I kept my mind occupied with awareness all the time. When I was working (in the market), I had open awareness as much as I could. The moment I was sitting still, I would do something focusing.
I would put my 5 fingers in both hands together and pay attention to the set of thumbs touching. I would keep focusing until I couldn’t see the other fingers anymore. At that point, I would stop paying attention to the thumbs and go on with the next set of fingers. I would focus on this set of fingers until they were the only thing I could know and the others faded, then I would switch to the 3rd set of fingers.
I would do these exercises in all these different ways to keep the mindfulness working because when I was sitting still and left it to open awareness, I could drift into thinking. So, I made it a very deliberate kind of awareness.
Because of these exercises done on focusing, when it gained momentum maybe 9 months or a year later, it got to the point that whenever I did have defilements I started doing the focusing exercises. Say, I was anxious about something and I had a break – I would stop the thoughts and just watched the feelings, they would just disappear because of the power of the focusing I had developed; not by focusing hard, but just because of the months of continuous practice that I had put in.
[Elsewhere, Sayadaw: Somebody shows you a foot … and you can see a mile of possibilities from it.]