”Life Goes On Here. I sit as often as possible and attempt—with somewhat limited success—to make mindfulness a part of my daily life.” —from a prisoner I encourage in their Buddhist practice.
Some of the challenging words in his statement, which may be just an expression of his humbleness, are “with somewhat limited success.” If one is aware that they are not being mindful, then they are being mindful of their mindfulness. And if they aren’t aware, they are not aware, but they are still on that continuum of degrees of mindfulness. They are perfect, so to speak.
Dogen wrote: If you wish to practice the way of the Buddhas … you should expect nothing, seek nothing. Cut off the mind that seeks and do not cherish a desire to gain the fruits of Buddhahood. – Zuimonk (trans. Cook, How to Raise an Ox, p24)
Wanting success in our mindfulness takes our eyes off the path and lets the peak of the mountain distract us.
Sometimes we gently put down the tea bowl. Other times we set it down less gently and make a noise. In the former case, we are mindful when we set it down. In the latter case we are mindful of how we set it down. Beating ourselves us because our mindfulness came a little late is not only non-productive but wrong. As I read the other day, we are both the bull and the china shop in the phrase, “like a bull in a china shop.”
We rock! My friend might have said “I sit and make mindfulness my daily life.” In some more challenging words, “as often as possible,” I sense a tang of guilt that he doesn’t make mindfulness a practice often enough, so an excuse is warranted. Again, now pain has entered the picture. Pain of not doing it always. What is creating the pain? An anxiety about not being perfect.
Yet Suzuki Roshi said that we are perfect just as we are, and we could stand a little improvement.