Making Practice a Part of Everyday Life.
January 29, 2016 § Leave a comment
Buddhist meditation practice includes integrating what is experienced in practice into every moment of daily life or, as Mumon described in his comment on the koan Mu, fully concentrating “your 360 bones and joints.” Some may take this as a directive for single-minded concentration to the exclusion of all else. Such concentration may be achievable to those in a retreat or living a monastic life. The majority however has worldly obligations that require periodic attention that preclude any such single-minded effort. This means that for most of us integration takes place as time allows. It must be remembered though that even sudden realizations need time for integration. So all attempts done now to make practice a part of daily life will eventually make realization easier to integrate when awakening does happen.
We may ask what integration is. It is not a casual or intellectual study but a gradual reworking of the mind so that the essence of the new sought after life become a natural expression in ones behavior and attitudes. The aim is to actualize practice that in a very direct way means the spontaneous and creative expression of true nature uninhibited by previous conditioning, inhibitions and dysfunctional thinking.
The ideas and constructs that condition how we see the world are a barrier to the natural expression of our true nature. The reason for this is clear. When the world is labeled as this or that it ceases to be experienced as a unitary whole. It is broken into parts with only some pieces considered valuable. At the same time one’s own nature is divided into good and bad with the latter being rejected or repressed. This act of division becomes a barrier to fully acknowledging all of the self and accepting the world as it is. The result is a feeling that something is lacking in us. A feeling that persists until the barrier of ideas and thoughts that we have constructed about us is broken through and we come to see our true nature in its entirety.
Barriers are immediately available for inspection at any time as they consist of one’s own thoughts. By just observing thought, as done in meditation, you come to see how thought regularly focuses the attention on some things while acting as a barrier to recognizing others. Further observation reveals that thought follows certain themes that create tendencies to react to situations in the same way, even when the situations are markedly different. Examples of themes are the persistent tendency to seek the approval of some nebulous authority, the continuous sabotaging of your own efforts to succeed or the belief that you are unworthy. Themes, it should be noted, are not all negative. The key point to be made about them is that they are all constructions of thought that limit you from realizing your full potential and true nature.
As your true nature is no nature at all, you are neither worthy nor unworthy, good nor bad, nor any other dualistic notion. Making practice a part of life therefore means seeing through the barriers that divide your behavior into the acceptable and unacceptable so that you are no longer limited in how you meet life. Put another way, how you respond one day does not then become the blueprint that dictates how you must respond every day. You are free to make the appropriate response as situations change.
Consider that on one occasion Joshu answered the question “Does a dog have Buddha nature?” with the word “Mu.” But on another he responded “U” or yes. In both situations Joshu was responding to the needs of the moment. To have responded with the same answer in both situations would have robbed the koan of its versatility and led to its disuse a long time ago.
It is said that each day is a chance to start over again. In Zen, each moment is an opportunity to meet life anew. Not with habitual or conditions responses, nor with the same attitudes that leave a feeling of something lacking. But with the joy and spontaneity that comes with the freedom to choose your own actions and live your own life. When viewed this way, it is very easy to take up practice with 360 bones and joints and every fibre of our being.