Whenever you are completely aware of whatever is happening to you, you are on the road to self-realization, to inner peace. Your awareness need not be only about what you are doing – cooking, walking, breathing, washing, whatever – it is also about how you are feeling – be it pain, sorrow, anger, jealousy or anxiety. Just be fully aware. When you are aware, and immerse yourself in that awareness, you will feel peaceful.
This may sound paradoxical. How can anyone be peaceful while in pain for instance? Or when in grief? Or when angry? Indeed, as long are you have not realized your true self, chances are you will associate your present human form with your circumstances. So, when your body has a back pain, you think that you are in pain. When the human form of someone whom you loved is dead, you think you have lost that someone. So you grieve. When you are angry, you see the person at whom the anger is directed as different, as separate from you, hence the anger. But awareness changes everything. You understand the true nature of creation. You realize that you are not what you think you are. You are not this human body. You are not your car, your job, your designation, your bank balance, your relationship, your social position. The real you is detached. Is indestructible. The real you cannot be touched by any worldly event or sentiment. When this awareness dawns upon you, it leads you to peace.
Awareness is not an abstract concept. It simply requires diligent practice and training of the mind. What is otherwise called spirituality – the flowering of inner awareness! The Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Naht Hahn (lovingly called Thay by his followers) recommends developing awareness even in our busy lives. He does not advocate any special hour for this practice or training. He simply says – Focus wholesomely on your everyday tasks without getting distracted. Be mindful.
Thay says mindfulness is the way to peace. He often shares a Zen story to illustrate this point. Zen students are with their Masters for at least ten years before they are certified to teach others. Nan-in, a great Zen Master, was visited by Tenno, who, having passed his apprenticeship in record time, had just become a teacher. The day happened to be rainy, so Tenno wore wooden clogs and carried an umbrella. After greeting him, Nan-in remarked: “I suppose you left your wooden clogs by the door, outside. I want to know if your umbrella is on the right or left side of the clogs.” Tenno, caught unawares and confused, had no instant answer. He realized he was unable to carry his Zen every minute. He became Nan-in’s pupil, and studied six more years to accomplish his every-minute Zen.
So, be mindful when having your morning cup of tea – take in its aroma and let the flavor impregnate every pore of your body. Be mindful when walking – take each step with awareness and love. Be mindful while in the shower – feel the water soothe your body and lift your spirits. Be mindful while crossing the road or while being in business meetings. The key is to not let your mind wander. To be sure, the mind will resist. It will want to slip back into a painful past event or rush into the future with worry. Every time you sense that the mind is not mindful in the moment, call it back to focus on whatever you are doing. Over time, the mind will be trained not to go astray.
Each step, each moment lived mindfully is one lived in peace and joy! Through consistently living this way, through carrying your Zen every minute, become the bliss that you seek!