Learning To Be Skillful In All That You Do

Exerpt by Thanissaro Bhikkhu :

Once, during my very first year with Ajaan Fuang, the time came for the kathina, which was the big event of the year. Lots of people were going to come from Bangkok. Some of them would have to be housed for a night or two before the kathina, and everybody would have to be fed. I had a dream a few nights before they came that Ajaan Fuang had a huge closet with lots of different hats. He would go into the closet and come out with one hat on, then go back in and come out with a different hat on. And sure enough, in the preparation for the kathina, they had to put up bamboo sheds and they had to arrange for the extra kitchen areas — lots of different tasks — and he was good at supervising them all. As later he told me, “Practicing the Dhamma is not just being good at sitting with your eyes closed. It involves learning how to be skillful in everything you do.” This attitude that wants to be skillful: That’s what’s going to see you through lots of different problems. If you don’t give a damn about things outside, your mind is going to be a “don’t-give-a-damn” kind of mind inside as well. It gets apathetic, careless.

But if you make up your mind that whatever chore falls to you, you’re going to try to do it skillfully, then you develop what are called the four bases for success: the desire to do it skillfully; the persistence that sticks with it till you’ve mastered it; intentness, paying a lot of attention to what you’re doing; and analysis, using your powers of discernment to see what’s not yet right, trying to figure out how to get around problems, how to solve them. This fourth factor also involves ingenuity — all the active qualities of the mind. The texts talk about these four bases of success specifically in conjunction with concentration, but a common teaching all over Thailand is that if you want to succeed at anything, you’ve got to develop these qualities of mind and apply them to whatever you have to do to succeed. And regardless of what areas of your life you develop them in, you can take them and apply them to other areas of your life as well.

So see every aspect of your life as an opportunity to train the mind. If you want to develop good strong powers of concentration, it’s not just what you do while you’re sitting with your eyes closed. It’s how you tackle any activity: learning how to be focused on that activity, learning to be strict with the mind when it starts wandering off. That way the mind is right there; you learn how to keep it right there no matter what you’re doing. And when the time comes to sit down with your eyes closed, well, you’re right there. You don’t have to go chasing the mind down. So try to see the practice as a seamless whole. The word bhavana, as I said, is “to develop.” You can develop your mind in any situation.Don’t think that the important insights are going to come only when you’re sitting with your eyes closed.

Source : http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/meditations4.html#walking

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