I think often we take our knowing for granted. Throughout the day, we are constantly recognizing things, but we are doing it at a subconscious level. It kind of needs to be that way. If we were to take the time to recognize each thing we come across, we would never get anywhere – there is so much to recognize.
But our brain can process things subconsciously. We take in a lot and know how to find the way to the door and through the door, without having to think about it. Even though so much it is done on automatic pilot sometimes, knowing is still an essential quality of being human. Without it, our human life would not be possible. Because we are so interested in our desires to do, or want, or think something, we seldom take the time to see how special it is to recognize, to know.
For deep mindfulness practice, the knowing faculty of the mind becomes increasingly important. It does so in a natural way. It is not like you have to work at knowing. But the deeper the practice goes, the more acute and clear our knowing becomes. In this way that knowing starts to be more and more liberating. It is a way of freeing ourselves. A way to greater and greater freedom.
It is very basic. When practice is strong – meditation is going well; you are concentrated and quite calm – it is interesting to notice what it is like to come out of meditation, get up from your seat and start walking. If you are really calm and settled, there is probably little tendency to want to rush into the next thing. As you walk from your meditation seat, there might be a relaxed, almost automatic, knowing that you are walking. You are so present in walking, that you just know you are walking.
There is a famous Zen story that is told sometimes. Two Zen students are talking about their respective Zen masters. One of them says, "My teacher is so great – can enter into the deepest states of concentration, can walk on water, fly through the air, all kinds of miraculous things." The second one says: "Well, my teacher, when she walks, she just walks. When she eats, she just eats. When she talks, she just talks." And the first one says, "Oh, (bowing down deeply), your teacher is really advanced."
The simplicity of just being in the experience while we are having it is sometimes such a pleasure. When meditation is quite centered and settled, that is a time when it is a pleasure that as you walk, know you are walking. You are inhabiting walking. When you are standing, know you are standing. When you are sitting, know you are sitting. And when you are lying down, know you are lying down.
This second exercise of Satipaṭṭhāna can also be seen as a way of continuing meditation into our daily life. The first exercise gets us settled. The second one is encouragement to stay present. Stay in the calm knowing in our daily life. There is continuity.
What can easily happen is that our meditation ends, and maybe we are somewhat calmer than we were before, but we get up in order to do things – take care of the next thing, make breakfast, go to work, whatever it might be. It is interesting to watch how quickly we lose touch with the simplicity of "when walking, just know you are walking."
Instead, we are already ahead of ourselves into planning what is for breakfast, what we should put together, what ingredients we will use. Then thinking about where is my newspaper, device, or pad where I will read the news. I wonder what podcasts I should listen to while I am having breakfast. On and on – we are already in the flow of all the different things. We are ahead of ourselves, thinking ahead.
There is nothing inherently wrong with that. However, it does involve a loss. It can be a loss of some deep inner connection to the present moment and to oneself. It certainly can be a pleasure to do some of these other things. I hope you do some of them with joy and delight. But if we keep losing ourselves through them throughout the day, we are lost. Many people are lost to themselves, because of all the things they are doing, thinking about, and concerned with.
These simple instructions to, "When standing, know you are standing; walking, know you are walking" – especially coming out of meditation – are a opportunity to continue the calm state you are in, and to experiment with how it is to live that way.
It is really cool, the way we can get calm, settled, and quiet – and knowing what to do next and how to do things can happen organically, automatically. We do not have to be the agent. We do not always have to be the one figuring it out. To have the arising of knowing and of intention from this place of calm tends to bring forth some of the best qualities of who we are.
Also, when you pay attention as you leave meditation, you can notice how quickly you lose your calm. This became an important turning point for me in my meditation, when I noticed how quickly I gave up my calm, settledness, and clarity when I got up from meditation, because I was on to the next thing.
To stop, or slow down and notice: what is that next thing? Where are you rushing off to? What are you getting caught in? What are the feelings? What are the beliefs? Why are you sacrificing your calm, your clarity, your centeredness? Why are you sacrificing them for other things? Is it a worthy sacrifice? Is the cost-benefit analysis in your favor that you rush off to look at the news while you are having breakfast? Is that the best use of your human life? What happens with a deep sense of connectedness in a life that arises and flows out of that?
To know simple things in the moment, as simple as your posture, and enjoy that. Also to do thinfs in such a way that we start becoming more sensitive to what we are doing with our minds, our feelings, and our life. To see more clearly how we rush off, get involved, or get preoccupied – and the ask the question" "Is this worthwhile? Is this the best use of my time?" If it is, go ahead and do it consciously. If it is not, maybe there are better things to do.
I would suggest that for most of us being calm – some modicum of calm even when we are having fun or being playful – some degree of calm, having calm close by – enhances everything, makes everything richer, fuller, and more embodied. It is not the kind of calm that would limit you, but it allows for a deeper wellspring of engagement with life. It is a great thing.
"When you walk, know you are walking. When you are standing, know you are standing. When you are sitting, know you are sitting. And when you are lying down, know you are lying down."
Thank you. I am here at IRC for a couple more days, so we will be with you here again. Thank you for for participating and I look forward to our time tomorrow.