by Parmjit Singh, PhD
We are often stuck with the idea that in order to be mindful we need to settle into certain kind of postures or do certain kind of rituals or go to certain kind of places. But the truth of the matter is different. Getting to know your own self is not dependent upon the techniques, places or rituals, it is all about the quality of awareness one can bring to the activity one is engaged in at a certain point of time.
Zen is beautiful in that sense. It does not ask for any belief or reposing faith in anything mystical. All it asks for is one’s total commitment to the present moment, whatever it is. If you are drinking tea, than tea is your whole being; if you are driving then driving is your whole being. Without you there is no other reality. If you are able to tap into yourself completely then you are able to tap into universal intelligence, because it is not apart from you.
Knowing yourself is just like going to washroom, as Zen says. Nobody can do it for you. You have to physically travel to the pot to do it or bring the pot to wherever you are. But unless you are there, you cannot relieve yourself. Same thing happens in enlightenment, you have to be there to experience it. Nobody else can do it for you. A Bodhi tree, a running brook, a bamboo stick can all be helpful if you are there in your totality.
The power of total-awareness jolted me few days back in a seemingly normal activity. Renelle, our daughter, was down with cold and mild fever. Just like any sick kid, she was asking for more attention and in order to appease her, we, Manjit and I, took turns to sit beside her. She was lying on the couch wrapped in a blanket and I sat beside her on the floor stroking her forehead to soothe her into sleep. When she slept off, I thought of completing the book I was reading. Therefore, I started to read while stroking her head at the same time. However, something strange happened within a few moments. She woke up, opened her eyes and I put down the book and stroked her head without reading. I returned to reading after she dozed off again. But again the same thing happened: she woke up and I had to put down my book and pay full attention to stroking.
This time, however, I did not go back to my book and stayed with just stroking and she stayed asleep longer than before even as she was uncomfortable due to nasal congestion and lack of sleep. Then it occurred to me that she woke up every time I divided my attention between reading and stroking. She stayed asleep when I was with her in totality—just stroking.
That was a Zen moment; pure, refreshing and jolting. And I was not in any particular posture or practicing any technique. I was just present to what I was engaged in.
Every time we split our self into multitude of activities, we do so at the risk of diluting the quality of attention we bring to that activity. Conversely, when we are there in the moment with our total presence, we log into the state of timelessness, egolessness and that is what Zen is all about.[HQ]