Author Topic: Can thinking and doing coincide with awareness  (Read 672 times)

Dharmic Tui

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Can thinking and doing coincide with awareness
« on: March 17, 2018, 11:59:39 AM »
Hi All,

I haven't posted much in recent times so I hope this post finds you well.

Through my practice I find myself developing an increasing sense of presence. It is beyond thought and beyond words, and is devoid of me projecting myself onto experience. I can manage this more and more consistently through my meditation, and also randomly throughout the course of my day.

One thing that strikes me is the almost bipolar nature between the experience of being present, and the experience of going about my daily life in all its forms, whether it's through my paid work or my personal life. It seems a pre-requisite that to function in the world your mind has to project itself into the future in order to successfully plan and devise, as well as recall the past. And the volume of information and micro transactions required to go through a day means my mind is spread across several dozen topics and though strings. It's like my brain is a computer and it has to load the interface that is my ego in order for it to function properly, with me having a restricted amount of control.

I guess what I'm trying to get at, is how conducive is a modern layperson's life to achieving sustained periods of presence and calm? To me it seems like the only plausible route is to drastically strip back my life and what I'm doing in it.

Peace.
« Last Edit: March 17, 2018, 12:03:25 PM by Dharmic Tui »

raushan

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Re: Can thinking and doing coincide with awareness
« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2018, 03:10:00 PM »
Hi DT,

It's good to know about your experience. I don't have much experience yet so can't say much about it.

In Goenka Jee retreat He was telling about his teacher U Ba Khin. He was the accountant general of the Burma. And he was managing quite efficiently his task. But later he became full time teacher.  Also, Can we take example of Dalai Lama?

I don't know but may be clarity will come to you if you keep practicing.

Middleway

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Re: Can thinking and doing coincide with awareness
« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2018, 11:47:39 PM »
DT, it is very heartwarming to see your progress on the path. Yes, if it is possible, and not at the cost of your duties and responsibilities for your immediate family, you should devote as much time as possible to the path. Spend as much time on the cushion or even try and attend a 3-month retreat if possible. It is also very critical that you speak with a person who is much ahead of you on the path (I realize it is not easy finding such a person) but nonetheless you should try. Good luck!

Warm regards,

Middleway



Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

Alex

  • Member
Re: Can thinking and doing coincide with awareness
« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2018, 12:53:28 PM »
Interesting topic, both from a ‘dharmic’ as from a practical (life choice) perspective.

What intrigues me personally when such questions are brought up is “What is the ‘friction’ that is causing these questions to be asked? And why now?” I write these as rhetorical questions, by the way, not requiring an answer on my account. ;)

I kind of like your image of an ego-interface that needs to be loaded, enabling access to certain functions that are useful in daily life, like evaluating, choosing,… ‘choosing’ triggers ‘choiceless awareness’ which triggers the idea of “choiceless awareness while making a choice.”

Is this possible, is your question.

For me this triggers the idea of urgency or necessity as opposed to habitual or automatic tendencies. Urgency, or necessity, for me refers to an adequate or wise and definitely immediate response to a present situation, after which it can be let go of.
For example, there is no need to think of past, until there is some direct need, let’s say a customer that comes to you if you work in customer service. Then you go over some past events to come to some kind of conclusion that leads to some kind of action, maybe after taking into account some other (maybe future) factors. All this happens because of a concrete and present need, and is very different from habitual or fear-induced tendencies to think of past and future.

Off course daily life, as opposed to a simple and secluded life, is full of these kind situations in all of which we have the possibility to identify or lose ourselves.

Is it possible to practice under such conditions? Off course, as I’m sure you know. But if there is more need to access the interface then surely there will be less sustained periods of calm. Maybe then this becomes a question of what you value and why. I remember feeling offended when a zen teacher would say that concentration may lead to states of great calm and added “if that is what you value”.

I often savour(ed) the idea(l) of a stripped down (borderline monastic) life. God knows I’ve intensely struggled with the question, often after retreats. I’ve made a different choice, which I balance with islands of seclusion, small ones in daily life and larger ones periodically. Even though my practice is very stable, presence in daily life is consequently not as stable as in more secluded conditions, but nevertheless always there. When I find myself identifying with the ego / story / person, all it takes is to remember. And even though it fluctuates, it also seems to be something that becomes easier to do / remember, even under stressful conditions, the latter sometimes still a big surprise to me.

So a lay life is conducive to practice, which you also indirectly state in your opening post.

I guess that for me the choice of the lay - and sometimes (stress)full – life is the result of weighing the value of progression/practice with other values.

The life choice also impacts meditation, first part of which is about letting be all the strings of daily life, sometimes all session (evening more then morning). For me, that’s where my practice is, disidentifying with all that happens, finding that still presence in the whirl of daily life. Conversely, during longer retreats, I prefer to develop concentration over insight, exploring these deep states of calm.
Again, all this at this point in my life/practice, relative to other values.

May you find these (personal) reflections useful in some way.

