We have now reached the current stage of my practice. As such, I will write about it in the “first-person.”
As practice continued, mindfulness became increasingly natural for me. It’s no longer difficult to let go of thoughts and sit in stillness. Yet, I found something was missing. I am not living mindfully.
Practice is therapeutic, but once it’s over, “dis-ease” tends to creep back in. “Presence” is hard to maintain throughout the day. Slow traffic angers me, as does malfunctioning mechanical devices and long hold times on the phone.
There’s a big difference between practicing mindfulness and living mindfully. Recently I’ve been searching for “practices” that bring mindfulness into daily living.
The best ones I’ve found to date are the exercises detailed in the book “Relax and Be Aware” by Sayadaw U Tejaniya.
The book details thirty-one practices, one for each day of the month. The practices are designed to bring us back to “presence.” From there, wisdom becomes our guide.
Here’s how I’m putting these to use:
1. I first condensed each practice to an easily remembered phrase that I can return to throughout the day.
2. I employ brief one-minute practices whenever I get irritated or upset. This is hard!
3. I watch how the practice changes the quality of my awareness in real-time.
I recently completed the thirty-one-day routine while experiencing a serious family medical issue. It’s hard to practice under duress, but it turned out to be the best time. Each practice takes less than a minute. The value comes from repetition rather than intensity. I noticed a big difference in the quality of awareness after each practice, especially when I was irritated or upset.
The purpose of “real-time practice” is living mindfully, moment by moment. For me, it complements rather than substitutes for meditation.
I’ve listed my daily focal points below as an illustration. Your focal points will probably differ depending on what speaks to you in the practice guide.
Relax and be Aware-Daily Practices
Am I tense or relaxed? Check often.
Don’t resist negative emotions. Let experience come as it is. Notice what awareness is doing.
When disturbed, bring attention to awareness.
Do not try for results.
Stay aware by observing what the mind does.
No need to focus; just maintain a continuous light awareness.
Keep the body and mind relaxed. Value awareness above all else.
Notice awareness often.
Accept what is. Watch the quality of awareness.
Improve the quality of awareness rather than trying to change things.
Watch and learn from disturbances.
Don’t dwell on disturbing mental reflections or anxieties. Notice when they arise, and let go of them.
Direct your attention to awareness instead of circumstances. Ask questions not to get answers but to strengthen awareness.
Agitation is a gift; watch and learn its nature instead of trying to make it go away.
If anger arises, study it down to the smallest detail. There is no way it can intensify if observed in detail.
Don’t try to have insights. As awareness increases, the mind will see for itself.
Instead of complaining about circumstances, learn from awareness.
Practice awareness to understand negative reactions.
Let things happen naturally. Unpleasant emotions are precisely what I need to understand.
Don’t worry about progress; just keep practicing.
Thoughts are the source of suffering. Notice them and let them go.
When something upsets me, watch and learn. The mind disturbs itself.
First awareness leads, later awareness and wisdom arise together, ultimately wisdom leads. Try to notice this.
Do not forget to practice when things are going well.
For awareness to become stronger, ask about it at this very moment.
Be aware before I speak and afterward as well.
Watch anger. If agitated, don’t respond. If awareness is present, I will feel good when I finish speaking rather than regret what I said.
Learn to notice intentions. When choices come from wisdom, things go well. When one responds with a “knee jerk” reaction, things go badly.
Be mindful of the intentions behind thoughts. Thoughts produce unhappiness.
Don’t fight the craving mind! Become aware of it.
Learn from life itself and not from thoughts and concepts. Bring awareness and wisdom to each moment. Nature will take over, and things will go well.
These practices are difficult. They invite a return to awareness when I’m most resistant to change.
In conclusion, each person must find their own way. The sequence I wrote about in this series is simply how my practice evolved. Remember to avoid setting goals or evaluating progress. There is no such thing as mastery.
There is no try, just do!
Practice is a life-long pursuit!
*If you haven’t read parts 1-4, it might be best to start there. They can be found at https://tim-coats.com/digging-deeper/