alive. We would
like to have an insurance policy. But if we feel that we are alive, that
is good enough. We do not have to make sure that we actually do
breathe, that we actually can be seen. We do not have to check to be
sure we have a shadow. Just living is enough. If we don't stop to
reassure ourselves, living becomes very clear-cut, very alive, and very
Mindfulness of Effort
"The sudden flash is a key to all Buddhist meditation, from the level
of basic mindfulness to the highest levels of tantra. But it is not
enough just to hope that a flash will come to us; there must be a
background of discipline."
The next foundation of mindfulness is mindfulness of effort. The idea
of effort is apparently problematical. Effort would seem to be at odds
with the sense of being that arises from mindfulness of body. Also,
pushing of any kind does not have an obvious place in the touch-and-go
technique of the mindfulness of life.
In either case, deliberate, heavy-handed effort would seem to
endanger the open precision of the process of mindfulness. Still we
cannot expect proper mindfulness to develop without some kind of
exertion on our part. Effort is necessary. But the Buddhist notion of
right effort is quite different from conventional definitions of effort.
The traditional Buddhist analogy for right effort is the walk of an
elephant or tortoise. The elephant moves along surely, unstoppably, with
great dignity. Like the worm, it is not excitable, but unlike the worm,
it has a panoramic view of the ground it is treading on. Though it is
serious and slow, because of the elephant's ability to survey the ground
there is a sense of playfulness and intelligence in its movement.
In the case of meditation, trying to develop an inspiration that is
based on wanting to forget one's pain and on trying to make one's
practice thrive on a sense of continual accomplishment is quite
immature. On the other hand, too much solemnity and dutifulness creates a
lifeless and narrow outlook and a stale psychological environment. The
style of right effort, as taught by the Buddha, is serious but not too
serious. It takes advantage of the natural flow of instinct to bring the
wandering mind constantly back to the mindfulness of breathing.
The crucial point in the bringing-back process is that it is not
necessary to go through deliberate stages. It is not a question of
forcing the mind back to some particular object, but of bringing it back
down from the dream world into reality. We are breathing, we are
sitting. That is what we are doing, and we should be doing it
completely, fully, wholeheartedly.
There is a kind of technique, or trick, here that is extremely
effective and useful, not only for sitting meditation, but also in daily
life, or meditation-in-action. The way of coming back is through what
we might call the abstract watcher. This watcher is just simple
self-consciousness, without aim or goal.
When we encounter anything, the first flash that takes place is the
bare sense of duality, of separateness. On that basis, we begin to
evaluate, pick and choose, make decisions, execute our will. The
abstract watcher is just the basic sense of separateness-the plain
cognition of being there before any of the rest develops.
Instead of condemning this self-consciousness as dualistic, we take
advantage of this tendency in our psychological system and use it as the
basis of the mindfulness of effort. The experience is just a sudden
flash of the watcher's being there. At that point we don't think, "I
must get back to the breath" or "I must try and get away from these
thoughts." We don't have to entertain a deliberate and logical movement
of mind that repeats to itself the purpose of sitting practice. There is
just suddenly a general sense that something is happening here and now,
and we are brought back. Abruptly, immediately, without a name, without
the application of any kind of concept, we have a quick glimpse of
changing the tone. That is the core of the mindfulness of effort
One of the reasons that ordinary effort becomes so dreary and
stagnant is that our intention always develops a verbalization. Any kind
of sense of duty we might have is always verbalized, though the speed
of conceptual mind is so great that we may not even notice the
verbalization. Still, the contents of the verbalization are clearly
felt. This verbalization pins the effort to a fixed frame of reference,
which makes it extremely tiresome.
In contrast, the abstract effort we are talking about flashes in a
fraction of a second, without any name or any idea with it. It is just a
jerk, a sudden change of course which does not define its destination.
The rest of the effort is just like an elephant's walk-going slowly,
step by step, observing the situation around us.
You could call this abstract self-consciousness leap if you like, or
jerk, or sudden reminder; or you could call it amazement. Sometimes it
could also be also felt as panic, unconditioned panic, because of the
change of course-something comes to us and changes our whole course. If
we work with this sudden jerk, and do so with no effort in the effort,
then effort becomes self-existing. It stands on its own two feet, so to
speak, rather than needing another effort to trigger it off.
