Have you ever watched a kid playing? There is something special about the way they can pick up a stick, shout “STICK!!” and run into the world causing havoc. There is nothing more in this moment than the kid, the stick and the world. I would like to call this special something ‘mindfulness’ or ‘presence’ if you will.
Master Dogen wrote on Time (in Being-Time, Uji):
See each thing in this entire world as a moment of time.
Things do not hinder one another, just as moments do not hinder one another. …
Each moment is all being, is the entire world.
Reflect now whether any being or any world is left out of the present moment.
Master Dogen wished to convey that each moment of time and being is not anything apart from you. It is your existential time-and-being. So, he wrote in Uji:
Because real existence is only this exact moment, all moments of Being-Time are the whole of Time, and all existent things and all existent phenomena are moments of Time …
If Time does not take the form of leaving and coming, [a task done in the past] is the present as Being-Time.
If Time does take the form of leaving and coming, you yet have this present moment of Being-Time, which is just Being-Time itself.
Mindfulness is a new catchphrase, a phenomenon not much older than 10 years or so, you might think. But this is not the case. There has been something like it in every culture, be it modern western culture, Hawaiian native culture or, in this case, Buddhist culture.
There are several words in Pali and Sanskrit which are often translated into the English word mindfulness. However, these terms mean different things which is why confusion may often arise in discussions of mindfulness.
The Sanskrit word that is most often translated into mindfulness is Sati/Smriti, which means to remember (non-forgetfulness). It simply means that if we decide for ourselves to attach the mind to our present experience, we will remember to hold it there, instead of letting it slip away.
Another word which also is commonly translated into mindfulness is Manisikara, which is the moment of pure perception just before the mind starts to separate, judge and value. In the western interpretation of mindfulness (within psychology) a large amount of emphasis is put on this particular aspect. The Sanskrit term Appamada/Apramada means being thorough and calculated in your actions and not to act unskillfully or rashly. This is also an aspect of mindfulness. A final term also taken to mean mindfulness is Sampajanna/Samprajana which means to see clearly, to separate (skillful from unskillful action).
The ability to stay with your experience, to see it clearly, to separate skillful and unskillful actions, and to act in a favourable way are all aspects of mindfulness. Maybe the most important of all the Buddhist scriptures concerning mindfulness is the Satipatthanasutta. Satipatthana is the practice of sati, the maintaining a constant attention on the here and now and is a part of the eightfold path. Patthana can be translatated as placement or attaching point. Satipatthana can therefore be translated as to put the attention or the attaching point of attention.
You may well be asking yourself why am I writing this? Well, for one, you have to have an solid foundation to stand on, and it is always good to have some knowledge of the definition of terms.
Mindfulness isn’t just this moment, it is all-permeating, it is everything, just as Dogen says. You can’t just try doing it either. I often quote another spiritual master, Yoda : “Do or do not… there is no try.” This is a vital part of mindfulness practice to understand; if you are only trying you are not doing.
This brings us back to the child with the stick. He is not trying anything. He knows exactly what he is doing. He’s got a stick, and it’s him against the world.
A further point I would like to make about mindfulness and being mindful is that the way things are is just the way things are. You know what, it’s ok. It’s all OK!! Shit happens, deal with it. It is all about being at the razor’s edge, not falling to one side or the other, not being cut, not missing the point.
If this happens, do this. If that happens, do that. When life’s roller coaster goes up, go up. When heading down, head down. Just ride the ride. Sometimes it can be very hard. Then let it be hard. Your sympathy for me might feel great, but will it help?
I have to take me, and pick myself up, to get on with it, even when there is no me to pick myself up. I am not saying it will be easy, just saying it is so. And it’s ok! It’s all OK!!
Maybe that is enlightenment, to see that everything is ok! It is just what it is.
Is that ok with you?