Mindfulness Practice During Sesshin

I want to say just a little bit about how I would like us to practice today.  When you walk, be conscious of how your feet touch the floor.  When you’re serving a meal, be careful when walking to not pound your heels on the floor. What does the floor feel like?  Am I creating a disturbance when I walk? When I carry the pot, is it up here, or down there? What does it feel like to carry this pot? When I serve someone, am I really bowing to that person, or am I just going through the motions because I’m supposed to?  If you and the other person are bowing at a different rhythm, it doesn’t make much sense; you’re missing each other.  The point is to meet each other at the bottom of the bow just for a moment.  When you open the zendo door, try to open it so that you make as little disturbance as possible.  How do you slide the bolt with your undivided attention, so that it slides easily this way and that way, opening and closing without a sound?

To be that attentive creates a mindful atmosphere.  When we use our eating bowls, we pick them up and put them down in such a way that we don’t make a sound.  We should keep the same concentration during work period, being careful not to start up a conversation with somebody.  Sometimes when we’re discussing a project, we get caught up in a conversation without thinking about it or without being aware of it, in the same way that thoughts come up in zazen.  Before we realize it, we’ve become involved in some fantasy.  So when we become aware that our conversation is getting out of bounds, we can just bow and return to silence.

When working in the kitchen, it’s good to figure out a systematic way to arrange your space in order to work efficiently.  Take care of the food and equipment so you don’t have things piling up around you while you’re working in a small crowded space.  Keep the whole thing moving so that you don’t find yourself cornered.  In order to do that, you have to clean up as you go, taking care of the ingredients and the tools, aware that you are also working in harmony with others.  Let go of anxiety, knowing that if you pay attention, everything will come out on time.

Having that kind of concentrated absorption, we can forget ourselves in our activity.  Let yourself immediately accept the total situation, adjusting to changes without judgment or regret; “This is good or bad.” “This is right or wrong.” “Why did that have to happen?” Just to do is how you drop yourself and merge with the activity in a selfless way.  Even if you’re doing something that you don’t like, you can still have freedom within it.  Keep returning to your deep, calm mind from moment to moment and abide in the samadhi of equanimity.