This kind of effort is extremely important. The sudden flash is a key
to all Buddhist meditation, from the level of basic mindfulness to the
highest levels of tantra. Such mindfulness of effort could definitely be
considered the most important aspect of mindfulness practice.
Mindfulness of body creates the general setting; it brings meditation
into the psychosomatic setup of one's life. Mindfulness of life makes
meditation practice personal and intimate. Mindfulness of effort makes
meditation workable: it connects the foundations of mindfulness to the
path, to the spiritual journey. It is like the wheel of a chariot, which
makes the connection between the chariot and the road, or like the oar
of a boat. Mindfulness of effort actualizes the practice; it makes it
But we have a problem here. Mindfulness of effort cannot be
deliberately manufactured: on the other hand, it is not enough just to
hope that a flash will come to us and we will be reminded. There must be
a background of discipline which sets the tone of the sitting practice.
Effort is important on this level also; it is the sense of not having
the faintest indulgence toward any form of entertainment. We have to
give something up. Unless we give up our reservations about taking the
practice seriously, it is virtually impossible to have that kind of
instantaneous effort dawn on us. So it is extremely important to have
respect for the practice, a sense of appreciation, and a willingness to
Once we do have a sense of commitment to relating with things as they
actually are, we have opened the way to the flash that reminds us:
that, that, that. "That what?" does not apply any more. Just that, which
triggers an entirely new state of consciousness and brings us back
automatically to mindfulness of breathing or a general sense of being.
We work hard at not being diverted into entertainment. Still, in some
sense, we can enjoy the very boring situation of the practice of
sitting meditation. We can actually appreciate not having lavish
resources of entertainment available. Because of having already included
our boredom and ennui, we have nothing to run away from and we feel
completely secure and grounded.
This basic sense of appreciation is another aspect of the background
that makes it possible for the spontaneous flash of the reminder to
occur more easily. This is said to be like falling in love. When we are
in love with someone, because our whole attitude is open toward that
person somehow or other we get a sudden flash of that person not as a
name or as a concept of what the person looks like; those are
afterthoughts. We get an abstract flash of our lover as that. A flash of
that comes into our mind first. Then we might ponder on that flash,
elaborate on it, enjoy our daydreams about it. But all this happens
afterward. The flash is primal.
Mindfulness of Mind
"Mind functions singly. Once. And once. One thing at a time. Things
always happen one at a time, in a direct, simple movement of mind.
Mindfulness of mind is to be there with that one-shot perception,
Often mindfulness is referred to as watchfulness. But that should not
give the impression that mindfulness means watching something
happening. Mindfulness means being watchful, rather than watching some
thing. This implies a process of intelligent alertness, rather than the
mechanical business of simply observing what happens.
Particularly the fourth foundation-mindfulness of mind-has qualities
of an aroused intelligence operating. The intelligence of the fourth
foundation is a sense of light-handedness. If you open the windows and
doors of a room the right amount, you can maintain the interior feeling
of roomness and, at the same time, have freshness from outside.
Mindfulness of mind brings that same kind of intelligent balance.
Without mind and its conflicts, we could not meditate or develop
balance, or develop anything at all for that matter. Therefore,
conflicts that arise from mind are regarded as a necessary part of the
process of mindfulness. But at the same time, those conflicts have to be
controlled enough so that we can come back to our mindfulness of
breathing. A balance has to be maintained. There has to be a certain
discipline so that we are neither totally lost in daydream nor missing
the freshness and openness that come from not holding our attention too
tightly. This balance is a state of wakefulness, mindfulness.
Mindfulness of mind means being with one's mind. When you sit and
meditate, you are there: you are being with your body, with your sense
of life or survival, with your sense of effort, and at the same time,
you are being with your mind. You are being there. Mindfulness of mind
suggests a sense of presence and a sense of accuracy in terms of being
there. You are there, therefore you can't miss yourself. If you are not
there, then you might miss yourself. But that also would be a
doubletake: if you realize you are not there, that means you are there.
That brings you back to where you are-back to square one.
The whole process is very simple, actually. Unfortunately, explaining
the simplicity takes a lot of vocabulary, a lot of grammar. However, it
is a very simple matter. And that matter concerns you and your world.
