Just Do It | Sunday Observer

Just Do It

26 March, 2023

Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don’t be interested in anything else. It doesn’t matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don’t pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it.

Don’t take up anything else. There’s no need to think about gaining things. Don’t take up anything at all. Simply know the in- breath and the out-breath. The in-breath and the out-breath. Bud on the in-breath; dho on the out-breath. Just stay with the breath in this way until you are aware of the in-breath and aware of the out-breath....aware of the in-breath....aware of the out-breath. Be aware in this way until the mind is peaceful, without irritation, without agitation, merely the breath going out and coming in. Let your mind remain in this state. You don’t need a goal yet. It’s this state that is the first stage of practice.

If the mind is at ease, if it’s at peace then it will be naturally aware. As you keep doing it, the breath diminishes, becomes softer. The body becomes pliable, the mind becomes pliable. It’s a natural process. Sitting is comfortable: you’re not dull, you don’t nod, you’re not sleepy. The mind has a natural fluency about whatever it does. It is still. It is at peace. And then when you leave the Samādhi, you say to yourself, ‘Wow, what was that?’ You recall the peace that you’ve just experienced. And you never forget it.

The thing which follows along with us is called sati, the power of recollection, and sampajañña, self-awareness. Whatever we say or do, wherever we go, on almsround or whatever, in eating the meal, washing our almsbowl, then be aware of what it’s all about. Be constantly mindful. Follow the mind.

Walking meditation

When you’re practising walking meditation (cankama), have a walking path, say from one tree to another, about 50 feet in length. Walking cankama is the same as sitting meditation. Focus your awareness: ‘’Now, I am going to put forth effort. With strong recollection and self-awareness I am going to pacify my mind.’’ The object of concentration depends on the person. Find what suits you. Some people spread mettā to all sentient beings and then leading with their right foot, walk at a normal pace, using the mantra ‘Buddho’ in conjunction with the walking. Continually being aware of that object. If the mind becomes agitated then stop, calm the mind and then resume walking. Constantly self-aware. Aware at the beginning of the path, aware at every stage of the path, the beginning, the middle and the end. Make this knowing continuous.

This is a method, focussing on walking cankama. Walking cankama means walking to and fro. It’s not easy. Some people see us walking up and down and think we’re crazy. They don’t realise that walking cankama gives rise to great wisdom. Walk to and fro. If you’re tired then stand and still your mind. Focus on making the breathing comfortable. When it is reasonably comfortable then switch the attention to walking again,

The postures change by themselves. Standing, walking, sitting, lying down. They change. We can’t just sit all the time, stand all the time or lie down all the time. We have to spend our time with these different postures, make all four postures beneficial. This is the action. We just keep doing it. It’s not easy.

To make it easy to visualise, take this glass and set it down here for two minutes. When the two minutes are up then move it over there for two minutes. Then move it over here for two minutes. Keep doing that. Do it again and again until you start to suffer, until you doubt, until wisdom arises. ‘’What am I thinking about, lifting a glass backwards and forwards like a madman.’’ The mind will think in its habitual way according to the phenomena. It doesn’t matter what anyone says. Just keep lifting that glass. Every two minutes, okay - don’t daydream, not five minutes. As soon as two minutes are up then move it over here. Focus on that. This is the matter of action.

Don’t force it.

Looking at the in-breaths and out-breaths is the same. Sit with your right foot resting on your left leg, sit straight, watch the inhalation to its full extent until it completely disappears in the abdomen. When the inhalation is complete then allow the breath out until the lungs are empty. Don’t force it. It doesn’t matter how long or short or soft the breath is, let it be just right for you. Sit and watch the inhalation and the exhalation, make yourself comfortable with that. Don’t allow your mind to get lost. If it gets lost then stop, look to see where it’s got to, why it is not following the breath. Go after it and bring it back. Get it to stay with the breath, and, without doubt, one day you will see the reward. Just keep doing it. Do it as if you won’t gain anything, as if nothing will happen, as if you don’t know who’s doing it, but keep doing it anyway. Like rice in the barn. You take it out and sow it in the fields, as if you were throwing it away, sow it throughout the fields, without being interested in it, and yet it sprouts, rice plants grow up, you transplant it and you’ve got sweet green rice. That’s what it’s about.

This is the same. Just sit there. Sometimes you might think, ‘’Why am I watching the breath so intently. Even if I didn’t watch it, it would still keep going in and out.’’

Well, you’ll always finds something to think about. That’s a view. It is an expression of the mind. Forget it. Keep trying over and over again and make the mind peaceful.

Once the mind is at peace, the breath will diminish, the body will become relaxed, the mind will become subtle. They will be in a state of balance until it will seem as if there is no breath, but nothing happens to you. When you reach this point, don’t panic, don’t get up and run out, because you think you’ve stopped breathing. It just means that your mind is at peace. You don’t have to do anything. Just sit there and look at whatever is present.

Sometimes you may wonder, ‘’Eh, am I breathing?’’ This is the same mistake. It is the thinking mind. Whatever happens, allow things to take their natural course, no matter what feeling arises. Know it, look at it. But don’t be deluded by it. Keep doing it, keep doing it. Do it often. After the meal, air your robe on a line, and get straight out onto the walking meditation path. Keep thinking ‘Buddho, Buddho’. Think it all the time that you’re walking. Concentrate on the word ‘Buddho’ as you walk. Wear the path down, wear it down until it’s a trench and it’s halfway up your calves, or up to your knees. Just keep walking.

It’s not just strolling along in a perfunctory way, thinking about this and that for a length of the path, and then going up into your hut and looking at your sleeping mat, ‘’How inviting!’’ Then laying down and snoring away like a pig. If you do that you won’t get anything from the practice at all.

Keep doing it until you’re fed up and then see how far that laziness goes. Keep looking until you come to the end of laziness. Whatever it is you experience you have to go all the way through it before you overcome it. It’s not as if you can just repeat the word ‘peace’ to yourself and then as soon as you sit, you expect peace will arise like at the click of a switch, and when it doesn’t then you give up, lazy. If that’s the case you’ll never be peaceful.

It’s easy to talk about and hard to do. It’s like bhikkhus who are thinking of disrobing saying, ‘’Rice farming doesn’t seem so difficult to me. I’d be better off as a rice farmer’’. They start farming without knowing about cows or buffaloes, harrows or ploughs, nothing at all. They find out that when you talk about farming it sounds easy, but when you actually try it you get to know exactly what the difficulties are.

Finding peace

Everyone would like to search for peace in that way. Actually, peace does lie right there, but you don’t know it yet. You can follow after it, you can talk about it as much as you like, but you won’t know what it is.

So, do it. Follow it until you know in pace with the breath, concentrating on the breath using the mantra ‘Buddho’. Just that much. Don’t let the mind wander off anywhere else. At this time have this knowing. Do this. Study just this much. Just keep doing it, doing it in this way. If you start thinking that nothing is happening, just carry on anyway. Just carry on regardless and you will get to know the breath.

Okay, so give it a try! If you sit in this way and the mind gets the hang of it, the mind will reach an optimum, ‘just right’ state. When the mind is peaceful the self-awareness arises naturally. Then if you want to sit right through the night, you feel nothing, because the mind is enjoying itself. When you get this far, when you’re good at it, then you might find you want to give Dhamma talks to your friends until the cows come home. That’s how it goes sometimes.

(Reproduced above are excerpts from a Dhamma Talk delivered by Venerable Ajahn Chah Maha Thera)

To be continued