Live Zen everyday: do one thing at a time

- through Henry Oudin

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Concentrating, being aware of what you are doing, these are familiar phrases to practitioners of meditation. What do we really mean by that? How to exercise attention and on what?

We live in great times, hungry for shortcuts and time saved. The objects and gadgets that flood the market often offer multiple functions. Such a connected watch will offer you, for example, the consultation of your emails, mobile telephony, the measurement of your bodily functions and your physical data, plus advice and other suggestions for exercise or diet. All in one. The same goes for each of us, called upon in his professional life to multiply his skills and this singular paradigm has its model: the multilingual secretary capable of performing a variety of tasks at the same time, such as answering the telephone while writing a report with an eye on the calendar and a conversation with the intern… A crazy world for me struggling to converse with my wife when I'm busy cooking a fried egg! Does this mean that I am the heir of my ancestors the hunters while my wife is made of the same stamp as those who, in the village, looked after the children while cooking and talking? The reality is perhaps much simpler: in accordance with the teachings that I have received and strive to put into practice, I pay attention to only one thing at a time.

This attention is taught by a famous story from our Zen tradition. A master of great renown was sitting contemplatively on the dais engaged in the exercise of calligraphy when a lay disciple came forward and asked him to write what he considered to be the most essential teaching: "Attention wrote the master. “Is that all? the visitor wondered. Patiently the master picked up the brush again and traced again: “Attention, attention”. The visibly disconcerted layman said to him: “No, I mean, isn't there a secret, deeper teaching? ". The priest smiled and, picking up the brush, wrote: "Attention, attention, attention."

What could be the nature of this attention? What does it consist of?

First of all, this attention is not tension, it does not consist in concentrating with all one's strength on a particular object, directing one's gaze or one's consciousness on a single point. Nor is it about not taking your eyes or mind off an object or activity with directed and focused energy. The attention referred to here is loose, relaxed and panoramic. Rather than adopting a fixed and pointed gaze, one largely embraces what one contemplates without fixing anything. We are here very far from the idea that we usually have of concentration. One could rather speak of relaxed observation. You know it very well if you had the chance to grow up in the countryside and look at the sky, or to have fun, as a child, with the ceiling of your room. You were then able to look at them lying on your bed or in the lawn of the garden, completely relaxing, letting your gaze drift for very long minutes, sometimes hours, without grasping or maintaining anything.

Then she can't be plural, no multitasking here, one thing is accomplished at once, calmly, deeply and simply. Exhalation, landscape, crockery or carrot to peel, driving (and yes, how many times per journey are you really present at the wheel without daydreaming?) or administrative paperwork… whatever the object. We give ourselves completely to each task, without restraint, like a wood that burns and is consumed to the end. We are no longer obsessed with the notion of result or the idea of ​​goal, the action is accomplished for its own sake. And accomplishes itself.

The being participates with enthusiasm and joy in the activity without being a scrupulous or ecstatic witness to its action. No delight from the crèche in this concentration that accompanies the movement, without trying to obtain anything.

Finally, this attention to what is in the moment does not consist in becoming a spectator of his slightest activity, of his most innocuous gesture. In other words, we don't look collected and super focused when we do the dishes, watch ourselves do the dishes or wipe the cutlery. The being participates with enthusiasm and joy in the activity without being a scrupulous or ecstatic witness to its action. No delight from the crèche in this concentration that accompanies the movement, without trying to obtain anything.

Invitation cards

Focus on any object. Notice how breathing tends to alter and sometimes, in the case of very specific tasks, to almost stop. And become aware of the tensions that subtly settle in you and in your eyes. Be aware of the weight of your concentration. Observe how much you lack lightness, space and ease.

The contemplation of the sky or space, an exercise prized by the Tibetan tradition of Dzogchen, simply consists of letting the gaze float gently in front of you, within space or the sky, to this freedom without constraints or limits. It is possible to choose any other space that does not present distractions for the mind: the calm surface of a lake or the ocean for example. By doing this, nothing is sought, nothing is seized, we no longer strive for anything, we no longer flee what is in the moment.

This gaze on the sky meditation is a marvelous open door to our inner freedom. Authentic, it is practiced spontaneously by children. It therefore does not require any particular training other than having confidence in our ability to experience it. This contemplation allows us to directly realize and experience the non-dual nature of our mind.

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Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

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