Peace to you too! ;)

stillpointdancer

  • stillpointdancer
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  • Retired teacher, deepening understanding of Dharma
    • Insight meditation
    • Exploring the results of 30 years of meditating
Re: Can thinking and doing coincide with awareness
« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2018, 10:34:41 AM »
Hi All,

One thing that strikes me is the almost bipolar nature between the experience of being present, and the experience of going about my daily life in all its forms, whether it's through my paid work or my personal life. It seems a pre-requisite that to function in the world your mind has to project itself into the future in order to successfully plan and devise, as well as recall the past. And the volume of information and micro transactions required to go through a day means my mind is spread across several dozen topics and though strings. It's like my brain is a computer and it has to load the interface that is my ego in order for it to function properly, with me having a restricted amount of control.

I guess what I'm trying to get at, is how conducive is a modern layperson's life to achieving sustained periods of presence and calm? To me it seems like the only plausible route is to drastically strip back my life and what I'm doing in it.

Peace.
I sometimes think the opposite, that our initial experience of meditation in a quiet, calm environment misses the point. It was Hakuin Ekaku who emphasized that 'Contemplation within activity is a million times better than contemplation within stillness'. In other words, practice within the busy, complex world we live in makes for more progress than practice within sustained periods of presence and calm. We just have to find what works for us when we are in full-on activity.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

BeHereNow

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Re: Can thinking and doing coincide with awareness
« Reply #5 on: March 23, 2018, 08:52:56 PM »
So nice to hear from you, DT!

Such an interesting question.

What is working for me lately is noticing what I am doing as I am doing it, including the planning and going to past or future.  For example, in my work I can be quite absorbed in a task, but if I don't have awareness of body sensations and breath at the same time there is some habitual pattern there (usually a forward momentum to getting something done).  Once I can be aware of the task, body sensations and breath altogether, the thinking involved in the task is another observable pattern, not me.  So I can have full present moment awareness, and be thinking at the same time.

This different than absorption, for sure, but I think a good place to be.  I've mentioned it in another post but so helpful it's worth a repeat, the book "Work" by Thich Nhat Hanh is so good at demonstrating how to go about the day with full awareness.

Choices about life I think are a bit different, more about what you would most enjoy and taking small steps to get there.  It could be that there is a strong desire for a different kind of life that is coming forth and worth paying attention to.

Much metta,
Paula
"You are the Sky.  Everything else is just the weather." - Pema Chodron

dharma bum

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Re: Can thinking and doing coincide with awareness
« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2018, 02:00:43 PM »
Quote
I sometimes think the opposite, that our initial experience of meditation in a quiet, calm environment misses the point. It was Hakuin Ekaku who emphasized that 'Contemplation within activity is a million times better than contemplation within stillness'. In other words, practice within the busy, complex world we live in makes for more progress than practice within sustained periods of presence and calm. We just have to find what works for us when we are in full-on activity.

i am in complete agreement. if your natural environment is chaotic and stressful, only the acquisition of calmness in the chaotic and stressful environment counts.
Mostly ignorant

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Can thinking and doing coincide with awareness
« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2018, 08:18:00 PM »
DT, it is very heartwarming to see your progress on the path. Yes, if it is possible, and not at the cost of your duties and responsibilities for your immediate family, you should devote as much time as possible to the path. Spend as much time on the cushion or even try and attend a 3-month retreat if possible. It is also very critical that you speak with a person who is much ahead of you on the path (I realize it is not easy finding such a person) but nonetheless you should try. Good luck!

Warm regards,

Middleway
Thanks Middleway. I'm attending a short week long retreat in June so we'll see how that goes.

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Can thinking and doing coincide with awareness
« Reply #8 on: March 24, 2018, 08:24:15 PM »
I sometimes think the opposite, that our initial experience of meditation in a quiet, calm environment misses the point. It was Hakuin Ekaku who emphasized that 'Contemplation within activity is a million times better than contemplation within stillness'. In other words, practice within the busy, complex world we live in makes for more progress than practice within sustained periods of presence and calm. We just have to find what works for us when we are in full-on activity.
It's not so much the physical activity that's the problem, as it is the requirement for your mind to be in other places other than the present.

I'm a painter by trade (buildings, not pictures), and am able to be present while performing the task of painting, or driving, or cooking, going for a walk, etc. The challenge is more around the management side of things. If you're devising a health and safety plan, you have to be thinking in the future about all possible hazards and issues, if someone calls wanting you to have a meeting with them, you have to think about what you're doing in the short term, and when you can fit them in. Someone else might talk to you about a job you've already done, and you have to try and put yourself in the past. Then there's all the stream of emails and messages, bills to pay, quotes to do, etc etc. Doing any of those pulls me away from the present moment, and doing a lot of them in succession, which is often the case, has me firmly embedded in the ego mind for prolonged periods.

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Can thinking and doing coincide with awareness
« Reply #9 on: March 24, 2018, 08:26:13 PM »
So nice to hear from you, DT!

