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Buddhadharma : Summer 2015
summer 2015 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 69 are sitting at a computer, we are lost. We forget the body and become stressed. We’re not really doing what we’re doing. We are not “all there.” Yet we’ve heard many teachers say over and over that the practice of mindfulness is here and now. The Bud- dha said, “The past is dead, the future’s not yet born.” The only reality we have access to is this reality. Here. Now. We need techniques; we need forms to help bring ourselves back to this moment. But the spirit is awareness. The forms are the tech- niques that help us realize that quality of awareness. So if your use of meditation techniques nour- ishes your faith and deepens your confidence, do continue. If the artist’s approach appeals to you, if you have a slightly creative, wild, deviant impulse to meditate in a different way, don’t necessarily be afraid of it. It might be your mind coming to help you on this inner journey. again. The other person might say, “But I can’t think about my problem while I’m standing on one leg!” I could reply, “Well, good, because that’s why you rang me up—you can’t stop thinking about your problem.” I’m not trying to be flippant; this exercise is useful if you find yourself lost. There are so many techniques to aid mindfulness. Ajahn Chah wouldn’t allow electricity in the mon- astery for many years because he wanted us to pull water from the well by hand. He thought that was a good way of embodying mindfulness practice. I know of a Zen monastery where the abbot wouldn’t allow a washing machine because he thought the monks and nuns would become lazy. Eventually, when the monastery did acquire a washing machine, the abbot said, “Okay, when you put your clothes in the washing machine, you must sit and watch the washing go round and round in a circle. You can’t just push the button and go away and get heedless again. You’ve got to sit there.” Ajahn Chah banned cigarette smoking at his monastery, but when I first ordained, I lived in a monastery in Bangkok where it was allowed. The rule was that you weren’t allowed to smoke unless you were sitting down, so if you were going to smoke, you had to smoke fully. Of course, I’m not advocating that particular practice. But the mes- sage being conveyed, the spirit encoded in the form, was to do what you’re doing fully. If you’re writ- ing an email, fully write the email. Often when we The contemplative life is better viewed as an artistic exercise. In any art form, such as playing a musical instrument, we first need to learn the skills involved. But once we’ve internalized those techniques, once they’ve really become ours, we can let the spirit of the artist flow.