|Heightened level of awareness|
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When people go to a Zen monastery they are required to perform menial tasks such as sweeping the floor, cleaning and washing-up. This is not punishment.
By paying attention to a simple task and having no other concerns the individual slowly gains presence.
The meditation process is being taught: the mind drifts and is gently brought back to the task at hand. Again and again and again.
In order to avoid the mishaps caused by the habit of rushing, you must perform your daily activities with great care. Be slow, methodical and thorough. Make sure that you do them properly.
Double-check your actions in order to quality check their substance. Be prepared to start from scratch (if necessary) and do better the second time around.
wants another level of
and strives for it without distraction
like a grandmother shopping at market.
A taijiquan student who undertakes all 13 areas of study will experience significant changes in their level of awareness.
Instead of blundering around their life, they become more conscious of what is taking place. They notice things.
Instead of labelling people with words, the student begins to see: the body language, the gait, the muscular sculpture of the face expressing the emotional conditions within, the fabric of the clothing, the suitability of the clothing relative to body shape/skin colour/age/weather/terrain, postural abnormalities, patterns of muscular tension, hair cut, eye colour, eye tension, are the eyes settled and steady or flickering and restless? friendly/unfriendly, closed/open, receptivity, grace or lack of, how they step, clumsy or adept, rushing or methodical, patient or irritated, balance, emotional state, stress, evidence of learned helplessness, the speed at which they talk, the words they use, their choice of vocabulary, the tone of voice, the nature of their speech, gossip/fact/moaning/informative, curious or not? how they smell, how clean they are, how they carry things, whether their nervous system is settled or agitated .. and so much more.
These perceptions arrive in a flash; unbidden. They should not be distorted by your own views/opinions/values. Just see. And form no judgement.
Now, observe your own reactions: are you annoyed/bored/calm/happy/neutral? Does what you see prompt a train of thought? See yourself also.
Students begin to experience a more expansive range of physical sensation. The sense of touch is actually quite complex.
Within the category of 'touch' we may include: pressure, pain, temperature, shape, softness, texture and vibration. Notice a universe of physicality.
Learn to feel things in a more comprehensive, subtle manner.
Beauty and pain
The world is filled with both beauty and ugliness. See it all. Be awed by glimpses of wonder and suffering.
Do not shun the unpleasant things of life but be careful not to pollute your mind with scenes of horror and pain.
Life will provide you with your own measure of heartache: you need not seek out new sources or examples.
Most people have a faulty sense of their own body and mind. Learning to feel your own body and correlate the information it is giving you with the actual physical reality is quite a challenge.
We are yet to encounter a new starter who has any sense of muscular relaxation. To most people, 'relax' means slump and this is not correct.
The body must be slowly re-trained, re-shaped and re-patterned. This takes time, concentration and patience - most of the work is psychological, not physical.
Shed what you think you know.
Underpinning pretty much everything in existence are design principles, ideas, shapes, values. See these for what they are: the essence. Find the source.
Things appear to be separate but they often joined by common themes, values, similarities and differences.
As your mind awakens to what is right in front of you there will be a growing awareness of the connectedness of things. You will begin to see associations between wildly different areas of life.
As you work through your reading pile, you may find several authors discussing the same matter in completely different ways.
Half-heartedness and holding-back from things will perpetuate self-consciousness. Instead of diving-in, a person may often remain a spectator.
A monk asked Master Haryo,
"What is the Way?"
Haryo said, "An open-eyed man falling into the well."
Here and now
This moment is happening - right here and now - whether we surrender to it or not. Seeking to remain on the periphery is an illusion; it is not achievable in reality.
You cannot be a bystander in your own life.
Instead of undertaking a single activity - and keeping our minds on that - we undertake multiple enterprises simultaneously. Having more than one concern, we are divided. Our mind must prioritise.
There is an internal conflict between what we are doing, and other pressing concerns.
Multi-tasking is the apparent simultaneous performance of two or more tasks by a computer's central processing unit. In other words, the computer seems to be doing two things at once.
Yet, the computer is not really performing two task at the same time. It is switching resources back and forth at high speed. But can a person do two things at the same time? Perhaps. But not well.
As with a computer, the more sophisticated and challenging the separate requirements are, the more difficult it becomes to do any of the activities competently. A computer might hang, or crash.
A human forgets things, makes mistakes, becomes stressed. The pressure increases. They rush. They hurry.
Choices & confusion
People think of choosing as being about freedom. But is it? Choosing is only necessary when there is confusion. When the course is clear, you act unflinchingly. When confused, you must choose.
The problem with choosing is that a confused mind by its very condition is not capable of choosing well. If you possessed clarity, you would see. No choice would be needed.
When people are not present, they are required to choose between different concerns. In their confusion, they dither. Time and attention is divided between activities.
The mind is not present and calm. Deterioration occurs. Sloppiness creeps in. The quality diminishes. Carelessness is unavoidable.
How is harmony accomplished? By not forcing. By not imposing you own will. By immersing yourself in the event/the moment, rather than calculating and thinking.
To accomplish this you must quieten the problem-solving conscious mind, and learn to respond without choosing. Choice denotes confusion.
A clear mind sees without cogitation; and action is sure, accurate and appropriate.
Immersion involves loss of self-consciousness; a yielding to the moment. Yes, we need some sense of self in order to function, in order to survive. But it can also be a major impediment.
Instead of being one with the event, people tend to get caught-up in speculation, doubt and the avoidance of negative possibilities.
To become immersed, we must detach ourselves from thinking and pay attention to what is happening. To what is right in front of us.
The range of awareness and efficiency of the Taoist adept is
unnoticeable, imperceptible to others,
because their critical moments take place before ordinary intelligence has mapped out a description of the situation.
By seeing opportunities before they are visible to others and being quick to act,
the uncanny warrior can take situations by the throat before matters get out of hand.
9 March 1997
Last updated 29 April 2021