Nothing else. It does not particularly concern enlightenment, and it
does not particularly concern metaphysical comprehension. In fact, this
simple matter does not particularly concern the next minute, or the
minute before this one. It only concerns the very small area where we
Really we operate on a very small basis. We think we are great,
broadly significant, and that we cover a whole large area. We see
ourselves as having a history and a future, and here we are in our
big-deal present. But if we look at ourselves clearly in this very
moment, we see we are just grains of sand-just little people concerned
only with this little dot which is called nowness.
We can only operate on one dot at a time, and mindfulness of mind
approaches our experience in that way. We are there and we approach
ourselves on the very simple basis of that. That does not particularly
have many dimensions, many perspectives; it is just a simple thing.
Relating directly to this little dot of nowness is the right
understanding of austerity. And if we work on this basis, it is possible
to begin to see the truth of the matter, so to speak-to begin to see
what nowness really means.
This experience is very revealing in that it is very personal. It is
not personal in the sense of petty and mean. The idea is that this
experience is your experience. You might be tempted to share it with
somebody else, but then it becomes their experience, rather than what
you wished for: your/their experience, jumbled together. You can never
achieve that. People have different experiences of reality, which cannot
be jumbled together. Invaders and dictators of all kinds have tried to
make others have their experience, to make a big concoction of minds
controlled by one person. But that is impossible. Everyone who has tried
to make that kind of spiritual pizza has failed. So you have to accept
that your experience is personal. The personal experience of nowness is
very much there and very obviously there. You cannot even throw it away!
In sitting practice, or in the awareness practice of everyday life,
for that matter, you are not trying to solve a wide array of problems.
You are looking at one situation that is very limited. It is so limited
that there is not even room to be claustrophobic. If it is not there, it
is not there. You missed it. If it is there, it is there. That is the
pinpoint of mindfulness of mind, that simplicity of total
up-to-dateness, total directness. Mind functions singly. Once. And once.
One thing at a time.
The practice of mindfulness of mind is to be there with that one-shot
perception, constantly. You get a complete picture from which nothing
is missing: that is happening, now that is happening, now that is
happening. There is no escape. Even if you focus yourself on escaping,
that is also a one-shot movement of which you could be mindful. You can
be mindful of your escape-of your sexual fantasy or your aggression
Things always happen one at a time, in a direct, simple movement of
mind. Therefore, in the technique of mindfulness of mind, it is
traditionally recommended that you be aware of each single-shot
perception of mind as thinking: "I am thinking I hear a sound." "I am
thinking I smell a scent." "I am thinking I feel hot." "I am thinking I
feel cold." Each one of these is a total approach to experience-very
precise, very direct, one single movement of mind.
Things always happen in that direct way. That one-shot reality is all
there is. Obviously we can make up an illusion. We can imagine that we
are conquering the universe by multiplying ourselves into hundreds of
aspects and personalities: the conquering and the conquered. But that is
like the dream state of someone who is actually asleep. There is only
the one shot; everything happens only once. There is just that.
Therefore mindfulness of mind is applicable.
So meditation practice has to be approached in a very simple and very
basic way. That seems to be the only way that it will apply to our
experience of what we actually are. That way, we do not get into the
illusion that we can function as a hundred people at once. When we lose
the simplicity we begin to be concerned about ourselves: "While I'm
doing this, such-and-such is going to happen. What shall I do?" Thinking
that more than that is happening, we get involved in hope and fear in
relation to all kinds of things that are not actually happening.
Really it does not work that way. While we are doing that, we are
doing that. If something else happens, we are doing something else. But
two things cannot happen at once; it is impossible. It is easy to
imagine that two things are happening at once, because our journey back
and forth between the two may be very speedy. But even then we are doing
only one thing at a time.
It is necessary to take that logic all the way and realize that even
to apply bare attention to what we are doing is impossible. If we try,
we have two personalities: one personality is the bare attention; the
other personality is doing things. Real bare attention is being there
all at once. We do not apply bare attention to what we are doing; we are
not mindful of what we are doing. That is impossible. Mindfulness is
the act as well as the experience, happening at the same time.
Obviously, we could have a somewhat dualistic attitude at the beginning,
before we get into real mindfulness, that we are willing to be mindful,
willing to surrender, willing to discipline ourselves. But then we do
the thing; we just do it. It is like the famous Zen saying "When I eat, I
eat; when I sleep, I sleep." You just do it, with absolutely no
implication behind what you are doing, not even of mindfulness.
These teachings were first given at the 1973 Vajradhatu Seminary and are abridged from 'The Heart of the Buddha' by Chögyam Trungpa.