The previous feuilleton describes how to begin Basic Practice. It requires the practitioner, among other things, to sit in one place in a comfortable, upright posture. That is necessary because, initially, the practice of resting of mind without engaging oneself in ongoing thoughts is unfamiliar, so the avoidance of complications and distractions is important. However, as the practice progresses and our state of mind rest becomes more stable, the practitioner becomes ready to gradually relax such requirements.
The reasons for that are twofold. First, it helps the practitioner to gain confidence that resting of mind is possible outside of the special hothouse environment. Furthermore, it encourages the expansion of the scope of Basic Practice in more and more challenging situations. Secondly, since the ultimate goal of Basic Practice is to free us from the attachments inflicted by Disease, it has to be possible in all life situations. Saying this, we have to be very patient, remembering that the Disease keeps hold on humanity for thousands of years and inflicted habits are very deep and strong, so expecting quick results is most unrealistic. Consequently, the expansion has to be done very gradually and systematically. Doing too quickly may discourage the practitioner, creating the false belief that resting of mind is only possible when we do nothing but sit quietly.
More about mind resting
Assuming that the readers already have some experience with Basic Practice, I decided to discuss potential misunderstandings about the idea of mind rest. First, it should be emphasized that “rest” does not imply that our mind remains in some state of total immobility and ignores whatever happens; to the contrary, it is active in a balanced form similar to homeostasis, the optimal functioning state. We experience it as lucid awareness, opening our perceptions and allowing us to discern properly. The latter quality is critically important in distinguishing activities, which we really need from those provoked by Disease. That ability is one of the main goals of Therapy. We will discuss it more in future feuilletons, but now we can say that such clear discernment is impossible without first grounding ourselves in Basic Practice.
It is important not to confuse the state of mind rest with lack of activity while doing Basic Practice in the sitting position. We breathe, our heart beats, unconsciously move if our position becomes uncomfortable, and trillions of cells in our body perform all kinds of mechanical, chemical and electrical activities. All of that happens without any thinking or decision-making.
So now is time to expand our Basic Practice on some deliberate activity. The choice of such action is indicated by this section’s title, which can be taken not only metaphorically but literally. We simply can get up from our seats, start walking and continue Basic Practice simultaneously.
The choice of walking is not accidental; it is one of the simplest conscious activities, which we learned as early infants.
The best is to begin walking within the familiar environment, the room where we sit during Basic Practice. During that, we should keep our body in an upright posture, similarly as during sitting. It is simply the most stable position, as one of the characters indicates, calling our species as Home Erectus. We keep our eyes open and look where we need to look forward, down, or sideways. Our arms move or can be kept still, whatever we find more comfortable. To summarise all of that: we should walk naturally, without any effort needed to do it very slowly, with hands immobilize, etc., as it is suggested in various kinds of meditation.
While walking, our perceptions are more active and diversified since both senses: sight and touch are more engaged. While sitting, our sight is limited to space in front of us, and our touch experiences only pressure our body on the seat and, possibly, the back of the chair. The use of sens perceptions expands significantly when we walk.
Once we decide where to go, we can do that with a minimal amount of thinking. We only need that when there is a necessity to change our direction, speed or avoiding obstacles. These thoughts are extremely brief, a fraction of a second, and by themselves, they do not disturb our state of mind’s rest. However, if we follow any of such thoughts by others and so on, we suddenly may find ourselves immersed in the thinking process. After noticing it, we effortlessly return to the state of mind rest, exactly as it happens during the sitting version of Basic Practice. I would like to emphasize that returning to the state of rest as soon as we notice that we are thinking is the key principle of Basic Practice that applies to its other expansions that will be described in this and future feuilletons.
Since we initially are walking in the same room where we were sitting, at any moment, you can decide to return to your seat and continue in the sitting position.
As I mentioned earlier, thoughts needed for directing our movements are so brief that they are hardly noticeable because they become incorporated into the resting state of mind. However, if they, or for some other reason, our memory is activated and produces other thoughts, it may lead us to the “thought-land.” In such situations, we continue walking, losing awareness of our situation. It may happen because walking is such a common activity that we can do it under the direction of some sort of automatic pilot. However, sooner or later, we wake up and realize what is going on, and thoughts immediately dissolve without any effort on our part, and we experience a distinct, vivid sense of relief: we landed back on earth.
