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Lions Roar : May 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2008 66 is why empty rituals don’t mean anything. For all of us—priest, monk, and layperson—our practice is to generate the energy of concentration and mindfulness. When we do something deeply and authentically, it becomes a real ritual. When we pick up a glass of water and drink it, if we’re truly concentrated in the act of drinking, it is a ritu- al. When we walk with all our being, investing one hundred percent of ourselves into making a step, mindfulness and con- centration become a reality. That step generates the energy of mindfulness and concentration that makes life possible, deep, and real. If we make a second step like that, we maintain that concentration. Walking like that, it looks like we are perform- ing a rite. But in fact we’re not performing; we’re just living deeply every moment of our lives. Even a daily habit like eating breakfast, when done as a prac- tice, can be powerful. It generates the energy of mindfulness and concentration that makes life authentic. When we prepare breakfast, it can also be a practice. We can be really alive, fully present, and very happy during breakfast-making. We can see making breakfast as mundane work or as a privilege—it just depends on our way of looking. The cold water is available. The hot water is available. The soap is available. The kettle is avail- able. The fire is available. The food is available. Everything is there to make our happiness a possibility. If we are caught in our worries and anger, or in the past or the future, then, although we’re making breakfast, we’re not there. We’re not alive. If you are cutting carrots, you should invest one hundred percent of yourself into the business of carrot-cutting. Noth- ing else. While cutting the carrot, please don’t try to think of the Buddha or anything else. Just cut the carrot in the best way possible, becoming one with the carrot, becoming one with the cutting. Live deeply that moment of carrot-cutting. It is as im- portant as the practice of sitting meditation. It is as important as giving or hearing a dharma talk. When you cut the carrot with all of your being, that is mindfulness. If you can cultivate concentration, and if you can get the insight you need to liber- ate yourself from suffering, that is because you know how to cut your carrots. You can clean the toilet in the spirit of mindfulness, in- vesting all of yourself into the cleaning, making it into a joy- ful practice. Do one thing at a time. Do it deeply. There are many wonders of life that are available in the here and the now. Without mindfulness, you may be angry that you have to clean the toilet or feel resentful, and neglect and ignore the wonders around you. Many of us don’t allow ourselves to be relaxed. Why do we always try to run and run, even while having our breakfast, while having our lunch, while walking, while sitting? There’s something pushing and pulling us all the time. We make our- selves busy in the hopes of having happiness in the future. In the sutra “Knowing the Better Way to Live Alone,” the Buddha said clearly, “Don’t get caught in the past, because the past is gone. Don’t get upset about the future, because the future is not yet here. There is only one moment for you to be alive, and that is the pres- ent moment. Go back to the present moment and live this moment deeply, and you’ll be free.” How do we liberate ourselves in order to really be in the here and the now? Buddhist meditation offers the practice of stopping. Stopping is very important, because we’ve been running all our lives, and also in our previous lives. Our ancestors, our grandfather, our grandmother were running, and now they continue to run in us. If we don’t practice, our children will carry us in them and continue to run in the future. A practitioner has the right to suf- fer, but a practitioner does not have the right not to practice. People who are not practitioners allow their pain, sorrow, and anguish to overwhelm them, and to push them to say and do things they don’t want to do and say. We who consider our- selves to be practitioners have the right to suffer like everyone else. It’s OK to suffer; it’s OK to be angry. We can learn to stop MAY 64-67.indd 66 MAY 64-67.indd 66 3/6/08 11:32:03 AM 3/6/08 11:32:03 AM