"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 mindfulness."
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 spirituality itself.
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,
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 states. 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 mind.
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.
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 is questionable.
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
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 mindfulness."
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
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
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 very direct.
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 precise.
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
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,
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 practice.
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 move, proceed.
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 work hard.
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, constantly."
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 are now.
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 fantasy.
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.
From The Heart of the Buddha by Chögyam
Trungpa. © 1991 Shambhala Publications