On the retreat I have just returned from it became blindingly obvious that there is only one place to practice mindfulness and that is now, now, now. And for me personally the easiest place to experience mindfulness in action is the dining hall.
I suggested to PK that we do a short presentation on mindfulness for all of the dining hall activities: of getting food,, bringing it back to the table sitting down at the table, and then the process of using forks and spoons to bring the food to the mouth, all done as mindfully and quietly as possible. The difference in the sound and activity level in the dining hall pre-and post this talk was staggering. And the interesting thing is that bringing mindfulness to movements of the body in many ways is easier than bringing mindfulness to watching the activities of the mind: one only needs to do things without making any noise at all. For me, the drawing out of a chair, the sitting down, the drawing in the chair, is experienced in the whole body and it is an immensely pleasurable thing.
I had this idea of asking PK to read one of the traditional teachings on eating because for me personally the single biggest experience of mindfulness in daily life was learning to pay attention to washing up dishes in the sink at home. The dharma teacher who was staying with me at the time wanted to know why I was rushing through this task. I said “because there are important things that I need to do and that I want to get to”. I am paraphrasing him now but his response was, “you are just kissing off part of your life every time you do that.” I felt this response in every cell in my body and I still do.
As I do not have a lot of life left I have decided not to kiss off any of it! Accordingly from that day on I try to bring mindfulness to all of those activities in daily life that I am inclined to rush through. Reflect on rushing through to get to something that you want to do instead of the thing that you’re actually doing: this is Tanha reflected back to you at 1000 watts.
And every time I’ve bumped my head in the kitchen on the exhaust fan, or bumped my shin on the edge of the bed it is Reality pointing out where one has lost the thread of mindfulness. If you are like me it happens much more often than you want to acknowledge!
Pay attention to the present moment: it is all that we have.