Such an interesting question.

What is working for me lately is noticing what I am doing as I am doing it, including the planning and going to past or future.  For example, in my work I can be quite absorbed in a task, but if I don't have awareness of body sensations and breath at the same time there is some habitual pattern there (usually a forward momentum to getting something done).  Once I can be aware of the task, body sensations and breath altogether, the thinking involved in the task is another observable pattern, not me.  So I can have full present moment awareness, and be thinking at the same time.

This different than absorption, for sure, but I think a good place to be.  I've mentioned it in another post but so helpful it's worth a repeat, the book "Work" by Thich Nhat Hanh is so good at demonstrating how to go about the day with full awareness.

Choices about life I think are a bit different, more about what you would most enjoy and taking small steps to get there.  It could be that there is a strong desire for a different kind of life that is coming forth and worth paying attention to.

Much metta,
Paula
Thanks Paula, I'll check out that book.

Perhaps you are right in a way, although I have altered my life a lot over the last 6-7 years, going from living in the city to living in the sticks, it is still filled with a lot of tasks. Challenging though when I have responsibilities to my family and the bank.

Middleway

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Re: Can thinking and doing coincide with awareness
« Reply #10 on: March 25, 2018, 02:25:23 AM »
I'm a painter by trade (buildings, not pictures), and am able to be present while performing the task of painting, or driving, or cooking, going for a walk, etc. The challenge is more around the management side of things. If you're devising a health and safety plan, you have to be thinking in the future about all possible hazards and issues, if someone calls wanting you to have a meeting with them, you have to think about what you're doing in the short term, and when you can fit them in. Someone else might talk to you about a job you've already done, and you have to try and put yourself in the past. Then there's all the stream of emails and messages, bills to pay, quotes to do, etc etc. Doing any of those pulls me away from the present moment, and doing a lot of them in succession, which is often the case, has me firmly embedded in the ego mind for prolonged periods.

As long as we are aware of the task being done by body or mind in the present moment, it is considered to be present moment awareness. Yes, it is relatively easy to be aware of body and what it is doing the present moment as opposed to be aware of mental activity. Planning health and safety, emails, message, quotes etc. are mental activities or tasks and it is much more difficult to not get caught up and get lost in a thought train. For example, if a client asks for a deep discount that is so unreasonable, it is difficult to not get caught up and have a thought train like who is this idiot...I am not working for charity etc. Tasks like planning for future or thinking about past as long as we are acutely aware of that mental task in the present moment, it can still be considered present moment awareness.

First we should train to establish Shamatha  or tranquility of mind. You seem to have established that. Then, observe the nature of the mind ie. when it is angry, elated, depressed etc. Then observe the nature of the thoughts. It is said that all these emotions and thoughts are the same mind which is empty awareness. This empty awareness which is aware of the state of mind in the present moment is called undistracted ordinary mind and that is the goal. This is the gist of my understanding from the book "clarifying the natural state" by Dakpo Tashi Namgyal. This book is a must have for those who want to understand the nature of the mind.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2018, 03:14:52 AM by Middleway »
Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

stillpointdancer

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    • Insight meditation
    • Exploring the results of 30 years of meditating
Re: Can thinking and doing coincide with awareness
« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2018, 11:21:47 AM »
I sometimes think the opposite, that our initial experience of meditation in a quiet, calm environment misses the point. It was Hakuin Ekaku who emphasized that 'Contemplation within activity is a million times better than contemplation within stillness'. In other words, practice within the busy, complex world we live in makes for more progress than practice within sustained periods of presence and calm. We just have to find what works for us when we are in full-on activity.
It's not so much the physical activity that's the problem, as it is the requirement for your mind to be in other places other than the present.

I'm a painter by trade (buildings, not pictures), and am able to be present while performing the task of painting, or driving, or cooking, going for a walk, etc. The challenge is more around the management side of things. If you're devising a health and safety plan, you have to be thinking in the future about all possible hazards and issues, if someone calls wanting you to have a meeting with them, you have to think about what you're doing in the short term, and when you can fit them in. Someone else might talk to you about a job you've already done, and you have to try and put yourself in the past. Then there's all the stream of emails and messages, bills to pay, quotes to do, etc etc. Doing any of those pulls me away from the present moment, and doing a lot of them in succession, which is often the case, has me firmly embedded in the ego mind for prolonged periods.

Yes, I was a primary school teacher, so nothing routine there! Very little time for anything to do with myself in the present moment when you are responsible for every minute of a class of 30 9-year olds. The trick is to start off small, such as reminding yourself to take a few deep breaths every now and then. Maybe set a vibration alarm on your phone to do so. You don't stop what you are doing, just consciously breathe for a few seconds.

After a few months you can move on to other mindfulness activities such as awareness of emotions at that point, or taking a few seconds to think about how someone you are with might be feeling. These small (a few seconds) moments of awareness gradually expand to incorporate the kinds of full-on activity you are talking about.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

 

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