Day 10
How am I going to live today?

Spirit Rock Meditation Center Retreat, April 25-May 9, 2015

Translation from Burmese by Ma Thet and transcription and editing by Douglas McGill

Take interest in your own practice.

Life, in Pali, is "bhava," it means "becoming." The process of the mind coming into being, and passing away, and coming into being again, over and over, is this endless process we call life.

For the dhamma to be part of this life, every moment of becoming of the mind, every moment the mind comes into being, it must be a moment that coexists with wisdom, mindfulness. Then the dhamma is in life.

If we try to separate the dhamma from life, that doesn't work too well. In the practice there is the practice that you put in, and the effects of the practice. Whatever you put into the practice, you will get out of it.

Greed tends to be preoccupied with the effects, the results of the practice. Whereas wisdom sees the process that needs to take place, sees the steps that need to be taken, learns what is suitable in different situations to keep the dhamma alive.

Every morning when you wake up, you have to set the intention, how am I going to live today? How will I look after the mind? So you sort of clear the path, set the intention for how you are going to bring the dhamma into your life that day. Then we are more likely to put it into application, to actually follow the commitment, or fulfill the commitment. We need to have an objective every day when we wake up.

And we have to be willing to attempt to practice in every situation and environment, because in every situation and environment you will need different skills. You will need to learn new ways to be effectively mindful.

What is it like when you are alone, and what works to be mindful when you are alone? What is it like when you are with other people? What do you need to do, to be effectively mindful when you are with other people? When you understand and learn from trying in these situations over and over again, you will become more skillful.

It's important to be able to learn the skill of how to maintain stability of mind, and from there wisdom can grow further. First we learn the skill of how to just practice, and then wisdom develops. What we must remember is what that practice is like. How we practiced. What led to that insight? Not just moments before but the whole journey? When we become more skillful at remembering that and applying that, and we are getting more insights, we learn to use the insights we already have. We remember them and learn to remember they are there. After that, as those understandings also continue to grow, you begin to learn how to reach further than that. But all in good time. There is no need to think about it now. It will happen at that time.

It's like earning money. You first learn how to earn money. Then once you are earning money, you must know how to save the money, how to keep it with you, how to use it and not squander it. Then when you have saved quite a bit of money, you need to know how to grow your money. That's a different skill, investing it effectively.

For the dhamma to be growing, we have to be with it all the time. We not only have to maintain it to have insights, but we maintain it to keep the insights going. To keep them fresh and alive. The moment we stop having the dhamma in our lives, having it in our minds, then what we have learned starts fading little by little as well.

The benefits of the presence of awareness, and the fallout from the absence of awareness, we need to differentiate these. We need to recognize these in order to appreciate awareness better, mindfulness better, to appreciate its value.

Someone who understands how invaluable the dhamma is in learning how to live life skillfully and at ease, would never think of not having the dhamma in their lives. Most of us remember to apply mindfulness when we are suffering. The moment things get better, the mind feels more relaxed and we forget to continue to be mindful.

But if we don't want to be mindful in those times when we are relaxed, then the defilements are allowed to grow again and they will come again, with lots of strength and added force, and we get busy trying to clear those defilements again. We are in a cycle of trying to deal with these huge defilements when they hit us. Because we are never prepared, we don't maintain a steady practice that incrementally reduces the power of the defilements.

Whatever you try to fill up, if it is leaking why you are trying to fill it, it will never fill up. But if you can stop all the leaks, plug all those holes or gaps, then you can fill it up.

So what is the weakness in our lives? What are our biggest triggers? We start by noticing those and working with those and clearing those. And learning to maintain clarity after the fact, learning the skill of not allowing things to get to the point of being overwhelming. That is the practice of maintenance.

If we ask ourselves very simply, very honestly, just leave that door wide open and ask yourself, why is mindfulness not continuous in my life? Why does it not become natural? It's because in a sense we want to have defilements in our lives. We want to live with them, we are used to them, we are comfortable with them.

But if we become able to learn and understand the benefits of the wholesome, and the non-benefits of the non-wholesome, not by judging but by truly understanding, then the mind will move towards more and more skillful states of mind and practices.

Wisdom has this interesting quality that it always sees both sides of a story. When it sees the benefits of something wisdom also sees that without it there would be the opposite—not just a lack of benefit but probably some trouble. That there is harm in the opposite.

Wakefulness means that wisdom is strong, awareness is present but wisdom is strong. When things change the mind is alert, wakeful and is able to learn lessons from these.

Notice just from this sitting, when you finish this session and you get up to go, the quality of mind changes. Look at the sense of commitment you have to being aware while you are sitting. Then you get up to go and why does it change? Are you carrying that same commitment with you, that same zeal to be mindful? The changes of the body postures should be unimportant. They are unimportant. This need to keep being mindful needs to stay with you.

When there is awareness and wisdom, the body may become tired but the mind does not become tired. But if there is no awareness or wisdom, then the mind also becomes tired because the defilements arise. Then the body is tired, there are reactions to what is happening and the mind gets tired. But when the dhamma is present you might even be ill and the mind develops awareness, stability of mind and wisdom instead of defilements.

Please put some vigor, commitment and zeal into awareness of daily activities. Detail and continuity.