Once we familiarize ourselves with mind rest while walking in our room or flat, we can venture to go down the staircase if we live on an upper floor. That is slightly more challenging because such an activity requires more attention than walking on a flat space. However, despite that, we can surprisingly easily maintain the state of mind resting because, as during walking on a flat surface, the required amount of thinking is minimal. The only new element is keeping our balance, which happens automatically in the case of a normal person.
It all changes when we walk outside of our house and find ourselves in the street. The difference is particularly significant if that street is a busy one filled with pedestrians and traffic. In such a situation, for expanding Basic Practice outdoors, I suggest something else like a park or a quiet street. The busy one may be too challenging and could be left for later when we are already well accustomed to practicing outdoors in a calm environment.
Practicing in a park has some additional advantages. Walking on a slightly gravelled path, hearing birds, and smelling flowers or cut grass (depending on the season) may draw us into intensive thinking but adds some sense of delight to the state of resting.
In general, the main quality of practicing outdoors is an increased number and variety of sensual perceptions: visual, audible, touch and possibly smell, which a practitioner may encounter. Also, there are new potential obstacles to be avoided like a puddle, whole in the sidewalk or dog poo and, of course, we must not bump into other people.
We should be aware that such an environment provides more opportunities to get “seduced.” into the thought-land than walking around the room. However, it does not mean that we have to become overtly attentive and forcible try to avoid thinking. On the other hand, we should not intensively focus on some visual or audible object of perception. That would usually provoke related or unrelated thinking and draw us away from the mind’s rest.
If we practice walking in a park with benches, I suggest when we get tired to sit on one. You will notice how the resting of our body seamlessly merges with the resting of mind.
Further expanding our outdoor experience of mind resting, which involves interactions with people or animals, is not suggested before becoming well familiar with combining mind resting with other, simpler activities. However, if we live in France, an obligatory “Bonjour” is in order.
Mind resting during simple housework activities
The next step towards incorporating the state of mind rest into our life is to expand it on our everyday, simple activities. I emphasize the word “simple” because everyday activities may be fairly complex, for example, working remotely on the internet from home. Therefore I decided to chooses as examples some housework, with which many of us are (or should be) familiar. Generally, the thinking necessary to perform them is not too involved; however, making numerous micro decisions is often required.
Let us begin with something really simple, like make a bed. The necessary activities, despite their simplicity, need a learning process, which I assume is already done, and necessary decisions happen nearly instantly. However, this simplicity may be deceptive and provoke us to switch our autopilot and make the bed immersed in thoughts. Consequently, before we begin, it is suggested to remind ourselves that this making a bed is also a training ground for incorporating mind resting into our life. That may prepare us to become slightly more attentive. As a result, without any deliberate focusing, we may continue staying in the state of mind rest and make the bed quite elegantly.
Another very typical household activity is washing dishes. Even if one has a dishwasher, the task does not disappear. Some dishes have to be put into the dishwasher while others have to be washed manually.
So, during that, we face more decisions than while making a bed. First of all, we have to decide what should be put in the dishwasher and, if so, how it should be arranged. Usually, the latter decision is assisted by its structure – upper level for smaller items and lower for bigger. Nevertheless, some decisions (what is small and what is large) do not go away.
Manual washing requires more complex work, which provokes thoughts needed for directing our movements. Again, usually, they last so briefly that we do not notice them, but occasionally, when a particular item needs more attention and effort to be cleaned, we have to think longer. All of that combined with a possible immersing oneself in the thought-land makes this washing dishes quite challenging as far as mind resting practice goes.
The above examples of extending Basic Practice beyond its initial setup are not the only ones. The practitioner who really wants to include the mind resting practice into its daily activities may find many more of them. If we look at our lives closely, we find out that it is filled with such opportunities. Gradually, as we become more and more accustomed to “wake up” to such possibilities, the need for deliberateness becomes often replaced by spontaneity. As a result, we should not waste any opportunity to saturate our life with Basic Practice of mind rest.
Before ending, it is essential to remember that extending Basic Practice beyond the original, easy and simple sitting situation does not diminish its fundamental importance. On the contrary, the sitting practice is always necessary. Due to it, our resting state becomes more stable, and its experience deeper and clearer. Also, the sitting practice is a reference point, ensuring that what we experience in other situations is indeed the mind resting. Finally, the sitting version of Basic Practice brings the experience of lucidity and delightful relief rather than a duty.
P.S. If you have a well behaving dog you could include it into your walking practice.